BY ED GEBERT
Times Bulletin Editor
egebert@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT - Van Wert County hunters brought in fewer deer this gun season, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Only 214 deer were harvested locally, compared to 290 deer in the 2012 deer-gun season. That was the trend across the state as the total harvest was down by more than 11,000 animals.

The week-long gun hunting season, Dec. 2-8, brought in 75,408 deer across Ohio. Last year's total was 86,963.

An ODNR official pointed out that gun season concluded, but hunters will continue to have other chances to harvest an animal.

"With the muzzleloader season and almost two months of archery hunting yet to come, Ohio hunters have many more opportunities to harvest a deer," said Scott Zody, chief of the ODNR Division of Wildlife.

Archery season remains open through Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014. The muzzleloader season is Jan. 4-7, 2014.

As for gun season, numbers were down in the region. The biggest harvest was in Paulding County where 499 deer were taken, compaed to 551 last year. In Mercer County, 219 were checked in, compared to 2012's 318. Putnam County experienced similar results with 255 deer harvested versus 327 last year. Auglaize County reported 299 animals, down from 362 last year. The local county coming closest to 2012's figures was Allen County where 380 deer were checked in, compared to 393 last year.

Counties reporting the highest number of checked deer during the 2013 gun season: Coshocton (2,658), Muskingum (2,604), Tuscarawas (2,604), Guernsey (2,401), Ashtabula (2,334), Harrison (2,133), Carroll (2,019), Knox (1,966), Licking (1,887) and Belmont (1,851). Coshocton County also had the most deer checked in the 2012 deer gun season (3,119).

Hunters have harvested 162,720 deer so far in the 2013 hunting seasons, including gun season. That compares to 171,867 at the same point last year, a five percent difference.

Ohio's first modern day deer-gun season opened in 1943 in three counties, and hunters harvested 168 deer. Deer hunting was allowed in all 88 counties in 1956, and hunters harvested 3,911 deer during that one-week season.

The ODNR Division of Wildlife remains committed to properly managing Ohio's deer populations through a combination of regulatory and programmatic changes. The goal of Ohio's Deer Management Program is to provide a deer population that maximizes recreational opportunities, while minimizing conflicts with landowners and motorists. This ensures that Ohio's deer herd is maintained at a level that is both acceptable to most, and biologically sound.

Until recently, the populations in nearly all of Ohio's counties were well above their target numbers. In the last few years, through increased harvests, dramatic strides have been made in many counties to bring those populations closer toward their goal. Once a county's deer population is near goal, harvest regulations are adjusted to maintain the population near that goal.