Whitetails beware; hunting begins
WARREN -- Ohio and Pennsylvania wakened to a salvo of gunfire Monday, as hunters began the annual deer firearms season.
It was a good opening day for shotgun season on deer, officials say.
"For the hunters, yes -- for the deer, no," said Cindy Savage, who works at Van Camp's BP Service Station, a deer check-in station in Beloit.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife expects hunters to bag between 105,000 and 110,000 deer during weeklong shotgun season.
Both genders: This is the first time since 1906 that the Pennsylvania Game Commission has allowed both male and female deer to be hunted at the same time, so officials are not estimating what the count of this year's two-week season will be. Last year, more than 500,000 deer were harvested in Pennsylvania.
"We are probably a little bit ahead right now from last year," said Bill Rowley, owner of Farmer Bill's in Lisbon, the largest deer check station in Columbiana County. He expected more than 200 carcasses to come his way by the end of opening day.
Since archery season opened in October, about 300 deer have been taken to be measured and tagged at Monty's Mosquito Carryout. Around lunchtime, owner Monty Dickson sat at a stool in the shop's restaurant, flipping through a 2-inch high stack of Polaroids of some of the big ones.
Weather: Unseasonably pleasant weather has helped the deer in some respects -- they have a harder time hiding in snow, against which their brown coats stand out and which readily shows their tracks. But the balmy temperatures has also drawn out hunters.
"There are all kinds of guys hunting," Dickson said. From the looks of the lunchtime crowd, they were mostly men, mostly white. The restaurant is decorated with mounted fish and animal heads, and a real shotgun hangs over the door to the kitchen.
Kill of the day so far had gone to Ron Walker, 62, of Austintown, who bagged the biggest deer of his life from a tree stand in a nearby soybean field, using a shotgun that once belonged to his father.
Working alone, he said it took about two hours to hoist the 211-pound, eight-point buck into the back of his truck.
"My heart was going like a maniac," he said.
Tighter security: Meanwhile, hunters who planned to prowl for prey near sensitive government weapons and military facilities have fallen victim to tighter security in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Security concerns prompted the cancellation of civilian deer hunts that had been scheduled for October and November at the Ravenna Army Ammunition Plant in Portage County and NASA's Plum Brook Station near Sandusky.
Normally, there are six hunts of 300 hunters each per year on the 20,000-acre Ravenna Army property, said Denise Varner, spokeswoman for the Ohio Army National Guard.
"Since Sept. 11, no public access has been permitted due to the heightened security," Varner said.
However, faced with a growing deer herd, the Ravenna base is allowing military hunters to harvest does to reduce deer numbers on the property, guard officials have said.
At Plum Brook Station, where aerospace research is conducted, a maximum of 122 hunters are normally given access to the 5,000-acre property on Saturdays in the fall. But not this time.
Amy Bower, safety officer for the station, said she has gotten no complaints -- "not a word."
"From what we've heard, everybody's been very understanding of the circumstances," said Andy Ware, spokesman for the ODNR.
Participation in the Ravenna and Plum Brook hunts was determined by lottery. This year, 20,211 pairs of hunters applied, and 1,044 pairs were selected. Ware said the hunters will be allowed to participate when the hunts resume.
At some military sites, hunting is going on as usual.
For example, deer hunters are out this week in a 259-acre restricted area at the 8,000-acre Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.
USteve Siff,Vindicator Trumbull staff writer, contributed to this report.