Our Top 10 Archery Deer Hunts

Deer numbers are up, and Buckeye State bowhunters have more opportunities than ever in 2007. Here's where to find some great hunting in your district this season. (September 2007)

Photo by BillKinney.com.

It's been a long time coming, but Ohio's 2007 archery deer season is finally here! The off-season always seems like it will never end, but this year, bowhunters have a lot to be excited about. With new opportunities for Buckeye State archers, and the season looks extremely promising.

Last year, archery hunters took 67,912 deer in the Buckeye State, up from the 60,090 deer the year before. Dave Swanson, an Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODOW) forest wildlife biologist, said the annual numbers taken by bowhunters might soon reach 70,000 to 80,000 deer.

He said there's been a big increase in archery hunting in recent years. The deer population has also been increasing, resulting in a phenomenal jump in the whitetail harvest.

Swanson said that just 10 years ago, 40,000 deer taken in a year by bowhunters was considered a lot.

The deer population is also doing quite well in Ohio. ODOW estimates some 650,000 animals will be available for hunters this season, and the population is considered stable.

While the state's deer herd is labeled as stable, some areas are in a "maintenance" mode. In Zone A, the ODOW is trying to maintain or increase deer numbers. Zone B is primarily stable, but deer numbers in Zone C need to be decreased.

Bowhunters have seen increased opportunities recently, primarily in the form of a longer hunting season. Even more opportunities may be on the horizon. Archers may soon see reduced costs on antlerless permits, and bowhunters may have the opportunity to nearly double their bag limits on antlerless deer in the state.

Buckeye State bowhunters have a wide range of public hunting areas to consider. Here is a look at some of top WMA archery deer hunts in each of our five wildlife districts:

DISTRICT ONE

Delaware Wildlife Area

Wildlife technician Kelly Kelley said there is a good deer population on the Delaware Wildlife Area. He said there are also some trophy-class bucks on the property, but noted that some of the best areas for big deer can be difficult to hunt.

The area is bordered on the south side by U.S. Department of Agriculture property and on the west side by a state park. Gun-hunting pressure tends to force deer off the property and into these protected areas.

However, the early part of the season can be terrific for relatively low-impact bowhunters.

The 4,670-acre area has a mixture of habitat, ranging from grasslands to woodlands. Row crops are plentiful on the area, as are food plots maintained by the ODOW. Corn, soybeans and winter wheat are all prime draws for whitetails, but Kelley said hunters should scout the area prior to hunting to learn what foods deer are focused on at the time.

Delaware Wildlife Area lies eight miles north of Delaware and 10 miles south of Marion. More information may be obtained by calling area manager Tim Davis at (740) 747-2919.

Deer Creek Wildlife Area

Another good District One hunting option is about four miles south of Mount Sterling. The Deer Creek WA contains 4,085 acres and is home to a healthy deer population, according to area supervisor Ron Carter.

There are ample grasslands and brushy areas on the property, which has two main woodlots. The remainder of the wooded areas is primarily along fencerows. Carter said these fencerows offer prime stand sites for bowhunters. He said there is moderate hunting pressure during the archery season.

In the early bow season, deer are usually focused on nearby crop fields. There are also food plots with sorghum mixtures as well as sunflower fields. Carter said the deer will feed on the sunflowers and row crops early in the season, but will usually not hit the sorghum fields until later in the season.

He said the ample food supply helps produce good quality whitetails with exceptional body weight and antler growth.

The wildlife area lies in Fayette, Madison, and Pickaway counties and is adjacent to Deer Creek State Park. The best access is from state Route 207. Ron Carter, the area manager, may be reached at (740) 869-2365.

More information on District One bowhunting opportunities is available by calling (614) 644-3925.

DISTRICT TWO

Lake La Su An Wildlife Area

Williams County has historically been good for deer hunting. Lake La Su An WA is a good place to start.

Doug Soards, area manager, said the deer population at the wildlife area is very good. There are good numbers of deer as well as some great bucks on the property.

