Number of Deer Killed Down in Ohio After Bowhunting Popularity Cuts into Gun Week Numbers

by Chris Haney

In the state of Ohio, the rise in the popularity of bowhunting has been a major contributor to the declining numbers of deer killed in recent history.

Deer gun week is still the most popular hunting event annually in Ohio. However, the statewide seven-day hunts have steadily declined in recent years, according to an article in the Columbus Dispatch.

The percentage of deer killed during the week, in comparison to the hunts of the past, have dropped significantly. In fact, deer gun week only accounts for 35 percent of the total deer hunted in the state these days.

Historical statistics show a much higher percentage of whitetails are usually killed during gun week. During the earlier years of the baby boomer generation, a whopping 90 percent of Ohio’s hunted deer fell in gun season.

Last year, Ohio hunters checked 63,567 whitetails during gun week. That’s in addition to the already 81,674 whitetails checked in the previous week before gun week. Longbow and crossbow kills accounted for the majority of that week’s kills. But, 6,234 deer fell during youth gun weekend.

In 2020, the weekend youth hunt concluded this past Sunday. 5,795 whitetails were checked over the weekend, which is below the three-year average. As of Tuesday, gun week numbers totaled 81,056.

The dramatic rise in the popularity of crossbows pivoted away from Ohio’s typically gun-based sport. Additionally, whitetails spreading into every county of Ohio further transformed the sport. Therefore, in recent years, many hunters have had the capability of hunting closer to home. In contrast, for years hunters had to wait for gun season to travel to heavily deer-populated areas in southern and eastern Ohio.

Deer Gun Week Still Most Productive of Hunting Season

Whitetails hunted by bows have left today’s gun hunters with tens of thousands fewer deer to go after. Compared to the previous decades when archery had little impact on the sport, it is now a drastic difference.

Yet, deer gun week is still the most productive week of the hunting season. The season starts in late September and lasts through early February.

Hunter’s success can also rely heavily on the weather. Snowfall isn’t a huge factor, but high winds and rain can play a major role.

“If the weather cooperates I’m looking for a great deer gun season in Ohio,” said Mike Tonkovich, deer specialist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Hunters who have unfilled tags have another chance at gun hunting during Ohio’s bonus gun weekend next month from Dec. 19-20. In 2020, gun hunters killed 13,703 whitetails during the bonus weekend.

For now, only one antlerless whitetail may be harvested from public hunting areas during the hunting year. As of Dec. 7, only antlered whitetails will be legal to hunt in Ohio.