An increased deer harvest limit, the opening of Seneca County to fall turkey hunting and the addition of a weekend muzzleloader deer season in October are some changes deer hunters will see this fall if a proposal is approved by the Ohio Wildlife Council in April.
Also on the list of changes proposed to the council Wednesday by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife are extended hunting hours and elimination of the "extra" deer-gun weekend in December.
"There are lots of changes, compared to the last several years," Division of Wildlife Chief Scott Zody said Thursday. "We're doing a fairly significant bag reduction."
In addition, he said changes from zones makes for a "salt and pepper effect" on the state map.
"We're starting to hone in on those county-by-county specific population goals," Zody said. "The strategy is getting hunters used to county-by-county management. The eastern and southeastern counties are getting closer to management goal. In the last few years, we've been in herd reduction mode. Now we're getting into partial herd reduction and partial stabilization mode."
"It's to get hunters to start thinking by county," said Mike Tonkovich, Division of Wildlife deer project leader. "There's no real change in the way we manage deer. We're just taking the extra layer of zones off and letting people know we do manage deer at the county level."
The proposed antlerless-only muzzleloader hunting season would be Oct. 12-13 this year, and would be scheduled for the second weekend of October in subsequent years.
The proposal includes making the October muzzleloader season for antlerless deer only, and eliminating the bonus gun weekend in December and early muzzleloader season at Salt Fork Wildlife Area, Shawnee State Forest and Wildcat Hollow.
"This is something we wanted to try, something different," Zody said. "Get some of those antlerless deer before the peak of the rut."
Tonkovich said the second weekend in October was chosen because bow-season harvest has been historically low that weekend.
Also, he said numbers of hunters participating in the "extra" December weekend have been dwindling.
"A change might increase participation," he said. "We want to help the hunters harvest antlerless deer and harvest them early."
County bag limits are proposed to replace deer zones. Proposed bag limits would be two, three or four deer, determined by county. The proposed statewide bag limit is nine deer, only one of which may be a buck, and is reduced from last season's 18-deer limit.
Antlerless permits would only be valid until the Sunday before the deer-gun season. Urban deer zones would be eliminated.
In addition to Seneca County, Crawford and Wyandot counties would be among 57 counties in the category that allows three either-sex permits, as well as one antlerless permit.
Hancock, Sandusky and Wood counties would be in the category that would allow one permit for either sex and one antlerless permit.
Hunters may harvest only one buck in Ohio, regardless of the method or location.
The start of fall turkey hunting season is proposed to be moved to the Monday following the antlerless deer muzzleloader season, Oct. 14, and continue through Dec. 1.
Hunting hours are proposed to be extended 30 minutes past sunset for deer firearms seasons, including the weeklong deer-gun season, youth season and muzzleloader seasons. The change would make the hours the same as archery season.
Deer and fall wild turkey permits would go on sale June 1, instead of March 1, to allow time for printing on the permits the actual dates they are valid.
Those interested in commenting on proposed changes should attend statewide open houses noon-3 p.m. March 2 at any of the ODNR district offices. Comments also are welcome online at www.wildohio.
The Ohio Wildlife Council plans to vote on the proposal at its April 17 meeting.