The area is popular with hunters, according to Soards. But bowhunters can still find secluded areas.

The area is scenic and home to a variety of wildlife. There are numerous wet areas, large areas of grass and plenty of forested land, with much of it being mast-producing hardwoods.

The west end has the largest forested area, which amounts to about 600 acres. The east section of the area features more traditional woodlots, which are narrow and divided by fields.

Only around 5 percent of the property is sharecropped, but much of the adjacent lands are planted in row crops such as corn, soybeans and winter wheat. There are also numerous food plots on the property. Some of the managed dove fields have standing corn on them.

This 2,430-acre property lies in Bridgewater and Northwest townships. It may be reached from Williams County Road R or Road 7. The area headquarters and manager Doug Soards may be reached by calling (419) 485-9092.

Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area

Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area offers District Two hunters 8,627 acres -- plenty of space to spread out. It has a diversity of habitats, including open areas, wetlands, and forest. The forested component makes up about 27 percent of the property.

Fred Dierkes, the area manager, said the deer population is typical of northwestern Ohio. A wildlife refuge on the property also helps maintain a healthy deer population. Dierkes said there are a number of good bucks on the property.

About 1,000 acres of the property are sharecropped, with farmers required to leave a portion of the harvest in the fields for wildlife. These crops are mainly corn and soybeans. There are also a few food plots, as well as plenty of surrounding agricultural lands.

Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area lies in Wyandot and Marion counties, about 14 miles from Marion. It is best accessed from state Route 294 and then from county Road 115. Access is also possible from state Route 309.

Fred Dierkes and the area headquarters may be contacted by phone at (740) 496-2254.

The ODOW's Wildlife District Two office may be reached at (419) 424-5000.

DISTRICT THREE

Highlandtown Wildlife Area

Columbiana County is home to the 2,265-acre Highlandtown Wildlife Area. It is about 30 miles from Steubenville. The best access is either via state Route 164 from Lisbon or via state Route 39 from Salineville.

The deer population at the area is very healthy and according to Jeff Janosik, the area manager, deer numbers are excellent. Hunters have been seeing some really good bucks of late. Recently, a couple of 140-class 10-pointers were taken on the area, which is a mixture of grasslands, rolling hills, brushy areas and woodlots.

There are some steeper areas, with the elevation rising to nearly 300 feet.

Area staff plant food plots to enhance hunting opportunities, with most of these being planted in corn or winter wheat. There are also dove fields and other fields that are planted with a mixture of grains including corn, sunflowers, buckwheat, and millet. Crews have also planted soft-mast trees such as crabapple and dogwood in the area.

The Highlandtown Wildlife Area office and manager Jeff Janosik may be reached at (330) 679-2201.

Hunters looking for camping arrangements should contact the Beaver Creek State Park office, which is located nearby in the same county. Call (330) 385-3091 for details.

Brush Creek Wildlife Area

Janosik also serves as the area manager for Brush Creek Wildlife Area. He said the whitetail population here is also healthy, and hunters usually see good numbers of deer. There are some big bucks on the property as well. Last year, in fact, a gun hunter took an exceptional 12-pointer.

However, this area can be a bit tougher to hunt than Highlandtown WA. The property has some rough terrain, with many areas featuring steep ravines. Hunters who can meet the challenge will find some excellent whitetail hunting.

There are a few food plots planted in corn, and Janosik said deer utilize these areas heavily. Other key areas are hard mast and browse areas.

In addition, the ODOW has planted thousands of soft-mast trees such as crabapple, American plum and dogwood.

Brush Creek Wildlife Area covers 4,131 acres in Jefferson County. It lies about six miles from Salineville and is best accessed from county Road 55, which may be reached from state Route 164 at Monroeville.

More information on the area may be obtained by calling Janosik at the Highlandtown Wildlife Area office noted above. The phone number for the ODOW's Wildlife District Three office is (330) 644-2293.

DISTRICT FOUR

Salt Fork Wildlife Area

In the southeastern portion of the state in Guernsey County, the Salt Fork Wildlife Area covers 20,542 acres open to various recreational activities. Archers will find some 12,000 acres open to hunting.

