The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 30, 2013

Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: Free hard-water fishing seminar

For the Star Beacon

— Are you fighting cabin fever before it even begins to truly set in? If so, fish the hard water when many other anglers are sitting inside and simply dreaming of catching slabs from their favorite lake!

Join experts from the ODNR Division of Wildlife for a free ice fishing workshop on Thursday, Jan. 9 from 6:30 p.m to 8:30 p.m. The evening will take place indoors at Wildlife District Three, 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron.

Topics to be covered during the two-hour workshop will include: planning and preparation, equipment usage, fish identification, and safety.      

The workshop is free but pre-registration is required as seating is limited. Call Ken Fry, Division of Wildlife, at (330) 245-3030. To read more about ice fishing in Ohio, visit

Late-season success

Let’s face it, we all like to hunt during the rut; after all that’s when most of the big bucks are harvested. But in all actuality, that is the period during the season when we spend a lot more time in the woods as compared to when the rut is not taking place. So how can you take more bucks when the rut is not happening?

Early season stupidity

First, consider why bucks get harvested during the rut — hey get stupid and break their normal, secretive routines. In other words, those who have been hunting the big doe trails and hangouts connect with a buck that wasn’t there at any other time of the season. A lot of times, it’s the blind squirrel that finds the acorn. Usually, a guy who wasn’t even hunting a big buck and just stumbled upon him by being in the right place at the right time.

Hunt smarter

It’s pretty simple, when you think about it. Bucks, especially big bucks, are mostly nocturnal; they don’t travel the heavy doe trails; they don’t move around more than they have to; and they stay close to escape routes. So if you’re targeting mature bucks, you have to hunt accordingly.

Less is more

What that means is that you’ll have to give up seeing lots of deer. Scout the thick stuff close to bedding areas (but avoid disturbing the actual bedding area). Look for subtle trails with old rubs nearby.

Possibly a monster

Pay careful attention to how you get in and out of the woods, and be there well before first light and stay until dark. You won’t see lots of deer, but the deer you do see could be the monster buck of your dreams.

Hunter’s harvest

On Nov. 23, 2013, Hunter Senita and his father Chad Senita got a bit of a later start, but headed to the woods, anyway. They sat all morning up to around 10 and ended up seeing nothing. Somewhat bored and cold since it was snowing in addition to being hungry they decided to make the trek home for a late breakfast, early lunch.

A change of heart

Hunter told his dad he didn’t think he was going to go back out. Chad told him no problem that he’d go back out on his own with his bow. Hunter contemplated the situation and changed his mind, I’ll go. After messing around for a while, they set out around 3 p.m.

Same ol’ same ol’

Initially they had planned on hunting a different stand but Chad must have had a premonition and decided to hunt the same stand they were in that morning. His reasoning was hopefully, it would be a better evening spot.

Bored to death

This particular stand was positioned as such that Chad was on one side and hunter on the other. They had that area covered. But still in Hunter’s mind, he thought, “Here we are sitting in the same stand as in the morning where we saw nothing. Here we are sitting here and not seeing anything and we’re going to sit here all afternoon and not see anything.”  

Dream weaver

Hunter going through the motions would look in one direction then the other, daydreaming all the while. As he gazed off into dreamland, he was awakened by the sight of a buck standing at the top of the trail, 15 yards out. Hunter’s gun was still on the hook and Chad had no clue what was transpiring.

Risky shot

As the buck was moving with his nose to the ground, Hunter slowly retrieved his gun, his heart racing the entire time. Meanwhile dad still had no idea what is going on. The buck reached an open area on the trail and was quartering towards them. Hunter heard his dad turn around and decided to take the shot rather than spooking his quarry, ka boom his Remington 870 roared. Chad had turned just in time to see the shot and watch the deer take off down the hill.

Like nothing happened

They were elated and Hunter was still in shock as they watched him run 100 yards, stop, give a few flicks of the tail and walk off like nothing happened. Chad’s heart sank somewhat, “Son, that may not have been a good shot. Just from the way he acted I’m almost sure you shot him in the guts.” After regaining their composure, they scanned the area with their binoculars, looking for blood... nothing! Hunter’s heart sank.

Questionable situation

After a short wait, Chad decided to get down and check for any sign of a hit. He went to the point of impact, nothing. From there, Chad went in the direction of where they saw the buck last. Hunter could see him scrutinizing the area. When Chad returned he said, “Well, some good news and some bad. No blood at all for 100 yards. But where he stopped there’s a cookie sheet area of blood.”


By this time, it’s around 4:45 and snowing like crazy. Chad opted to call and get some advice form a trusted friend. After talking with his confidant, he opted to follow the trail as far as they could. They made their way to the spot where Chad had found the first blood. Slowly and methodically, Chad led Hunter along the faint trail. At the top of a small valley by the river, they stopped to peruse the area. There, about 20 yards out, was Hunter’s deer. Chad immediately gave Hunter a huge hug.

Just in case

“OK, keep you gun up and be ready just in case.” When they reached the downed monarch, Hunter gave him a poke with his gun, just in case. Once the excitement of the situation had subsided, they pulled him into an open area and rolled him over to investigate Hunter’s shot. Not a gut shot at all a good clean ethical shot. Chad told Hunter, “Son, great shot, I’m sorry for doubting you, you done good.” From there, photos ensued and the drag began.

A remembrance

When they reached the top of the ridge they called Hunter's brother, Tanner, and he came to help as well as retrieve the four-wheeler. On the way back they stopped at their stand and picked up Hunter’s shell as a remembrance and pulled the trail cam SD card in hopes that the action had been captured but unfortunately wasn’t.

One happy hunter

After they arrived home, the fun began. Dad’s friends he had called started arriving and admiring Hunter’s harvest. He was one happy hunter and didn’t mind the notoriety at all. In closing, Hunter wanted to say thank you’s to his dad, Chad Senita, for everything he did for him to make it possible for him to hunt as well as Nick Senita, for letting me use his gun for the past 5 years.

Hunter’s stats

Fourteen-year-old Hunter Senita, who is in the ninth grade a Jefferson Area High School, harvested his first buck, an 8-pointer with a green score of about 125, on Nov. 23, 2013 at 4:30 p.m. while hunting with his father Chad Sentia in Rock Creek. His buck was at 15 yards when he shot him and went another 120 before failing. Hunter was using a borrowed 20 gauge Remington 870 pump shotgun shooting 20 gauge Hornady SST, 2 & 3⁄4-inch slugs. Both he and his father were perched in separate Summit hang on tree stands at 20 feet above the ground on the same tree using ladder sticks to get in and out. He was wearing a regular woodland camo pattern and scent free LaCrosse boots. His buck weighed in at approximately 175 pounds.

Remember, pass it on or it will surely pass on.

Deer-harvest numbers

Sunderlin is a freelance writer from Geneva. Reach him at