Yesterday the season for deer hunting with guns began in Ohio. The initial report from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife indicates that the 2009 season is off to a good start for hunting enthusiasts. The ODNR announced that hunters killed 33,607 deer on just the first day of deer gun season, a 1.7 percent increase from 2008. The Division estimates that Ohio’s deer population numbers some 650,000 animals, and it views deer hunting seasons as a method to thin the herds and prevent animal disease and starvation.
Deer gun season is one of a number of different deer-hunting seasons in Ohio. The seasons vary depending on the weapons used for hunting. There are earlier seasons for hunting white-tailed deer with bow and arrow, with early muzzleloader guns, and with youth guns, and a later season for hunting deer with extended guns and regular muzzleloader guns. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources website provides lots of useful information about the regulation of deer hunting in Ohio. Hunters must have a hunting license (which costs $19) and a deer permit (which costs $24 and entitles the purchaser to kill one deer). They must wear jackets, vests, or coveralls with “hunter’s orange” coloring. In Zone C, which encompasses Franklin County and the southeastern portion of the state where deer are most numerous, hunters are permitted to “harvest” no more than six deer. Hunting must occur during the period between 30 minutes before sunrise and sunset.
Hunters love Ohio’s deer season because it gives them a chance to hunt with their friends and family members. For many, hunting is a way to supplement the food supply for their families at relatively low cost. For hotels, restaurants. convenience stores, bars, and other businesses in the southeastern part of the state, deer gun season also has a tremendous positive economic impact. Hunters flock to the area because the deer are plentiful and hunters are warmly welcomed by local businesses, which in turn experience significant increases in patronage during the hunting seasons. Ohio agencies estimate that hunting has an $859 million economic impact in Ohio from sale of equipment, food, fuel, lodging and other goods and services.
Those of us who are not hunters — and I am among that number — have mixed emotions about deer hunting in Ohio. We recognize that legal animal hunting has certain economic benefits for the state and serves a salutary natural selection function. Without any significant natural predators, deer populations would quickly explode if there were no hunting, and Ohio residents would have to deal with the traffic hazards and disease risk posed by herds of starving, scavenging deer. Still, there is something disturbing about the knowledge that hunters are blasting away at Bambi’s mother only a few miles away. In fact, hunters often are more fearsome than the hunted. Kish, who grew up on an Ohio farm, vividly remembers hunters coming to the door to request permission to hunt on the farmland and her mother then keeping her family indoors while they heard the flat, hollow boom of shotguns echo across the fields. And every hunting season is marked by an embarrassing number of hunting-related injuries and deaths, as often inebriated or unskilled hunters shoot themselves, their compatriots, other hunters, innocent bystanders, and random livestock, cars, and structures in their zeal to bring down a big buck.
In Ohio, hunting is a blessing and a curse. This year, deer gun season ends on December 6. Until then, we will hold our breath.