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Ohio changes my holiday tradition …

Don’t get me wrong. I really do enjoy the annual pilgrimage – Griswold style – to Ohio around the holidays to visit my in-laws. They’re good people and it’s nice to catch up with our extended family. And I generally like the state of Ohio. But the last decade of December’s trips across the Ohio River carried with them the added anticipation of hitting the deer woods for the state’s muzzleloader season. And deer hunting in Ohio is always worth getting excited about.

Ohio’s Wildlife Council voted in early 2009 to change the muzzleloader season to Jan. 9-12, 2010 (which, by the way, means that the 2009 calendar year did not truly have a muzzleloader season), making it the first year in many that I will not be chasing the whitetail in the buckeye state. And I’m bummed about it. There’ll be no chance to take to the field with my brother-in-law, normally our only chance to share a few hunts together all year.

According to Dave Risley, the Ohio Division of Wildlife executive administrator of wildlife management and research, “the addition of the extra weekend of gun hunting, decline in muzzleloader season harvest and the compression of the calendar, we felt that a move into January would add a little ‘downtime’ for deer hunters and deer, and reinvigorate the season.”

Each visit to this site makes me more disappointed in Ohio's decision to move its muzzleloader dates

The state’s extra weekend of hunting has seemed to work out to help the state meet its desired hunter harvest, but I’m anxious to see if the move to January will indeed pay dividends. One of those metrics for success surely is revenue from license sales and my gut tells me that this move will not help in this area. I am among the many out-of-state hunters that have forked over the $164 (the 2009 fee) to hunt in Ohio. I will not be making the purchase this year only because my schedule doesn’t jive with the state’s regulations. To the state’s defense, I could purchase my license to hunt with my bow in tow, but the investment becomes greater when facing only three days to hunt and very little pressure forcing the deer out of their nocturnal ways (especially on the heels of the state’s shotgun season).

I can’t be alone. The January muzzleloader season might do some help in getting the state’s resident hunters into the woods a few extra days, the out-of-staters coming into the state for the holidays are less likely to return in January for a three-day season. That is purely my assumption at this point, but the post-season numbers should tell us the facts.

With a couple of out-of-state trips planned for hunting in 2010, my goal is to find a way to get back in the Ohio deer woods in some capacity. Perhaps it will be an extended weekend trip during the rut or something of that nature. Regardless, this year’s trip back for the holidays is going to miss a little something.

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