COSHOCTON — One of the most popular weeks of the season for tourism in Coshocton County is fast-approaching.

Deer-gun season, which runs from Dec. 2-8 and Dec. 21-22, attracts hunters from throughout the region. As the numbers show, there is no better place to harvest deer in Ohio — literally.

Coshocton County has been the No. 1 county for deer harvest for 10 straight years, including 6,040 last season, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Only Tuscarawas, a bordering county to the east, came within 1,000 of that total. Coshocton also had more bucks bagged (2,394) than any other county, with Tuscarawas a close second (2,031).

Brian Banbury, executive administrator for Information and Education for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, said the region is blessed with a perfect combination of rolling hills, farmland and waterways that are conducive for deer to grow bigger than other areas of the country. Coshocton County, he said, is particularly well-constructed for hunting.

The county is home to the Woodbury Wildlife Area, the state's largest public hunting grounds featuring 19,000 acres operated by ODNR specifically for wildlife recreation. There are also more than 14,000 acres of public use at the AEP Conesville Coal Lands – people can print off a permit to hunt there, along with their hunter’s license.

That makes the county attractive to locals and outsiders alike. Banbury said it's very common for southern hunters to venture north on hunting trips, because the overall deer size and antler size are much larger than in the south.

"Ohio is just a great state," Banbury said. "The farther north you go, the bigger the species. In our case, we're northern enough that we get that subspecies (of bigger deer) than what you have in the south, but it's not like we're Canada either. We still have temperatures where hunters can bear the conditions."

The fertile grounds have aided area businesses, according to Mindy Brems, director of the Coshocton County Visitor's Bureau. She echoed Banbury in that hunters come from throughout the country.

While the wine trail is the county's largest tourism attraction, hunting season falls next in line. Hotels are usually at or near capacity, as are cabins available to rent at Woodbury, Nickel Valley Resort and Roscoe Hillside Cabins, among others.

"With Woodbury there is a sizable chunk of land relatively close to Columbus and high-population areas that aren't far away," Banbury said. "It's a destination for both in-state and out-of-state hunters."

There are also hunting tours through Coshocton County Outfitters, which offers guided whitetail hunts. Their hunting lands are divided equally between woods and agricultural areas.

"Tourism is more than hunters," Brems said. "Many times they bring their families and spouses to check out other tourist attractions like the Wine Trail and Roscoe Village. Our attractions promote another, and the impact is really felt throughout the county."

According to the ODNR's Buckeye Big Buck Club, the largest deer harvested in Coshocton County was from Virgil Carpenter in 1972, which totaled a net score of 184 3/8, ranking 52nd all-time.

Three of the state's top 100 in net score — Charles Bryant (181 2/8 in 1998) and Mark Arnold (181 0/8 in 2010) have the others — have been harvested in Coshocton County. Of bordering counties, only Licking, with five, has more in the top 100 all time. Holmes and Muskingum also have three, but only one each during gun season.

Hunters are permitted to harvest one antlered per year, according to the ODNR, and cannot exceed the individual county's bag limit. Deer hunting is encouraged by the ODNR, Banbury said, because deer are plentiful. The ODNR website also features numerous venison and other wild game recipes within its Wild Ohio Harvest community forum.

"It's an absolute management tool," Banbury said. "We have healthy deer because we are active in management, and keeping the numbers at a level where those who remain on the landscape are healthy and there isn't as much competition for available food. It's a legitimate locally sourced item, definitely free range, organic and lean protein."

Banbury urged motorists and hunters alike to always use caution, especially in wooded areas.

"Obviously, because of the crops being taken off and lot of rut, and mating season is running a little later this year," Banbury said. "Certainly if you are driving you want to keep your eyes open for deer on the move. We just want to encourage people to have a safe week and have a good time."