Guernsey County has been among the top five counties in deer harvests over the past 6 to 8 years. According to area manager John Matthews, the wildlife area mirrors the county's deer situation. He said the deer herd at Salt Fork is a healthy one, and that there are some really nice bucks on the property, too.

Salt Fork is a mixture of woods and farmland. The area is actively managed, with a timber-harvest program as well as a sharecropping program that requires farmers to leave a portion of their small-grain row crops in the field for wildlife.

This year, bowhunters have a lot to be excited about. There are new opportunities for Buckeye State archers, and the season looks extremely promising.

Additionally, food plots are planted to corn, wheat, sorghum, buckwheat and sunflowers.

There has been strong mast production for the past few years, which can be a major draw for whitetails during the archery season.

The main entrance to the Salt Fork Wildlife Area is seven miles east of Cambridge on U.S. Route 22.

Call area manager John Matthews at the area headquarters, (740) 489-5021. The Salt Fork State Park office number is (740) 439-3521.

Wolf Creek Wildlife Area

The Wolf Creek Wildlife Area in Morgan County is another top choice for District Four bowhunters. Area manger Dave Swanson said it's a good area for deer hunting, and there are some pretty good bucks on the property and in the surrounding area. Morgan County has some 20 to 30 deer per square mile.

The property is primarily forested with little crop farming in the area. Sharecropping farmers are required to leave about 10 percent of their crop in the field. However, the primary food sources for deer at Wolf Creek are hard and soft mast and browse.

The Wolf Creek Wildlife Area is comprised of 3,764 acres, nine miles southwest of McConnelsville and 11 miles northeast of Glouster. The best access is from state Route 78.

Micky Bauer, the area manager at Wolf Creek, may be reached at the area office by calling (740) 962-2048.

You can obtain more deer-hunting information from the ODOW's District Four office. Call (740) 589-9930.

DISTRICT FIVE

Fallsville Wildlife Area

The Fallsville Wildlife Area is in Highland County. This 1,382-acre property lies seven miles north of Killsboro on state Route 73.

Area manager Kash Adams said there is an adequate number of whitetails here, but the area is better known for its quality bucks. Last season, a 140-class buck was seen on the property and was known to be still roaming the land after the shotgun season concluded.

Early archery season hunting can be good, but hunting later in the season is a challenge, due to pressure from upland hunters. Adams said that deer move a lot to avoid bird hunters and are hard to pattern.

Keying on dense cover and escape routes is the best tactic. Fencerows and drainages that connect woodlots can be real hotspots. Adams said that during the early archery season, row crops on the area can be

key food sources. Other food sources include corn, millet, and sunflowers planted around controlled-burn areas. For more information, call Kash Adams in the area office at (937) 987-2508.

Woodland Trails Wildlife Area

Another area with a good number of deer available is the Woodland Trails Wildlife Area in Preble County. There are a number of big bucks on the property, according to area manager Michael White. He said that bowhunters do well there, but small-game hunters can impact the hunting on weekends.

The area lies off Route 127 about three miles north of Camden and seven miles south of Eaton.

About 20 percent of the property is open land, while the remainder consists of small woodlots. A total of 710 acres is divided between three parcels. There is no sharecropping on the property. White said there are some small food plots on the area, but deer rely mostly on natural browse.

Agricultural lands surround the area, and deer will venture off the public property to feed on row crops such as corn and soybeans.

For more information, contact the Woodland Trails Wildlife Area headquarters at (513) 726-6795.

Or call the ODOW's District Five office at (937) 372-9261.

For general hunting information, license questions, maps or other needs, bowhunters can contact the Ohio Division of Wildlife at 1-800- WILDLIFE. You can also try online at www.ohiodnr.com. Printable maps of these and other WMAs in Ohio are found on the Web site.

Hunters who must travel to reach these WMAs may obtain information by visiting www.discoverohio.com, or by calling 1-800-BUCKEYE.

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