8 Reasons Ohio Has the Best Deer Hunting in the U.S.
Ohio is a deer hunter’s paradise. In fact, in the 2022-23 hunting season, hunters recorded an unprecedented success rate of over 40%. But why hunt deer in Ohio? In this article, we will go over some reasons why you should hunt deer in the Midwest state! We will also discover when the deer season opens, license requirements, and regulations in Ohio.
1. Deer Population Density
Ohio only has white-tail deer and around 700,000 to 750,000 abide in the state. Over half of Ohio’s counties have eclipsed their all-time buck harvest totals in the past three years. The top 10 counties for deer harvested during the 2021-22 deer season include:
- Coshocton: 7,144
- Tuscarawas: 6,303
- Muskingum: 5,331
- Knox: 5,290
- Licking: 5,244
- Ashtabula: 5,193
- Guernsey: 5,104
- Holmes: 4,905
- Carroll: 4,197
- Trumbull: 3,994
The number of deer in Ohio continues to increase year after year even as the state’s population grew and the land was developed. Also, deer thrive in the state because the number of their natural predators is low enough to not affect their population. In fact, humans are the mammal’s main predators in hunting and vehicle accidents, and deer are the state’s largest herbivore mammals.
Quick History of Ohio’s Deer Population
Deer actually almost disappeared from Ohio in the early 1900s! According to the National Parks Service and Cuyahoga Valley National Park, deer reestablishment efforts began in the 1930s. This included hunting controls; a restocking effort in southern Ohio; immigration of deer from Michigan and Pennsylvania as well as improved habitat created by a mix of agriculture, old fields, and forest fragments. However, these efforts resulted in an overpopulation of deer by the 1960s, and this overpopulation continues today.
So, to answer the question of why to hunt in Ohio, it is simple: to help with population control. White-tail deer directly impact many facets of everyday life. Hunters, farmers, foresters, motorists, gardeners, and homeowners all experience high deer levels. Whether it be through car and deer collisions, disease transmissions such as Lyme diseases and ticks, loss of landscaping or crop damage, or even over-browsed woodlands, it is better to control the overpopulated deer state.
2. Deer and Habitat Quality
Ohio is becoming a staple on every hunter’s bucket list because of the state’s deer management program. It allows the harvest of multiple does, but only one antlered deer per season. This regulation gives the deer in the state the chance to reach their full potential. This coupled with the state having an ideal habitat for deer is why you should hunt deer in Ohio.
Ideal habitat and productive soils make the Midwest state one of the best choices to pursue that deer of a lifetime. The ideal habitat for a deer is a mixture of forest, brushland, and cropland that are close together. This basically describes the landscape of the Buckeye State since much of the state is made up of agricultural lands consisting of corn and soybeans. The soil is extremely fertile and supplies deer with all the nutrients they need to grow into monster whitetails.
The state also boasts many forests filled with beech, maple, oak, and other tree species found in the Midwest. Forests are scattered throughout the agriculturally dominated areas giving deer ample space to feed, run, and live.
3. Access to Public Hunting Lands
Unfortunately, 95% of Ohio is privately owned. However, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources created the Ohio Landowner/Hunter Access Partnership (OLHAP) Program. A new way for Ohio hunters to get access to private properties. This program is funded in part by the federal Farm Bill under their Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program. The program allows hunters to access up to 19,200 acres of private land. The OLHAP system also provides controlled hunting access to public properties normally closed to these activities.
Along with your hunting permit, to access OLHAP lands hunters must get a free daily permit which is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. All hunting activities except white-tailed deer gun hunting are permitted by Ohio Landowner-Hunter Access Partnership users. Permits can be obtained at wildohio.gov or on the free HuntFish OH mobile app.
4. Season Dates and Length
Ohio has one of the longest deer seasons of any state. Deer season in Ohio is open in the Fall from late September to early January. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the seasons in 2023-24 will have similar dates to last year’s seasons. The season is split into four different types, each with specific dates and regulations. The specific dates for each season type may vary depending on the year, as the opening day will always be a Saturday.
Here are Ohio’s Deer Seasons for 2023-23:
- Deer archery: Sept. 30, 2023-Feb. 4, 2024
- Youth deer gun: Nov. 18-19, 2023
- Deer gun: Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2023; Dec. 16-17, 2023
- Deer muzzleloader: Jan. 6-9, 2024
How Many Deers Can You Hunt in Season?
The bag limits for bucks and does depend on the county. Bag limits increased to three deer in Belmont, Gallia, Geauga, Harrison, Jefferson, and Monroe counties, and decreased to two in Butler County. Hunters can only harvest one antlered deer regardless of where or how it is taken.
Antlered deer are limited because typically deer with antlers are male. Deers use their antlers during breeding season or rut. Males rub their antlers on vegetation to mark their scent for females. They also spar with other males to assert dominance and attract does to show them their power, strength, and fertility competitiveness.. The larger the antlers, the higher the possibility for the buck to mate. Limiting buck kills helps control the deer population against overhunting. Also, it is believed that bucks with larger antlers have stronger immunity against pathogens.
