To some hunters, pursuing whitetails in a wilderness setting is most important. To others, the opportunity to bag a deer might be the most important factor. For still other hunters, trophy buck potential is all that counts.
Any magazine article that offers a “top 10″ list of hotspots really hopes to help hunters have an enjoyable and successful deer-hunting season. So with a lot of help from Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife experts, here are some public deer-hunting areas that should provide plenty of variety and opportunity for hunters of every persuasion.
Each of Ohio’s five wildlife districts is different in some ways. Central Ohio’s District One connects with every other district, so it shares many characteristics.
“Kokosing Wildlife Area in Knox County would probably be No. 1 in District One,” said biologist Dan Crusey. “The area is a mix of mature timber, old fields and crops.”
The Kokosing Lake Wildlife Area lies 1 1/2 miles northwest of Fredericktown and five miles northeast of Chesterville.
Approaching from Columbus, follow Interstate Route 71 north to state Route 95 and follow it east to Fredericktown. From Fredericktown, take Waterford Road (county Road 6) about two miles northwest.
Through a cooperative agreement, the Ohio Division of Wildlife manages 1,113 acres around a U.S. Corps of Engineers flood project at the north branch of Kokosing Lake.
A hickory and pin oak woodlot is found at the south end of the lake. Open fields with fencerows and field dividers dominate the lake’s north side. There are also wetlands, and feeder streams break the terrain.
Management efforts include control of field sizes and crop rotation. Grasses, legumes and food plots have been planted for wildlife. Deer and other wildlife also benefit from spot mowing and cutting along fencerows and the edges of woodlots to maintain brushy habitat, which provides essential food and cover for deer.
Additional information about this wildlife area is available through the Wildlife District One office, 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, OH 43215; or call (614) 644-3925.
The Deer Creek Wildlife Area lies south of Columbus in Pickaway County and extends well into Fayette County. It is four miles south of Mount Sterling on state Route 207 west of Deer Creek Lake.
The area may be reached from the east and west by U.S. Route 22 and state Route 56, and from the north and south by U.S. Route 62 and state routes 3, 104 and 207.
The terrain on this 4,085-acre area is flat but not marshy, except for a 75-acre manmade marsh at the south end of the wildlife area. Designed by Ducks Unlimited, it was funded by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever.
Elsewhere, the habitat is a mix of hardwoods, old fields, brush, cropland and warm-season grasses. About a quarter of the wildlife area is cultivated with row crops and small grains. Another quarter is second-growth hardwoods and brush in various stages of development.
This area is intensively managed for pheasants, but the same habitat is very good for deer, too. In fact, Crusey said that deer hunters often overlook the warm-season grasses.
“Deer utilize those areas a lot more than most people realize,” Crusey said. “It’s tall grass prairie that can easily reach six feet, so it’s no different than being in a brushy, overgrown field. Deer get in there and feel secure. They can walk around at will, and you can’t even see them.
“It’s also good for bedding and winter protective cover. The warm-season grasses remain standing through the winter, unless we get a heavy snow like we did here this past March, but that usually doesn’t happen. They stay in it all winter.”
Agricultural crops dominate the surrounding area. Common crops are corn, soybeans and wheat, which further enrich the wildlife area as deer habitat.
Deer Creek State Park is on the eastern side of the lake. Get information about the park by phoning (740) 869-3124.
For more wildlife area information, contact the Area Supervisor, Deer Creek Wildlife Area, 12552 Post Road, Mt. Sterling, OH 43143. His phone is (740) 869-2365.
You can also try the Wildlife District One office, 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, OH 43215; or call (614) 644-3925.
Northwest Ohio’s Wildlife District Two generally has the lowest deer density in the state, but it still offers some outstanding hunting options. The deer here are probably of greater average size than in any of the other districts.
Scott Butterworth, District Two’s wildlife management supervisor, suggested Lake La Su An Wildlife Area in the northwest corner of Williams County because it’s fairly large — at 2,430 acres — and because it has a good diversity of habitat.
“Lake La Su An is a good mix of agriculture, woods, fields and early successional growth,” Butterworth said. “And that area in particular, Williams County, has some of the higher deer populations in northwest Ohio.” (Continued)
A stream passing through the wildlife area provides a wooded corridor. There are mast crops here, but because the wildlife area is surrounded by farms, the deer are not dependent upon mast production. “It may influence their movements somewhat,” said Butterworth, “but it’s not as critical as in areas where we have more extensive forestland because there are crop fields close by.”
