Deer Hunting in Ohio

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  • A
  • 750,000

    Est. Whitetail Population

  • 425,000

    No. Licenses Sold Annually

  • $50.20

    Resident hunting license and deer permit

  • $257.92

    Non-resident hunting license and deer permit

  • 201 1/8"

    Taken by Bradley S. Jerman in Warren County in 2004. It ranks No. 12 of all time.

    Record B&C Typical Stat

  • 670

    Total B&C Typical Entries

  • 328 2/8"

    The top-scoring nontypical was picked up in Portage County in 1940. It is the second-highest scoring nontypical of all time.

    Record B&C Non-Typical Stat

  • 448

    Record B&C Non-Typical Entries

Ohio has recently come onto the scene as a big-buck paradise. Image courtesy of Jeff Payette

Season Dates (2021):

Bow season spans September 25 to February 6. Youth weekend is November 20-21. Gun season is November 29 to December 5 and December 18-19. Muzzleloader season opens January 8-11. Please check the Ohio DNR website to confirm.

The Grade: A

Let’s just say it. Ohio is the best state in Antler Nation: Solid deer densities. Consistently big whitetails. Low over-the-counter license costs. Lots of public land. A longer-than-average deer season. It’s even a one-buck state, which promotes solid buck age structures. There are few negative things that can be said about deer hunting here.

Like a few other states, Ohio set a precedent during the 2020 turkey season by suspending nonresident hunting licenses, due to COVID-19. It’s anyone’s guess if that will happen again this fall. Your best defense if it happens is buying a license and tag ASAP. The DNR didn’t bar out-of-staters from hunting if they had purchased turkey tags prior to the cutoff.

Ohio does have a few confirmed cases of chronic wasting disease, but it’s confined to captive herds in the northeastern corner of the state. Comparatively speaking, in Midwestern terms, it sees relatively low hunting pressure. That said, finding a place to hunt isn’t quite as simple as it once was, and we expect that trend to continue as more hunters discover the Buckeye State. But that doesn’t deter us from giving it the coveted A for yet another deer season.

Antler Nation Knowledge:

Regarding big bucks, the entire state enjoys good genetics, habitat, and soil. That translates to statewide potential. The place cranks out Booners like it’s nothing. Still, looking solely at data from the past decade, there are several key winners. Adams, Butler, Coshocton, Franklin, Highland, Licking, Muskingum, and Summit take most of the top spots. You also can’t go wrong with other counties in the southern half of the state.

Interestingly, in recent years, Ohio put into effect public-land restrictions meant to increase the buck age structure. “From all indications, the public-land restrictions had the desired effect on the harvest, which should translate to some additional opportunities this fall — both antlered as well as antlerless,” said Michael Tonkovich, a wildlife biologist with the Ohio DNR. “I’m cautiously optimistic that we will see some nice deer taken from public lands as early as this year, but more likely over the next couple of seasons.”

That said, some national forests, natural areas, preserves, state parks, and other areas are open to hunting. American Electric Power (AEP) receives much love from Ohio deer hunters. It has numerous large tracts of ground that are open to the public. Some of these require a permit, though. Check specific regulations for individual hunt areas.

Hunters should also consider applying for controlled hunt opportunities. The application period is open until July 31, 2020. These hunts take place on Ohio Division of Wildlife properties, parks and watercraft areas, natural areas, and some preserves.

If you decide to hunt public, just know this can be unforgiving terrain. Most of this country is far from flat, and it takes endurance and sweat to reach some of the best spots on public ground. But it’s worth it. There are giants living in the hills of Ohio, and they aren’t in short supply.

Ohio Harvests

  • Clayton Helton

    Urichsville, Ohio

  • David Fannin

    New london, Ohio

From the Realtree Trophy Den