Muskingum County's Trophy Buck Hotspots

Muskingum County's Trophy Buck Hotspots

It's good news for Ohio deer hunters that Muskingum County produces high annual deer kills and contains some of the biggest public hunting areas in the state. Make plans to be there this month!

By Dan Long

Less than an hour east of Columbus, Muskingum County features eastern Ohio's rugged hardwood and open grassland habitat along with several public lands that offer some of Ohio's best deer hunting.

Year after year, Muskingum County leads the state in total deer harvests. The 2002 gun season produced over 5,100 deer following a record-breaking bow season, including some 2,500 does.

This season, all Wildlife District Four counties have been reduced to a two-deer limit, including Muskingum County. Last year's record harvest in Ohio should not diminish the deer hunting because winter survival was high and there should be high numbers of trophy bucks available.

Jim Hill, Ohio Division of Wildlife District Four biologist, recommends five top areas in Muskingum County for gun and muzzleloader hunters.

"I recommend these areas because they are all large and they all have a good mix of habitat types either on or around them," Hill said.

American Electric Power (AEP) lands are fast becoming a top choice for white-tailed deer hunters. Over 7,000 acres of land is now open to hunting in the southeastern portion of the county. Hunters should plan on scouting the areas by using aerial photos and topographic maps, and they should plan on arriving a few days before the season in order to find the best parking and walk-in access.

New hunters arriving in Muskingum County can find maps at ReCreation Land, a campground that caters to AEP land users. A permit is required and can be purchased through the Ohio Division of Wildlife or through local stores that sell the permits.

Visit the AEP Web site at for more information about the areas that are open to hunting and updated regulations. Hunters may also contact the AEP regional office at (740) 962-1205, or the Division of Wildlife District Four office at (740) 594-2211.

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

The Tri-Valley Wildlife Area's 16,200 acres constitutes the largest public land hunting opportunity in the county and is among the Top 5 wildlife areas statewide.

The staff at Tri-Valley Wildlife Area manages the area for many types of hunting. Access is good from several different roads and parking areas.

Area wildlife technicians work all summer putting in food plots that attract deer for fall and winter hunting. The area's mixture of mature forests, overgrown strip-mined soil banks and old fields and brush land sustain high densities of deer. Standing corn, buckwheat and other small grain plots offer deer a high-energy food source during winter months.

Contact the area manager, Mike Zaleski, at (740) 454-8296 for updated information on food plots and his recommendations for this December's deer hunt.

Tri-Valley is convenient to Columbus-area hunters. From western Ohio, take Interstate Route 70 east to Zanesville and then travel north on state Route 60 to the town of Dresden. Tri-Valley is off state routes 208 and 666 southeast from Dresden, where hunters will find a variety of dining and lodging options.

Contact the area manager or the District Four office for maps.

Highly recommended by district biologists, Blue Rock State Forest is another top choice for Ohio's gun and muzzleloader seasons. This 4,579-acre parcel is 12 miles southeast of Zanesville on state Route 60 and Cutler Lake Road.

Blue Rock features marginally productive farmland and newly managed forest areas that offer great habitat for deer. Several horseback riding trails scattered through the forest provide hunters with easy access to remote areas.

E-mail questions or requests for more information about Blue Rock State Forest can be sent to

On the west side of Muskingum County, the Dillon Wildlife Area can be a productive location for gun hunters. The area is approximately 10 miles northwest of Zanesville and 15 east of Newark along state Route 146 Adjacent to Dillon State Park. The wildlife area's proximity to the non-hunting zone makes it a good choice for hunters who want to see large numbers of deer and some big bucks.

The Licking River borders Dillon Wildlife Area, and several broad, terraced floodplains hold standing water during late winter and early spring. Almost two thirds of the area is wooded, with pockets of mast-producing oaks on the sloping ridges of the higher terrain surrounding the floodplains.

Dillon contains three large parcels totaling over 3,600 acres. Area One is off of state Route 16 south of the village of Marne. Area Two is south of the intersection of state routes 586 and 146. This section is the largest of the three. The third section is northeast of state Route 146. The key to accessing this portion is finding county Road 500 (Cemetery Road), which leads to the heart of the area.

One third of the total area is open land, with 90 percent in corn and small grain crops such as soybeans, wheat and oats. Less than 10 percent of the area is covered in brush.

Hunters positioned in funnels of cover will see deer throughout the gun and muzzleloader seasons as deer frequent these agricultural food sources.

Camping and picnic facilities are available at Dillon Lake State Park. The state park's cottages are popular among visiting hunters. There are 29 family cottages nestled in the woods overlooking the north lakeshore. Each cottage has air conditioning, cable television, gas heat, two bedrooms, a bath, a living room with sofa bed, an all-electric kitchen, a dining area and a screened porch. One cottage is handicapped accessible. Linens, towels and kitchen utensils are furnished.

For more information, call (800) AT-A-PARK or the Dillon State Park office at (614) 453-4377.

Falling under the management of the Tri-Valley Wildlife Area staff, the Powelson Wildlife Area is a great place for hunters interested in open-cov

er hunting, where 100-plus-yard shots at standing deer are possible.

Powelson Wildlife Area is east of Dillon Lake and approximately 10 miles north of Zanesville adjacent to the Muskingum River between state routes 60 and 666. It has a great mix of habitat, with several streams that are surrounded by mature forest. The high ground consists of reclaimed soil bank that is seeded in grasses and forbs. Much of the area consists of natural brush land that offers good bedding cover for white-tailed deer. County roads 49 and 416 divide the area into quarters and provide easy access. Parking lots are abundant throughout the area.

Sometimes smaller public hunting areas are overlooked as hunters focus on the larger areas in hopes of finding remote hotspots with little hunting pressure. Powelson Wildlife Area's relatively small 2,775 acres can offer great hunting on weekdays during the gun and muzzleloader season.

Muskingum County's Top 5 public lands can be even more productive for the December bowhunter. After Ohio's seven-day gun season, deer reestablish their behavior patterns and look for secure bedding areas near an ample food source. Each of the areas listed above provide these opportunities.

Also recommended are wildlife areas that have large parcels of picked or standing cornfields. A climbing tree stand is beneficial when wind directions change and the hunter needs to set up on a different side of a food source.

With a wildlife area map in hand and some time spent on the phone with area wildlife technicians, hunters can save some time by asking about prime areas to hunt. This will allow hunters to zero in on the best areas for hunting this season.

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