Vicki Mountz is not just the head of the information and education section of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, nor is she just the smiling chef who dishes up mouth-watering fish and game recipes on Wild Ohio television programs.
She also is a very selective, accomplished bowhunter who usually crops does and who has put a boxcar-load of venison in the freezer and in the pan over the years.
"I love deer hunting. I've been at it 30 years," she states. And a week ago Sunday she dropped a buck of a lifetime.
Doubtless there will be larger specimens taken in Ohio this year than the massive 275-pound, 18-point nontypical buck that fell to one of Mountz's crossbow arrows. But they will be a relative handful among what likely will be more than 200,000 deer bagged.
"I think it will score somewhere between 160 and 180, but Dave Graham [state wildlife chief] thinks it might go 200," Mountz said. "Greg [her husband] and I tried to score it, and we came up with 179, but we're not experts."
In any case, it is a surpassingly fine, heavy-beamed buck. Mountz said the antlers have a basic 8-point frame, but is a nontypical or nonsymmetrical rack with 18 countable points. The buck field-dressed at 227 pounds, which converts to about 275 on the hoof.
"It felt like 350 when Greg and I were dragging it out." They earlier had rigged a trail camera, which had snapped a photograph of the big boy at
6:05 p.m. Oct. 23. "So we knew he was around."
The lady archer took her buck at 14 yards at 9:45 a.m. "I never saw a deer until 9 o'clock. I saw him 60 yards away. It was the fifth buck that came under my tree that day."
Mountz hunts in Franklin County in an urban deer zone, where antlerless tags are plentiful. She usually passes up average bucks to take the does because of the deer overpopulation problem in urban and suburban areas. But she couldn't pass up a buck of a lifetime.
"I've been hunting this piece of property for 14 years, and I actually missed a bigger one three years ago. I buried thatarrow so deeply in a big grapevine I never did get it out." In any case, she knows the area and deer behavior there extremely well. "We're very, very fortunate to have this place."
But she noted that in the last five years or so she is seeing more and more bowhunters able to obtain permission to hunt suburban or urban parcels, all in areas where it has not been prohibited by local ordinances.
Hunting in urban and suburban communities remains an uneven proposition. Locally Toledo and such deer-plagued suburbs as Maumee still prohibit hunting, but as of last Friday bowhunting for deer became legal in Granville, Ohio, northeast of Columbus.
"They're tearing up people's landscapes, and they're getting hit on the roads," Mountz said of expanding, unhunted urban deer populations. As a result she sees a growing tolerance for hunting as an urban-area deer-culling tool. Well, back to the big buck and hunting tactics:
Mountz said she does not wear a special scent-locking suit and was not using a ground attractant or cover-scent. But she carefully washes her hunting clothes in nonscent soap, showers with nonscent soap, and stores her clothes in a plastic bin with apples and acorns.
A week ago Sunday, Mountz said, "the deer were moving like you couldn't believe. The bucks are getting antsy." Her spouse also took two does that weekend.
With the passage of a week's time, the upswing in deer activity is even more apparent. Harvesting of corn and soybeans is moving deer around for one thing, but sex is an even bigger drive. The rut or breeding season is under way and should be at peak for the next two to three weeks or longer. So you can count on deer throwing caution to the winds to engage in annual courtship rites. Motorists beware.
Better to see a buck in gunsights than headlights.
Speaking of Mountz and Wild Ohio television, the program generally airs Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on Toledo's WGTE-TV Channel 30. The program, now in its 10th year, also now is available online on-demand at MyOutdoorTV.com, or by going to wildohio.com and clicking on the "watch Wild Ohio Television now" button.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife is one of the country's first wildlife agencies to offer a weekly television series online.
In related news, it appears that Ohio's new $15 early season antlerless deer permit is having the desired results - bowhunters are buying them and using them.
Mike Tyson, who runs Mike's Party Mart in Bowling Green, a major area deer-check station, said the doe kill is up 70 to 80 percent over 2006 in the first month of the four-month-long archery season.
Usually, Tyson said, his shop checks 25 to 30 antlerless deer the first month, but this season the tally stands at 50, along with 47 bucks. He attributed the upswing in the antlerless bag to the new permit, which is good through Nov. 25, or in urban deer zones or at controlled drawing-only hunts.
The annual Party Mart buck contest is led by Curtis Nagy, of Wayne, who arrowed a 14-point buck with a 19 3/4-inch antler spread in the Bradner area, using a crossbow. Second on the list is James Cheatwood, of Tontogany, with a 10-point having an 18 1/2-inch spread.