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Wildlife Officials and Farmers feel "Deer Pressure"

Ohio hunters have one last chance this season to bag a deer using a firearm.

State wildlife officials say the bulk of Ohio's deer population lives in the eastern and southeastern parts of the state. And some farmers in those areas say deer damage to their crops is taking a bite out of the bottom line.

Bill Huston is county executive director of the Muskingum and Morgan County farm service agency. He says farmers in those counties lose an average of 15-dollars per acre to deer damage. Huston says "deer pressure" is forcing some farmers to change the crops they grow. They might choose crops that are less expensive to plant to limit losses to damage by deer.

Huston's farm is near Dresden in northern Muskingum County. He says many farmers in that area lease acreage to hunters. A farmer might get $20 per acre for an entire hunting season, and lose a few deer in the process. But Huston says by the time the farmer pays for additional liability insurance, he's not making much if any money.

Wildlife biologist Mike Tonkovich is with the Ohio Division of Wildlife. He says the number of deer is rising while the number of hunters is on the decline. So they, too, are feeling "deer pressure."

Tonkovich says increasing bag limits will not go far in reducing the deer population. He says among successful hunters, only about 20 percent bag a second deer. Meanwhile the deer, finding plenty to eat and an abundance of places to hide, are highly productive. It's not unusual for does to have twins - even triplets. And even fawns can breed

As a way to slow reproduction, Bill Huston suggests making it less expensive for hunters to bag a doe than a buck.

Currently, hunters in Ohio pay 19-dollars for a license, and 24-dollars for each deer they plan to bag. Tonkovich says, ideally, lowering the price of what is known as the "antlerless tag" would increase the number of people purchasing the tag and that would help maintain revenue levels.

Tonkovich says legislative action would be required to change the pricing structure, but a change will be considered. He says he doesn't know what is holding deer hunter back - the cost of hunting, or too little time to hunt. So wildlife officials added an extra weekend to try to keep hunters in the sport for a longer period of time and keep the deer population under control.