5. Weather Conditions
Hunting season arrives in Ohio at the start of the autumn season. The first couple months of deer hunting welcome cool, pleasant days as the leaves turn brilliant hues of red and gold against the crisp blue sky. However, it also means the daylight hours are getting shorter and the nights longer. And though the beginning at the end of September of deer hunting season is magical during spooky season, it can turn icy and cold as it ends during January.
The landscape changing during deer hunting season is magical, but you do want to dress warm for the activity since November through late season in the Midwest state can be tough. You should wear water-resistant or waterproof outwear and heavy, warm underlayers. You want to stay as warm as possible for as long as possible to stay in the hunt and tag your buck! Deer can’t stand still too long when it gets cold out, so you need to be in your deer stand at the ready. So, if you think you are dressed warm enough, always add another layer to be on the safe side. You can always take a layer off!
6. Hunting Regulations
Like other states, Ohio has easy hunting regulations to follow such as the time you are allowed to hunt to deer to certain articles of clothing you must wear. The hours to hunt deer are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Also, every hunter must wear a visible vest, coat, jacket, or coveralls that are solid hunter orange or camouflage hunter orange. This is for the obvious reason of you don’t want to get shot by another hunter! For everyone’s safety, no other color is permitted and the requirement is statewide on public and private lands.
Another regulation includes a game check process after harvesting a white-tailed deer. Hunters have three options to complete the game check: online at wildohio.com or ohiogamecheck.com; by telephone. This must be completed and the hunter must receive a confirmation code by noon the day after the kill.
Also, certain guns or equipment are regulated to complete your harvest. They include:
- Longbow or bow
- Straight-walled cartridge rifles
- Muzzleloading rifle, .38 caliber or larger
- Muzzleloading shotgun, 10-gauge or smaller using one ball per barrel
- Handgun, 5-inch minimum length barrel using straight-walled cartridges .357 caliber or larger
Other regulations include only harvesting an antlered deer with at least one antler three inches or longer in length. And of course, getting a hunting license AND a deer hunting permit. A deer hunter must have both!
7. License Costs and Availability
Ohio Department of Natural Resources requirements for licenses, permits, maps, and the rules and regulations for deer hunting. It is also one of the cheapest states to hunt for deer for non-residents. And for residents, it is cheaper than most Midwest states regarding licenses and permits.
For the 2023-24 season, resident hunting licenses are $19 for adults and youth licenses are $10. Licenses are valid after purchase through Feb. 29, 2024, and Ohio hunters must carry a valid hunting license to hunt or even trap, regardless of their age.
Either-sex deer tag for non-residents is $76.96, and antlerless tags are $24 each. Also, a Resident Lifetime Hunting License is only $449.28, and a Nonresident 1-Year Hunting License is $180.96.
The cost of the license goes to the state’s Department of Natural Resources to help:
- Conduct fish and wildlife research
- Restore habitats
- Maintain wildlife areas and public access sites
- Provide technical assistance to private landowners
- Educate new hunters and anglers
- Protect and serve the public
8. Local Culture
Hunting in Ohio is a yearly tradition. Residents set their alarms, get their camouflage jackets out of storage, call their friends, and get to their deer stand! Ohioans live in a state that welcomes them outdoors, especially if they are hunters! A lot of hunters are born into hunting families, and it is a tradition passed down through generations. Knowledge, equipment and stroies are passed down from great-grandparents, creating a strong family bond. The Department of Natural Resources records an estimated 479,000 hunters each year.
The longstanding tradition of deer hunting has changed over the years, but the tradition of hunting as a family remains strong. There are always new gadgets, warmer clothes, better ground blinds and tree stands, but learning patience and taking aim stays the same. During Ohio’s 2022-23 statewide deer harvest two-day youth season, 9,515 deer were harvested by the younger generation. They put on their long underwear and camouflage clothing, shouldered their guns, and followed their parents footsteps in the same woods they have for generations!
Conclusion: Why Hunt Deer in Ohio?
Hunting helps the health of the environment and posterity of all outdoor recreation. It is also a great source for natural, free-range food and deer meat is lean and healthy! The Buckeye State offers a wide-range of hunting experiences, even just for deer, ranging from bow and arrow hunting to crossbows and guns.
Ohio also sees increases in its economy due to hunting. According to the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation’s Economic Impacts of Hunting and Target Shooting Technical Report, hunting drives $866 million of spending in Ohio each year through the sale of food, equipment, fuel, lodging, and more. This translates to 15,500 jobs in the Midwest state, $68 million in state and local taxes, and $753 million of the state’s GDP. So, it is safe to say that the economic benefits of hunting-related industries is high in Ohio.
As the Midwest state continues to improve it deer management program, hunters will find the deers in Ohio to be fully grown and worth sitting out in the cold, crisps morning for!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sean Thomforde/Shutterstock.com