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Published: Thursday, 1/6/2005

Muzzleloaders bag at least 27,749 deer

John Fahrbach shot this 8-pointer on opening day of black powder season. He s back afield after doctors replaced his leg.

Hunters who use muzzleloading rifles bagged a record of at least 27,749 deer during the recent black powder season, and among them are a buck and doe to which special memories are attached.

John Fahrbach of Northwood took a fine eight-pointer on opening day of the four-day season, hunting alone from a ground blind on private land between Genoa and Woodville.

I got a dandy, he said of the hefty buck, which weighed an estimated 200 pounds on the hoof. It s not a Boone and Crockett, but it s a very respectable deer. But the real story is the rest of his story.

Fahrbach, former pastor of Trinity Grace Brethren Church in Northwood and now pastor at Grace Brethren Chapel in Fremont, also worked as an estimator for a roofing company.

In September, 2003, he fell off a ladder and shattered his left ankle and lower leg. Two months in the hospital, four steel plates, and 40 screws later he was hobbling on crutches with a bleak outlook for mobility. Then a severe infection set in last May and after consultations with four doctors and a lot of soul-searching, the parson agreed to an amputation.

It really was a blessing in disguise, said Fahrbach. I would have had to endure a poor quality of life the rest of my days. It sounds awful, but it really is better. The infection really helped me think it through. I really had some good doctors.

Fahrbach said that on a missionary trip to Africa three years ago he was struck by the medical misery he witnessed. His treatment here, he asserted, is a stark reminder of how good Americans have it. We live in the greatest country in the world.

If it s possible would you mention my appreciation to the team that made my recovery possible? Dr. Gregory Georgiadias at MCO; Red Walendzak, Tamara White, and Joan Berlincourt of East Point Physical Therapy, and Tom Sandy of Hanger Prosthetics.

Without a solid team of professionals such as these dedicated men and women, the joy of returning to the field would just be a field of dreams.

The other black powder tale is short and sweet, but a reminder of the importance and significance of passing on the outdoors heritage. It comes from Tom Gallagher of Waterville:

My 14-year-old son, Brad Gallagher, shot his first deer [a button buck] this year during the smokepole season. I have killed over 50 deer in my life, but nothing brought more joy to our hunt in Meigs County than my son taking his first deer with a scoped 50-caliber CVA at about 50 yards. I was as proud as a peach. This was his second year of deer hunting. I must have taught him something right.

Indeed. Gallagher himself took three deer and three coyotes in three weeks.

The statewide muzzleloader kill was up 11 percent over 2003, which itself was a record. As many as 200,000 hunters were afield during the season.

Over the past 20 years the statewide muzzleloader season has consistently grown in popularity, said Steve Gray, chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Despite the previous week s severe ice and snowstorm, hunters took to the field and had great success.

Top counties in the bag included Tuscarawas, 1,114 deer; Harrison, 920; Coshocton, 883; Jefferson, 843; Athens, 832; Guernsey, 741; Knox, 736; Mewigs, 692; Licking, 684, and Ashland, 662.

A full county-by-county listing of the harvest is available on the state Web site, www.ohiodnr.com.

Mike Tonkovich, a deer biologist with the wildlife division, said that he was surprised by the record bag, even though it was below a forecast of 32,000. So many variables, however, enter into the hunting equation that forecasts often are educated guesses.

That said, Ohio is on track for a record all-seasons deer bag.

Through the muzzleloader season, the all-seasons total stood at 201,270 with archery season continuing through month s end. We ll pick up 3,000 to 5,000 more, Tonkovich said. The current record was set in 2002 at 204,652.

The junior pistol team from Ohio Harbor Conservation Club fared very well in the recent state junior pistol championships, taking all five top places in air pistol and second through fourth in free pistol shooting.

Phil Rupert took second place in free pistol with a score of 313 and first place in air pistol with a score of 493. Rjay Finke took third place in free pistol at 243 and second place in air pistol at 456. Sandy Brikmanus fired 232 for fourth place in free pistol and 407 for fourth in air pistol. Michael Hanthorn took third in air pistol at 421, and Rory Fowler took fifth place in air pistol at 401.

DATEBOOK

Saturday Bird feeder banding, 8:30 a.m., meet at Sandusky County Park Disrict headquarters, Countryside Drive off U.S. 20 bypass east side of Fremont; call the parks, 419-334-4495 or 1-888-200-5577; also, hawk program, 11 a.m., White Star Park barn, County Road 65 just east of State Rt. 300, Gibsonburg.

Saturday Toledo Muzzle Loaders, annual meeting, Terrace Room, Toledo Botanical Gardens, 5403 Elmer Dr.; also, Sunday, officers fun shoot, 11 a.m., Clinton Boothby Memorial Range, 875 Schwamberger Rd.; call Rich Hulsebus, 419-474-6666.

Saturday Fly-tying demonstrations with Jeff Bear Andrews, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Cabela s, M-50, Dundee, Mich.

Saturday Winter Trails snowshoeing event, Michigan Snowshoe Center, Roscommon, Mich., call 866-275-0300 or visit the event Web site, www.wintertrails.org.

Saturday and Sunday Maumee Valley Gun Collectors, Woodland Town Center Mall exhibit center, north end, State Rt. 25 north edge of Bowling Green; Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; call MVGCA 419-893-1110 or visit its Web site, www.mvgca.org.

Sunday Sporting Clays public shoot, 9 a.m., United Conservation and Outdoor Association of Hancock County, Township Road 243 north of U.S. 224, east of Findlay, first road east of Birchhaven Retirement Village; breakfast 7:30 a.m., lunch available; call Don Borkosky 419-427-4236 or the club after 7 a.m. 419-424-9152.

Sunday Bowshoots: Mudjaw Bowmen, 6240 Benore Rd., register 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 30 3-D targets, call Rocky Warner 419-474-9492; also, Lincoln Bowmen, 26245 King Rd., Romulus Mich., 30 3-D targets, chili shoot, call Matt Gibbons 734-283-5465.



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