With a full-season take of 219, 698 whitetails, the official harvest numbers from Ohio show what many of us had expected: a significant reduction in the overall kill. The previous season's total was 239, 379, for a drop of nearly 20,000 deer in the collective pot. That's a whole bunch of venison still in the woods instead of the crock pot.
Warm, windy weather during the early bow season and a notable lack of cold weather during the 4-day January muzzleloader season couldn't have helped hunters in their quest for venison. Neither could full-moon conditions during the peak time frame for the November rut and the January muzzleloader season. It just wasn't a great year for daytime deer activity, especially mature bucks.
But perhaps the reported drop wasn't entirely due to a lower kill. It might have had something to do with methodology, as well.
This season, for the first time ever, Ohio didn't require successful deer hunters to physically check in their kills. They had the option of doing it by phone or online instead. According to the Division of Wildlife, 44 percent took the online route, while 36 percent reported by phone. The remaining 20 percent still traveled to a license agent's location and physically checked in what they shot.
"Telechecking" — remotely reporting deer harvest by some form of electronic communication, rather than in person — has both fans and critics. On the plus side, it's mighty handy for hunters and state agencies, whose budgets and personnel are stretched thin these days. Checking in deer by phone or the Web can be a cost- and time-effective way to document the outcome of hunting season and gather data.
The downside is that it can facilitate illegal harvest by those who choose to misrepresent what they shot — or not report it at all. That concern seems especially valid in a one-buck state, such as Ohio. With so many trophy bucks running around this state, the opportunity to shoot more than one is more than some folks can resist.
Does your own hunting area have "telecheck" in one form or another? If so, what's your opinion on it? And if your area doesn't have it, do you think it should? I'm interested to hear what those of you in the field think about the recent trend toward hands-off data collection.