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Got a problem with deer damaging your crops? Take action by getting deer damage permits, which allow you to kill a certain number of deer on your property. That’s the advice of David Risley, executive administrator for the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Wildlife Management and Research.
Last year, the wildlife division issued 1,591 deer damage permits after receiving 1,677 complaints, Risley said. The number of deer killed under the special permits was 8,723. He said almost every farmer who requests the permit gets one.
“The most common complaint on denial that I have heard has been with cover crops or forage. Shooting permits are sometimes denied for safety purposes,” Risley said, noting that suburbs often don’t allow shooting. “I emphasize to our staff that they should be very liberal in issuing permits.”
Ohio has more deer than it can manage, said Chris Henney, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation's (OFBF) director of legislative relations. Experts estimate that the deer population is more than 700,000. OFBF policy calls for reducing that number to 250,000.
While Ohio Division of Wildlife officials don’t have the final number of deer killed last year, they said more than 116,000 deer were harvested during deer gun season. Archery season didn’t end until Feb. 1.
“It’s good to see the deer harvest numbers continue to increase because the overall population also continues to rise,” Henney said. “But ultimately we need to see the population numbers decrease.”
Risley agreed that the deer population is too large, which is why the division added an extra weekend of sport hunting in 2007, resulting in an additional 18,049 deer being killed.
“Whenever farmers have a problem with deer, we like to work with them to solve the problem,” he said. “A lot of people have damage problems and they could kill each and every deer on their property but if their neighbors don’t allow it, they will have the same problem next year.”
Farmers interested in getting a deer damage permit should contact the state wildlife officer assigned to their county or the wildlife specialist of the local Soil and Water Conservation District if their district has one. The officer or specialist will complete an assessment within five working days to determine if the permit should be issued but most permits are issued immediately, Risley said.
Landowners are allowed to kill up to 10 deer under the permit and can use as many as five individuals to help shoot the deer. The permits are valid until the start of deer hunting season but officers will issue permits during hunting season for special circumstances, Risley said. The wildlife division encourages landowners to recover the animal and donate the meat to local food banks, he said.
Risley also said that landowners need to use skilled hunters who are able and willing to kill antlerless deer.
“We would like to get to the day where we never get a (deer damage) complaint but that will probably never happen,” Risley said. “Our philosophy is to optimize the opportunity and minimize the conflict. We’ll probably keep pushing the deer population back until hunters complain that there’s not enough deer.”