Deer hunt numbers down for this year

Washington County saw 132 fewer deer harvested in the most recent hunting season than the previous year, according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources records.

The end of archery season on Feb. 3 marked the completion of the 2012-13 deer season. During the more-than-four-month archery season and shorter gun and muzzleloader periods, 4,091 deer were taken in the county, a decrease of about 3.1 percent.

Statewide totals were about 1 percent behind last year’s totals going into muzzleloader season. Wildlife officials attributed the lower numbers to a variety of factors, including efforts to decrease the size of the herd, the season starting a week earlier and a lack of snowy weather.

But the numbers received a boost during the Jan. 5-8 muzzleloader season, with more than 21,000 deer harvested, representing a 12 percent increase from the year before.

“The muzzleloader season was up significantly this year, so everything kind of evened out,” said Lindsay Rist, wildlife communications specialist for the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s District 4, which includes southeast Ohio.

The final statewide total of 218,910 deer taken was less than four-tenths of a percent lower than the 2011-12 total.

Washington County actually saw a small decline – 20 deer – during muzzleloader season, but surrounding counties were up, from 11 more in Athens County to 120 more in Morgan County.

The lower harvest totals didn’t translate to less activity at the Barlow Volunteer Fire Department, which offered lunch to hunters and other residents during the deer gun season from Nov. 26 to Dec. 2.

“We get a lot of community as well as hunters, so we get a lot of support,” said Janet Seaman, the department’s treasurer.

The Lakeside Motel in Beverly had 30 of its 38 rooms booked by hunters during the gun season. In Marietta, Magnuson Hotel manager David Fitzgerald said it seemed like there were fewer hunters at that establishment this winter, continuing a trend in recent years.

Still, any boost outside the warmer weather traveling season is a benefit, Fitzgerald said.

“It’s people in December, and that’s important,” he said.