Our Finest December Shotgun Deer Hunts

Here's where to find some great shotgun deer hunting on public land near you in 2006. (Dec 2006)

The Buckeye State has slowly evolved into one of the finest whitetail-hunting hotspots in the country. Every year, hunters tag a plethora of goliath bucks that would make even the late, great Jack O'Connor sweat bullets. Many attribute this boom in big bucks to good management, while others maintain that it's just Ohio's time to shine.

Perhaps it's a little bit of both.

In 2005, Ohio hunters tagged 116,855 whitetails during gun season -- a slight drop, while the bow and primitive weapons harvests went up.

The following is a sampling of the finest big buck hotspots in the state for the 2006 deer gun season:

DEER CREEK WILDLIFE AREA

Deer Creek Wildlife Area in Pickaway, Fayette and Madison counties is one of the top deer-hunting hotspots in District One.

According to Dan Huff, an Ohio Division of Wildlife biologist, the Deer Creek Wildlife Area borders Deer Creek State Park.

"Hunters need to be aware that many sections of Deer Creek State Park are not open for public hunting, therefore, I recommend that they pick up a map indicating the areas that are open," suggested Huff.

Deer Creek Wildlife Area offers hunters approximately 4,085 acres of prime deer-hunting habitat. Most of the land is flat to gently rolling. It is comprised of second-growth timber, brush, crop fields and grassland.

According to Huff, the best hunting areas are those that border the state park.

"Deer frequently pass over the border, and that is a great place to pick up a trophy buck," he said.

Driving is not a popular means of harvesting whitetails at Deer Creek. According to biologists, most successful hunters still-hunt or stand-hunt. The keys to taking trophy-class deer here are persistence and patience.

Deer Creek Wildlife Area may be accessed by following state Route 207 to one of the several roads leading into the park. Parking is abundant in most areas.

Off Yankee Township Road, there is a shooting range open Wednesday through Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Shooters can acquire a permit for the range by visiting any of the local stores that sell hunting licenses.

For camping or overnight accommodations, contact the Deer Creek State Park office at (740) 869-3124.

For maps or more information on the Deer Creek Wildlife Area, contact the ODOW's District One headquarters at (614) 644-3925.

LAKE LA SU AN WILDLIFE AREA

Lake La Su An in Williams County is considered to be the best District Two hunting area for whitetails.

Bill Roshak, a District Two wildlife biologist for the ODOW, pointed out that Lake La Su An contains 2,280 acres of huntable land and remains a popular place for whitetail fanatics in his district.

The Lake La Su An Wildlife Area is approximately two-thirds woods and brush lands and one-third croplands and meadows. There are 14 lakes and ponds and 30 wooded wetland areas. The terrain is slightly rolling and not difficult to navigate on foot.

Last year there were 864 whitetails harvested in Williams County. That number is down about 25 percent from the '04 season, but biologists are predicting a good year for the 2006 deer gun season.

La Su An Wildlife Area is easily accessible. Follow state Route 20 to state Route 576, and then turn left on county Road R, which passes the ODOW's headquarters and provides access to the southern end of the area.

For more information on the Lake La Su An Wildlife Area, contact the ODOW's District Two headquarters at (419) 424-5000.

GRAND RIVER WILDLIFE AREA

The 7,231-acre Grand River Wildlife Area in Trumbull County is one of the better wildlife areas to hunt, not only in District Three, but in the entire state.

According to Damon Greer, the assistant wildlife management supervisor, the Grand River is heavily hunted. However, much of the area is underhunted due to difficult and limited accessibility.

"Most of the area is flat and swampy," noted Greer. "Furthermore, the main mass of hunting land is bordered by the Grand River, making it difficult to access certain spots."

For some hunters, this may be seen as a deterrent, while others view it as an opportunity.

"The deer that inhabit the thickest swamp areas rarely see much hunting pressure," said Greer. "Hunters who do penetrate such locations are bound to find some deer."

According to the ODOW, Trumbull County gave up 1,742 deer during the '05 hunting season, up 9 percent from the '04 season.

"We expect another banner year in '06," said Greer.

There are 12 ponds and 15 manmade marshes in the Grand River Wildlife Area. State Route 88 cuts through the center of the area, and state Route 534 borders it to the west.

Some orienteering skills are required, but if it's trophy deer and great habitat you're looking for, the Grand River Wildlife Area is the place to be.

For more information on the Grand River Wildlife Area, contact the District Three headquarters at (330) 644-2293.

WOODBURY WILDLIFE AREA

The Woodbury Wildlife Area in Coshocton County is the largest wildlife area in the state, offering hunters 19,202 acres of prime hunting land. The terrain features a mix of fields, brush lands and woodlands. Some sections have been heavily mined over the past 20 years. The terrain ranges from steep ravines to slightly rolling hills.

Jim Hill, a District Four wildlife biologist, pointed out that the Woodbury Wildlife Area has several redeeming features that make it a great choice for a December hunt.

"First of all," he said, "there are several Buckeye Big Buck Club qualifiers roaming the area -- that I can say confidently. Secondly, the area is close to numerous densely populated metropolitan areas, making it convenient for thousands of gun hunters."

Popular hunting methods range from still-hunting, stand-hunting and driving. With so muc

h land available, hunters can pretty well pick and choose how they want to approach their quarry.

Access may be found off Route 60 north of Interstate 70. Also, state Route 541 runs through the center of the area. Parking is abundant.

For additional information on the Woodbury Wildlife Area, contact the District Four headquarters at (740) 594-2211.

TRANQUILITY WILDLIFE AREA

The Tranquility Wildlife Area in Adams County is a 4,254-acre big buck magnet. The terrain is unglaciated and relatively hilly -- not for the faint of heart. During the 2005 deer gun season, 1,285 deer were harvested in Adams County, many of them coming from Tranquility.

Dave Kohler, a District Five wildlife biologist, pointed out that several small streams, woodlands and crop fields divide the area.

"This area is terrific for hunters looking to bag a big buck," Kohler said, noting that hunting pressure is moderate.

"We think the hunting here will be excellent for the 2006 season," he noted.

Access to the Tranquility Wildlife Area is off county Road 100, also known as Old State Route 32. A public shooting range is on township Road 100 off state Route 770.

For more information on Tranquility Wildlife Area, contact the District Five headquarters at (937) 372-9261.

For additional information, call 1-800-WILDLIFE, or log onto the Ohio Division of Wildlife's Web site at www.dnr.state.OH.us/wildlife.

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