There’s also some sharecropping on the wildlife area that includes cornfields, plus millet, sunflower and other foods meant to attract doves. All of these provide additional food sources for deer.
About two-thirds of the wildlife area is in forest or brush, and the other third is cropland or meadow. The area also includes several small lakes and ponds and numerous wetlands. The terrain is gently sloping.
Williams County Road R provides access to the area from state Route 576, or the wildlife area may be accessed by county Road 7 from U.S. Route 20.
Other information about this wildlife area may be obtained from the Area Manager, Lake La Su An Wildlife Area, 09-455 Road R
, Pioneer, OH 43554; or call (419) 485-9092.
“Another good place to hunt is Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area in Wyandot and Marion counties,” Butterworth suggested.
“That area consists of open fields with scattered wood lots. The topography is very flat with a lot of row-crop agriculture nearby. This is a large wildlife area, and on it we also have a couple-of-thousand-acre refuge that attracts deer.”
The only hunts allowed in the refuge are controlled hunts for youth, women and handicapped, and some waterfowl hunting.
“Deer densities there are lower,” said Butterworth, “but the deer are good-sized.”
Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area is eight miles south of Upper Sandusky and covers 9,230 acres. Wyandot County Road 115 provides access from state Route 294 west of Harpster. From state Route 309 west of Marion, take state Route 37 north to state Route 67. State routes 67 and 294 border the area on the west and north.
For more information on this area, contact the Area Manager, Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, 19100 CH 115, Harpster, OH 43323; or call (740) 496-2254. Also try the ODOW’s Wildlife District Two office at 952 Lima Avenue, Findlay, Ohio 45840; or call (419) 424-5000.
Northeast Ohio has plenty of urban and suburban areas. But between the larger population centers, there are good deer populations and good hunting on state-managed wildlife areas.
Dan Kramer, District Three wildlife management supervisor, suggested a couple of good prospects.
“Size is important, and heavy cover is always a plus. So the one area that comes to mind first and foremost is Brush Creek Wildlife Area in Jefferson County.”
Brush Creek Wildlife Area covers 4,131 acres, “in eastern Ohio’s rugged Appalachian region. Steep hills are covered by oak-hickory forest for the most part, but there have been some timber harvests in and around the property that will enhance hunting by providing some early successional browse for deer.
“We do plant some food plots there, and some sharecropping goes on that enhances the food availability for deer and keeps them on the area.
“The ruggedness of the terrain doesn’t appeal to everyone. And therefore, hunting pressure — while moderate to high at times — is certainly less than it could be if the land was flat.”
There are some fairly remote areas here where trophy hunters can get away from most other deer hunters. In some places, you can be a mile from the nearest road in very steep terrain, which can make dragging a deer out a strenuous chore. However, a road follows Brush Creek, which forms a valley through the middle of the wildlife area. You can hunt up from this road, so drags are downhill.
Deer density is higher here than in most of Ohio, though the Ohio Division of Wildlife does not give density figures. “The area has good potential for deer,” Kramer said. “Let’s put it that way. ”
Brush Creek Wildlife Area lies southeast of Salineville. Follow county Road 55 from state Route 164 at Monroeville.
Several township roads provide access to the wildlife area.
Finding your way around in this area is not as easy as in most other parts of the state. The wildlife area consists of one large tract, plus three smaller separate tracts. Two of these, totaling 783 acres, were purchased in partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation.
For more information, contact the Area Manager, Highlandtown Wildlife Area, 16760 Spring Valley Road, Salineville, OH 43945; or call (330) 679-2201. Also, try the Wildlife District Three office, 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, OH 44319; or call (330) 644-2293.
“There is also good potential at the Grand River Wildlife Area in Trumbull County,” Kramer suggested.
“That’s another good-sized area at over 7,000 acres. We’ve made a couple of additions to the area in the past year.” Habitat here includes bottomland hardwood forest along the Grand River. Beaver dams add to the wetlands.
This river runs south to north, but does a lot of meandering, which can disorient hunters.
“People coming in from one side or the other start following the river. And before they know it, the river that was on their left is now on their right. It’s just made a big loop around on them. They become confused.
“We’ve had to go find a few folks at night. But maps are available, and we’d be happy to direct hunters if they ask about specific areas. This is a remote area. But Trumbull County has good deer densities, so that’s one that we recommend.”
