If you have a bad case of buck fever, Ohio could be the cure for what ails you. Lush farmlands adjacent to forested, rolling hills provide the perfect backdrop for whitetails to mature and reach their genetic potential. And with a season that lasts beyond four months, bowhunters have plenty of time to resist drawing on a young buck and wait for an older one to appear.
As is true in other Midwestern states, bowhunting is a big deal in Ohio. According to the Department of Natural Resources, last year more than 87,000 bowhunters pursued deer in the Buckeye State. If that sounds like a lot of hunters, it's probably an underestimate of the true number of ardent archers who are out there in search of venison.
"Our hunter numbers are estimates derived from deer hunter surveys, and in order to receive a survey, you have to purchase a resident, full-price permit," explains ODNR deer biologist Clint McCoy. "So the estimates do not include landowners, non-residents, senior hunters or youth hunters."
During the 2014-15 season, archers bagged more than 34,000 Ohio whitetails. But historically liberal bag limits — hunters could take as many as nine deer in some areas — have helped to drastically lower deer numbers. In many areas the age structure and buck:doe ratios are out of whack, prompting officials to reduce bag limits and prohibit antlerless kills in all but 10 urban counties.
But from a bowhunter's perspective that hasn't been all bad. It's given the stick-and-string brigade a bit more hunting time.
"Antlerless-only early muzzleloader season has also been suspended, meaning bowhunters will be able to hunt and harvest an antlered deer during the second weekend in October," McCoy explains.
Trophy hunters always want to know where bucks with the largest racks are being bagged. A look at the Pope & Young record book shows that since 2010, Meigs County down south leads the state with 44 entries. During that span, other counties standing out for P&Y production include such historical hotspots as Licking, with 30 qualifying bucks entered. Coshocton and Delaware have yielded 18 each, and Ross (17) is right behind them.
Not only does Ohio produce P&Y whitetails in great numbers, the top-end potential is off the charts. For example, the massive Mike Beatty buck, harvested in Greene County in early November 2000, still tops the P&Y record book as the world's largest non-typical ever taken by vertical bow. This great buck was panel-scored at 294 0/8 net inches.
Beatty lured this beast into bow range by calling, rattling and saturating the air with scent bombs. The buck almost got away, though — the bowhunter had narrowly missed a chance to fill his single buck tag with a wide 10-pointer only minutes before the world record appeared. When the 39-pointer showed up, Beatty no doubt forgot entirely about the deer that had avoided him. Sometimes the opportunity coming around the bend is better than the one just missed.
World-class typicals also are found in the Buckeye State — and they're not all on tightly controlled private land. Tim Reed proved that in early November 2004, while bowhunting public land in Muskingum County. Reed had strategically placed several scent pads dipped in doe-in-estrus urine around his stand.
The archer was preparing to leave for lunch when he saw the buck of his dreams standing 10 yards away. The tantalizing aroma had brought the jaw-dropping buck out of hiding to investigate.
"His nose was pressed against the pad dipped in doe-in-heat lure," the bowhunter recalls. "That changed my mind about putting that stuff out, because it gave me just enough extra time to get an arrow on the string."
This 14-point, 198 3/8-inch buck is officially the largest typical ever arrowed in Ohio and ranks No. 3 in P&Y.
For more information on bowhunting regulations and licensing in Ohio, go to: wildlife.ohiodnr.gov. For more specific details on trophy deer in the state, whether taken by bow or gun, check out: buckeyebigbuckclub.org. And to learn more about P&Y whitetails and other bow-taken trophies across North America, visit: pope-young.org.