ODNR changes hunting rules

COLUMBUS – In effort to better control the deer population statewide, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources opted to make some changes to its hunting-season regulations.

The major change is that back limits will now be determined on a county-by-county basis instead of by larger, regionally-based zones.

“We have been taking a look and tracking population and harvest data county by county,” said Lindsay Rist, a wildlife communications specialist with the ODNR. “A management goal for each county was set and, based on that goal and how the (deer) population and harvest numbers vary year to year, we feel this is better for overall herd management.

It’s something we’ve done previously and, with the current data, we felt it was time to go back to that.”

Depending on the county of harvest, bag limits per county range anywhere from one to three deer.

Locally, Belmont, Carroll, Guernsey, Muskingum, Noble and Tuscarawas all will have a four-deer limit. Harrison, Jefferson and Monroe counties now have a three-deer limit.

Only eight counties: Darke, Erie, Fayette, Hancock, Madison, Ottawa, Sandusky and Wood, are limited to two.

The overall bag limit has been reduced from 12 to nine deer.

While the method of counting deer has changed, the overall premise is still the same.

“It’s still cumulative,” Rist said. “You can’t go to Belmont and kill four and then Guernsey and kill four, etc.”

Only one buck may be harvested statewide. While the bag limit is nine, hunters may not exceed their county bag limit.

For instance, if a hunter harvest four deer in Belmont County, they will have to hunt elsewhere to harvest their remaining five.

However, additional controlled hunting opportunities do not count against the bag limit.

Hunting limits for all seasons are now uniform as hunters can be in the woods from 30 minutes prior to sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset.

This gives gun hunters an extra 30 minutes, bringing regulations in line with Ohio’s archery season.

“A lot of surrounding states have gone to that,” Rist said. “Our archery season was already half past (sunset), so this makes it uniform across the board.

“There have been a lot of hunter safety studies done and that led us in the direction that this would be a safe move.”

In addition, an antlerless muzzleloader season was added in October. The December bonus gun weekend, the early muzzleloader season at three public hunting areas (Salt Fork Wildlife Area, Shawnee State Forest and Wildcat Hollow), and urban hunting zones have been discontinued.

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