Since the last ice age, deer have been present in the state. The white-tailed deer provided not only a regular food source for Native Americans in the state, the deerskins were used for clothing and tools. The deer population remained fairly consistent over the decades, even though there were plenty of natural enemies that preyed on the deer including wolfs and cougars that were also plentiful across the state.
However, during the 1800s, much of the Ohio's land was stripped of trees either for planting farms or selling the timber for construction. As the forests dwindled to barren hills, the deer population began a steady decline. In 1857 the state imposed hunting restrictions on deer. By the early 1900s, the white-tailed deer was for just about gone from the state. In the 1930s a restocking program began across the state and by 1937 white-tailed deer could be seen in 28 of Ohio's counties. It would take almost another 20 years before deer could be found in all 88 counties.
Today, Ohio's deer population is quite large, probably larger than it has ever been since almost all of its predators, except for man, have been driven from the state. In 1988 the Ohio General Assembly made the white-tailed deer, Ohio's official mammal.
Although deer can be found in all of Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, south and southeast Hill Country Ohio has the largest number of deer followed by the northeast and central regions. In 2011 the estimate fall herd of white-tailed deer was around 725,000.
The best hunting and viewing areas include:
Lake LaSuAn Wildlife Area / Williams County
Deer Creek Wildlife Area / Pickaway County
Jockey Hollow Wildlife Area / Harrison County
Crown City Wildlife Area / Gallia County
Waterloo Wildlife Area / Athens County
Tranquility Wildlife Area / Adams County
Other Ohio Wildlife
Black bears have long inhabited Ohio. Although over the last 100 years their population has dwindled drastically with the last reported black bear killing was in Paulding County in 1881. In the last decade or so, black bear sighting have been increasing in the hills of eastern Ohio.
Unlike the black bears, bobcats have maintained a population in some areas of Ohio. A significant increase in their numbers has been observed since 1990.
The last wild turkeys were seen around 1904 and were mostly absent from the state until the mid 1950s. Since then their population has been increasing in number and in 2008 their number was estimated to be about 200,000 birds in all 88 counties.
Once a common sight in most areas of the state, the timber rattlesnake posed a serious threat to early pioneers. In central Ohio, along the Scioto River where today the Griggs Reservoir is located, pioneers canoeing the river made special note in their diaries of the large number of rattlesnakes sunning themselves on the stone cliffs on either side of the river. Today the rattlesnake population has been drastically reduced to such an extent that they have only been seen in limited numbers in just 4 counties.