Approaching from the Cleveland area, follow U.S. Route 422 east to state Route 88 at Parkman. State Route 88 runs through the middle of the wildlife area in an east-to-west direction. State Route 534 borders the wildlife area along the western side.
More information, including a brochure with a map, is available from the Area Manager, Grand River Wildlife Area, 6686 State Route 534, West Farmington, OH 44491; or call (330) 889-3280.
Also try the ODOW’s Wildlife District Three office, 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, OH 44319; or call (330) 644-2293.
Southeast Ohio has the longest deer-hunting tradition in Ohio. This is mainly Appalachian Plateau terrain, which includes rolling to rugged hills.
Susie Vance of the ODOW’s District Four said that several different areas have great deer-hunting potential. “Salt Fork Wildlife Area is a good area for starters,” she offered.
Salt Fork Wildlife Area combines with Salt Fork State Park and Salt Fork Lake for a total of 20,542 acres.
The wildlife area lies east of the lake. Elevations vary from 1,065 feet to 790 feet. Several stream valleys make the rugged terrain even more challenging.
More than a third of the area is in hardwoods. Mast-producing trees are found mostly on the drier slopes. About a third of the area is crop fields, pasture and overgrown fields. The remainder is a mix of grasses, shrubs and smaller trees.
The main entrance to this Guernsey County recreation area is seven miles east of Cambridge on U.S. Route 22.
More information about the wildlife area is available from the ODOW’s District Four Wildlife office, 360 East State Street, Athens, OH 45701; or call (740) 594-2211.
Salt Fork Wildlife Area combines with Salt Fork State Park and Salt Fork Lake for a total of 20,542 acres.
current hunting conditions, contact the Salt Fork Wildlife Management Work Unit at (740) 489-5021.
For information on the state park, write the Park Manager, Salt Fork State Park, Box 672, Cambridge, OH 43725; or call (740) 439-3521.
“Egypt Valley Wildlife Area is another good area and consists mostly of reclaimed strip mines,” Vance said.
This wildlife area — an opportunity for habitat creation by design — consists of two separate tracts of land at the eastern end of Piedmont Lake.
Part of it can be accessed by water. It lies north of I- 70 and may be reached by taking state Route 149 north from U.S. Route 40.
For more information about this wildlife area, contact the District Four Wildlife office, 360 East State Street, Athens, OH 45701; or call (740) 594-2211.
Southwest Ohio has a variety of habitats, from the rolling land of the southern counties where deer are abundant to the flat agricultural lands in the northern counties where there are fewer deer.
Rick Jasper, assistant wildlife management supervisor in the ODOW’s District Five, suggested Tranquility Wildlife Area as a good place to start.
“It’s a fairly large area and it’s isolated,” he said. “It has wooded, brushy cover with small agricultural fields dispersed. There are some hills, too.” There’s more agricultural activity outside the wildlife area, but most of it is pastureland for dairy cattle.
Tranquility Wildlife Area lies 16 miles south of Hillsboro on state Route 770 in Adams County. Take state Route 73 south from Hillsboro to state Route 770. County Road 100 accesses the southern border.
Information is available from the Area Manager, Fallsville Wildlife Area, 10221 Careytown Road, New Vienna, OH 45159; or call (937) 987-2508.
You can also try the ODOW’s Wildlife District Five office, 1076 Old Springfield Pike, Xenia, OH 45385; or call (937) 372-9261.
Paint Creek Wildlife Area is another large wildlife area with good deer-hunting potential. “It’s also rolling,” Jasper said, “but it’s a little bit more agricultural. It’s a very large area with plenty of room to hunt.”
Paint Creek WA lies in Highland and Ross counties and covers some 11,024 acres. This is a combined area with a state park and a U.S. Corps of Engineers reservoir. It’s 11 miles east of Hillsboro along U.S. Route 50, which runs near the southern end of the public land. Turn north onto state Route 753 to access the property.
More information on the area may be obtained from the ODOW’s Wildlife District Five office. Or call the state park office at (937) 365-1401.
For more information about deer hunting in the Buckeye State, contact the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife, 2045 Morse Road, Columbus, OH 43229-6693. Or call 1-800-WILDLIFE, or log onto the agency’s Internet Web site at www.dnr.state.oh.us.
For Ohio travel information, contact Ohio Tourism Division, 77 South High Street, Columbus, OH 43215; phone 1-800-BUCKEYE; web site www.DiscoverOhio.com.