Archery season kicks off; turkey season to start Saturday

Photo courtesy of Jeff Thieman Jeff Thieman, 20, of Churchtown, kneels with the buck he shot with a crossbow Saturday.

Harvesting a 222.625-inch buck with 26 scorable points was a great way to open archery season for one local hunter.

“It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime harvest,” said Jeff Thieman, 20, of Churchtown, who on opening day Saturday took a 5-year-old buck with a crossbow.

Theiman brought down the nontypical buck after three previous seasons of watching him on cameras in Morgan County and word traveled fast across hunting circles this week.

“I’ve already heard about it,” said taxidermist Todd Schweitzer, of Whipple. “I can’t wait to at least see a picture… it’s been a good start to the season.”

Deer archery season runs through Feb. 3, 2018, across Ohio with a statewide bag limit this season of six deer, only one of which may be antlered.

“He was young the first year I got him on camera and I knew he had a lot of potential,” explained Thieman. “I couldn’t get on him last year but then at 10 ’til 7 p.m. Saturday I got him.”

But there’s more to hunt than white-tailed deer in Ohio.

Youth Waterfowl season is open today and Friday, fall Wild Turkey season opens in most counties between Oct. 13 and Nov. 25, youth small game season is the last two weekends of this month and Ruffled Grouse opens Oct. 13 through Jan. 31.

“Really I’d stress enjoying the entire experience,” said Mike Tonkovich, the deer program administrator for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.

Tonkovich has been hunting since he was a child and has worked with the wildlife division for 24 seasons.

“Killing the animal is such a small part of it. For me it was a great time spending those days with my grandfather,” he added.

He said instead of focusing on capturing a child’s interest with the biggest animal brought down, those participating in the sport should take in nature.

“Parents may feel like they have to get their child behind a buck of a lifetime but really it’s the time to enjoy the outdoors with the person you’re with,” Tonkovich explained.

Thieman said hunting has been a family pastime for years.

“I think I got my first buck when I was 12,” he explained. “Everybody in my family loves it.”

But, he counseled, stay safe regardless of the game.

“Always be careful, especially if you’re in a tree stand,” Theiman explained. “I always have a harness.”

To manage herd populations, ODNR limits hunters in Washington, Morgan, Monroe and Noble counties to kill no more than three deer this season per county, using up to three either-sex permits. Antlerless permits are not valid in any of the four counties, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“The rest of the season I’m going to fill my doe tags and then probably take my girlfriend to help her get her first deer and film my brother trying to get a nice buck, too,” said Thieman.

Schweitzer said he’s already had customers bring in two “monster” bucks from opening weekend, plus other animals from out west.

“I’ve gotten in two huge bucks already which is surprising because you really don’t see your seasoned trophy hunters bringing stuff in until later in October usually,” Schweitzer explained.

But Tonkovich said archery has increased in popularity over the years, as hunters are drawn to the quiet of nature with crossbows and vertical bows.

“In 1977, 92 percent of the deer harvest was taken during gun season and only 8 percent was taken during archery season over four months,” he noted. “But 45 to 50 percent of the harvest this year will be taken by archers and only 35 percent will be taken during the seven-day firearm season.”

Tonkovich said many factors may play into those numbers, from weather to deer movements, to who’s hunting.

Last season, both Washington and Monroe counties saw top numbers from across the state in landowner harvest of white-tailed deer. In Washington County, 40 percent of the total harvest came from landowners, including 36 percent of the state antlered harvest and 44 percent of the antlerless.

In Monroe County, 37 percent of the total state harvest came from landowners with 32 percent of the state antlered harvest and 40 percent of the antlerless.

“I dealt with 160 guys and their bucks last year, and I’m getting bucks not only from Washington and Monroe, but down to Meigs County and even around Lancaster,” said Schweitzer.

Public land in Southeast Ohio also saw significant numbers of deer brought in with nonresident hunters accounting for more than 25 percent of the public land harvest in seven of the top 10 counties, including Washington, Morgan and Monroe.

Despite the top marks and numbers for southeast Ohio though, the harvest was still impacted by one major loss.

“Over the last six years we’ve lost 50,000 adult resident hunters,” explained Tonkovich. “Though our deer hunter surveys are showing hunters are satisfied with the population numbers, invariably the harvest is going to be affected by fewer hunters out there.”

He said he still anticipates the harvest to be similar or slightly higher than last year’s 186,247 deer taken across the state.

“Early season we don’t see nearly as many license sales, the bulk of license sales still occur in the week before gun season,” Tonkovich added.

But new this year, regardless of the implement used to bring down a deer, are regulations and testing occurring concerning Chronic Wasting Disease.

The disease is similar to Mad Cow, Scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, explained Tonkovich.

“CWD is a prion disease… it actually causes holes in your brain,” he continued. “But it’s not a bacteria or a virus. It’s a normal prion protein that changes shape which ultimately leads to the deterioration of neurological function.”

Though CWD has not yet been documented in wild deer across the state, it has appeared in pay-to-hunt farms and ODNR has tightened regulations this year concerning carcass disposal and bringing in kills across state lines.

“A lot of these hunting farms buy their deer out of state and truck them in,” explained Schweitzer. “I work with a few of them and one was found with CWD. But what the state’s trying to do is encourage proper disposal so the disease doesn’t spread.”

Tonkovich said the prions can be found in deer urine, feces, saliva and blood, which means this year the ODNR has installed new regulations concerning importing for mule deer, black-tailed deer, white-tailed deer, elk, caribou and moose.

“Our intent is not to penalize hunters or taxidermists or meat processors, but to ensure these carcasses are disposed of properly in landfills,” he added.

To aid in the documentation of deer population health, ODNR is also launching a pilot program with willing taxidermists to monitor the spread of CWD.

“Everything they’re saying makes sense, we’ve got a government agency that’s taking the common sense approach to this and working with us to help educate our hunters,” said Schweitzer, who plans to attend an upcoming training with the Ohio Department of Agriculture for the pilot program. “It’s like a surgical procedure, where they want tissue samples from the lymph nodes. I’m glad they’re working with us since taxidermists are already working up in there at the base of the neck as we prepare mounts.”

Tonkovich said the reason testing bucks is so important is because CWD is most prevalent in mature bucks.

“But cutting into the neck of a deer has to be done carefully so that the hides can be maintained for the mounts,” he added. “Our hope is to raise awareness this year, and really encourage proper disposal and prevent environmental contamination.”

Deer tag and check

Hunters who kill a deer must immediately:

• Complete a game tag with the hunter’s name, date, time, and county of kill.

• Attach the completed game tag to the deer at the place where it fell.

• Fill in the deer permit with date, time and county of kill.

• A person cannot leave Ohio with a deer taken by hunting that has not been game checked with the confirmation number permanently attached.

• The hunter must complete the game check and tagging process by noon the day after the kill. If the deer is killed on the last day of a season, then it must be checked in by 11:30 p.m. on the day of the kill.

Source: Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Wild Turkey Hunting

• All Ohio counties are open to Fall Wild Turkey hunting this season except the following:

• Ottawa.

• Sandusky.

• Wood.

• Marion.

• Union.

• Madison.

• Pickaway.

• Fayette.

• Clark.

• Greene.

• Clinton.

• Montgomery.

• Miami.

• Shelby.

• Auglaize.

• Darke.

• Mercer.

• Van Wert.

• Only one wild turkey of either sex may be hunted during the fall season per hunter and must be checked by 11:30 p.m. on the day of the kill.

• A valid Ohio hunting license and fall turkey permit are required.

• The opening date for Fall Wild Turkey season is Oct. 13, closing date is Nov. 25.

Source: Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

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