Don Keil of Toledo waits along State Rt. 15 just north of the Ohio Turnpike in Williams County with the four-point buck he bagged from about 40 yards.
MONTPELIER, Ohio - A vibrant color was visible through the drab fields and barren forests yesterday - hunters' orange.
Crouched at the edge of a field or walking through the forests, hunters outfitted in the bright, neon color had their eyes peeled and their firearms ready, each looking to take home a prize. Whether out as a group or by themselves, hunters throughout Ohio took to the outdoors to be part of the much anticipated opening day.
Outside the Go Hunt Online Outlet Store in rural Williams County, hunters were pulling in with trunks popped and tailgates down. A registered deer-checking station, the hunting-supply store offered hunters tags for their kills and a place to share tales of the day's success or the trophy buck they had only just missed.
Last year gun hunters harvested 100,425 deer. The state's white-tailed deer population is estimated at 575,000.
“I just like being out in the woods, getting away from the city,” said Joe Turnbough, Jr., 41, who generally reserves a vacation day from Johnson Controls, Inc., in Toledo for opening day. “And after the season ends, we start thinking about next year and what we can do differently.”
Like many of the 450,000 hunters who were expected to brave yesterday's driving snow and falling temperatures, Mr. Turnbough has a long history in camouflage - he's been hunting since he was 10. That means his 7-year-old son has a few more years before Dad contemplates a father-son outing. “He's too young, but he can't wait,” said Mr. Turnbough, who bagged a doe yesterday.
For Elmer Hofbauer of Perrysburg, hunting is about camaraderie. Among about a dozen hunters who suit up at least once during the eight-day gun season, Mr. Hofbauer said it doesn't matter if he comes home with a deer, though the 43-year-old produce farmer would not let a buck within shot go by.
Hunting buddy Don Keil was the only one who had any luck as of yesterday morning - a four-point buck. A point is counted for each tine on a deer's set of antlers. Mr. Keil, 33, of Toledo, said he's now through for the season, but he'll come back and help his friends seek out deer today.
“They helped me today, and I'll help them tomorrow,” he said. Mr. Keil said he'll keep the antlers from his deer, but he is looking forward more to the steaks and sausages.
Officers from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture were on hand at the deer check station, asking for hunters' cooperation in testing for bovine tuberculosis and Chronic Wasting Disease. The testing began after Chronic Wasting Disease - a fatal, degenerative disease of the brain affecting elk, mule deer, and white-tailed deer - surfaced in Wisconsin.