If you hunt deer in eastern Holmes County or the far western portion of Tuscarawas County, you have some additional regulations to adhere to this coming deer-gun, bonus weekend and muzzleloader seasons.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife has officially designated, as of Aug. 1, five townships in Holmes County and two in Tuscarawas County as part of a Disease Surveillance Area after it was found that three deer from a whitetail deer breeding facility in the Sugarcreek area tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease last winter.
"One DSA in Holmes County did expire from a 2015 case and can be officially put to rest, but some townships in the county can’t catch a break," said Scott Peters, District Three wildlife management supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife. "It’s now illegal in seven townships to bait deer, and we’re changing carcass regulations statewide. All species that can contract CWD from all states and provinces can’t be brought into Ohio unless they’re fully deboned to minimize the risk of introducing the disease."
The deboned regulation is one that a lot of states are enacting, but you may not find it, or the new DSA, in the current Division of Wildlife book of regulations, as the details were not worked out at the time of printing.
For those hunting Paint, Walnut Creek, Clark, Berlin and Salt Creek townships in Holmes County, and Wayne and Sugarcreek townships in Tuscarawas County, any deer that is harvested during the deer-gun season, bonus weekend and muzzleloader season will have to be taken to the CWD check station so Division of Wildlife employees can pull a sample to betested for CWD.
"It’s the law, and we’re hoping everyone, including landowners, participates," said Peters. "We need to be confident CWD is not in that area. If they don’t comply, we may have to take other actions, like possibly making it mandatory to check in deer during the archery season."
The Division of Wildlife has set up two CWD check stations, one in each of the DSA counties.
In Holmes County, those harvesting a deer in one of the five DSA townships must check their deer in at the Walnut Creek Township Garage, 2490 Township Road 414 in Dundee. In Tuscarawas County, the CWD check station is at the Sugarcreek Village Hall, 410 South Broadway, Sugarcreek.
Check stations will be open during the gun season, bonus weekend and muzzleloader season from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The new DSA stems from last winter’s case of a deer, raised at Walnut Hollows Whitetails, testing positive for CWD. The deer was sold to a hunting facility in Guernsey County, where is was harvested less than a week after being sold to Dakota Outfitters near Quaker City.
"We didn’t feel it was warranted to also put Guernsey County under a DSA because the buck was there such a short amount of time," said Peters. "The deer didn’t pose a risk (to the wild population)."
Since the CWD finding, the herd at Walnut Hollow Whitetails was depopulated, and two more in that herd tested positive for the disease.
The Division of Wildlife came up with the five Holmes County Townships (Berlin and Salt Creek were also in the old DSA) and two Tuscarawas townships by drawing a six-mile circle around the infected breeding farm, as they did with the case back in 2015 when the first-ever case of CWD in Ohio was discovered at World Class Whitetails outside of Millersburg.
The new DSA regulations also make it illegal to transport a road-kill deer without first deboning it.
Peters said that if a deer does have CWD, it loses a number of its senses, making it more likely to get hit by a vehicle.
While Holmes County is in the top third of deer-producing counties in the state, the eastern portion of the county (where the new DSA is located), is not the hotbed for deer that the rest of the county is. With that the case, Peters knows that getting deer to sample for CWD may be a bit tough, but noted that the habitat quickly improves once you cross over into Tuscarawas County.
"It’s hard to put a number on how many deer we need to sample," Peters said. "We know the samples are going to be reduced (from past years). In a perfect world, we’d like to get 500. That’s our goal."
The following regulations apply within the DSA:
• Requires hunters to bring either the entire carcass, or head from any deer harvested within the DSA to an ODNR Division of Wildlife inspection station for CWD testing during the seven-day gun, two-day gun and muzzleloader seasons. Inspection stations will NOT be operated during the two-day youth season;
• Prohibits the placement of or use of salt, mineral supplement, grain, fruit, vegetables or other feed to attract or feed deer within the DSA boundaries;
• Prohibits hunting of deer by the aid of salt, mineral supplement, grain, fruit, vegetables or other feed within the DSA boundaries;
• Prohibits the removal of a deer carcass killed by a motor vehicle within the DSA boundaries unless the carcass complies with deer carcass regulations. Additional information on carcass regulations can be found at wildohio.gov.
• Normal agricultural activities including feeding of domestic animals as well as hunting deer over food plots, naturally occurring or cultivated plants and agriculture crops are not prohibited.
• Hunters harvesting deer within the DSA are required to bring either the entire carcass, or head from any deer to a carcass inspection station for disease testing.
• Hunters, including landowners, will be asked to provide their confirmation number from the game check process as well as the location where the deer was killed (property address or nearest road intersection). Tissue samples and biological data will be collected. The process should take no more than 10 minutes, however, delays may occur around lunchtime and immediately after dark. Hunters are strongly encouraged to complete the game check process before coming to the inspection station, but division staff will be able to assist with checking deer.
• Hunters who harvest a deer and plan to have it mounted or caped are required to bring their deer to a carcass inspection station. Samples will not be taken, but arrangements will be made to collect tissue at a later date.
If hunters have questions about the carcass inspection stations or need directions to the locations, they may call the District Three office, 330-644-2293.