The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 4, 2013

Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: It’s time to give back!

For the Star Beacon

— Not only is the rut fast approaching but the biggest and best banquet in Northeast Ohio is almost upon us.

I’m talking about Buck Fever Night. Buck Fever Night being sponsored by Whitetails Unlimited (WTU) in conjunction with The Ashtabula County Wildlife Conservation League (ACWCL).

Now, if you’ve read my columns in the past around this time of the year, you probably already know what this is all about, but for you newbee’s, I’ll give you a brief rundown.

The ACWCL, which is now a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, is the recipient of 50 percent of the net from this banquet. As with all other large organizations, WTU is receives the other 50 percent. But… it is the best game in town, compared to the NRA, NWTF and all other organizations as to theage they keep.

What do they do with their 50 percentof the money? I don’t know, it’s none of my business. On the other hand, what does the ACWCL do with theirage of the money?

They give it away.

That’s right, give it away!

I know firsthand because I’m the president of the ACWCL and before being president for the past two years have been involved with them for another 10 years before that. And guess what else? It all stays right here in Ashtabula County! It goes toward furthering conservation and passing on the traditions of the hunting, shooting, fishing and outdoors sports.

Again, all right here in Ashtabula County.

Our Outdoor Education Weekend (OEW) held at Ashtabula Rod and Gun Club is a prime example of that. An entire “youth only” weekend dedicated to outdoor education, hunting, fishing, firearms and archery safety, water safety, tracking skills, outdoor ethics etc, all accompanied by hands on exercises, not just “book learnin’.” A completely 100-percent free weekend to any kid who wants to attend, funded by the monies we make from this banquet.

My call

I usually save my call till the end of my columns, but because of the important nature of the subject abovem you’re going to get my view on the situation now.

I’ve been a hunter and outdoorsman all my life. My father, Tom Sunderlin, instilled it in me from the time I could run behind him in the woods at 5 years old until he quit hunting because of physical limitations several years ago.

I have embraced it more than any other sport I’ve ever been involved with, especially over the last 20 years. As Mossy Oaks says, it’s not a passion it’s an obsession.

But it’s just like any other thing you do, sooner or later you have to give back what you’ve taken or it will all fade away. And that’s what we do with our share of the monies made from this banquet, give back!

Give back to the county in which we live and the organizations that have the volunteer manpower and facilities to pay forward and pass on our traditions and heritage.

If you’re the kind of sportsperson, I think you all are, please consider supporting us and attending Buck Fever Night and remember, pass it on or it will surely pass on.

The vitals

The Ashtabula County Wildlife Conservation League (ACWCL) in conjunction with Whitetails Unlimited will be hosting their annual “Buck Fever Night” on Nov. 29, 2013 at the Ashtabula County Fairgrounds Expo Building in Jefferson.

50 of all net proceeds will go directly back to our local area, Ashtabula County, for conservation-related activities. Proceeds from this event will benefit youth programs in cooperation with Ashtabula County Conservation League (ACWCL).

Single non-membership ticket cost is $25 and includes dinner. Purchase your Buck Fever tickets by Nov. 15 and be automatically entered into a drawing for a chance to win a $100 book of gun raffle tickets!

Table-captain package includes 10-buck fever tickets, entry in table-captain-only gun drawing, free WTU cap, seats reserved in your name and recognition as a special WTU guest.

Raffles — $100 hunters-raffle package, 9 gun-board raffle tickets, 30 bucket-raffle tickets, WTU gift, WTU 1-year membership.

Purchase a $100 raffle package before Nov. 25 and also receive a bonus gun ticket and a free $50 hunters-raffle book (3 gun-board raffle tickets, 10 bucket-raffle tickets). This item is picked up at event, Buck Fever ticket is NOT included!

Become a sponsor — Donate $150 in cash or merchandise and receive our WTU sponsor Browning knife with case and decal, two Buck Fever tickets, and entry into a sponsor-only gun drawing! Please call for merchandise sponsorship opportunity.

Memberships — Purchase a 1-year associate membership for $25, not necessary to purchase to attend event, and is included with $100 hunters package.

For more information and to purchase tickets, call me at 466-2223, Tim Starkey at 992-2195 or WTU Headquarters, Denny Malloy, at (330) 507-9489.

Luciano’s Big Boy

Luciano Cunningham and his uncle, Ben Vass, had been sitting in their homemade slab wood ground blind for a good three hours when finally, around 6:20 p.m., two bucks came around the corner.

There was a four-point leading the way, followed by what Luciano described as, “The Big Boy.”

Noisy situation

When Ben saw that the 10-point was going to commit, he told Luciano to pull up his bow. As he raised his bow, Luciano hit the ground blind with it. Luckily, “Big Boy’ heard but didn’t see where it came from and didn’t spook. However, Luciano could hear his Uncle Ben’s heartbeat and heavy breathing as he pulled up the bow. Thankfully, “Big Boy” didn’t hear tha,t either.

Doesn’t get much better

As Luciano’s quarry came closer, Ben eased out a grunt and stopped him. Luciano squeezed the trigger and heard the “thwack!” of the bolt hitting the deer. As they watched the buck trailing off, Ben told Luciano that he had a good shot on him, in actuality he said, “You smoked him, bud!”  

Both Uncle Ben and uncle Jake Cunningham told him that the shot couldn’t have gotten much more perfect than what he had done.


It was worth it!

The three hours they sat in the ground blind all paid off. Luciano said, “I was very excited but I think my Uncle Ben was more excited then I was.”

He also wanted to say a special thanks to uncle Jake Cunningham for all your years he spent teaching and tolerating him, to Mom (Kodie Cunningham) and Dad (Tracy Deforest) and a extra-special thanks to uncle Ben Vass for the opportunity and putting him in a spot where he could get a shot at such an awesome buck.

Oh, yes, don’t forget the Stanley family for allowing him to hunt their property.

It was a great experience.


Luciano’s stats

Luciano Cunningham, a 13-year-old who is in the eighth grade at Lakeside Junior High School, harvested his first deer, a 10-point buck weighing in at around 250 pounds, on Oct. 18, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. He was shooting a 10-point Wicked Ridge crossbow with a 175-pound pull launching Carbon Express Surge bolts tipped with X Blade 125-grain broadheads.

His deer was at 25 yards when he arrowed him and ran another 45 before dropping. He was wearing Scent blocker Clothing in a Mossy Oak pattern and used scent away spray before entering the woods. Their blind was home made out of slab wood and backed up against a big ol patch of greenbriers.


A bear of a tail

Every once in a while I get a message from a reader that’s just to good to keep to myself and that’s exactly what this one is so I’m passing it on for you reading pleasure.

Hi, Dale,

My name is Roger Fetters, and I live in southern Ashtabula County, New Lyme Township. I was bow hunting Tuesday night at approximately 6 p.m., sitting in my tree stand. As the time passed, and passed and passed, I decided it was time to doe bleat and grunt call, just to see what would happen.

Within several minutes of doing so, I saw something running toward me. My heart was thumping and my hopes were high. As I gazed at the figure barreling toward me, I was surprised to see what looked like a large, black dog rapidly approaching, getting closer and closer.

When he got about 40 yards away, he stopped running, then kept walking to about 20 yards from my stand. To my surprise, the “dog” was a 150- to 200-pound black bear, looking for dinner!

He stopped, looked at the ground, and ate what I think was a nut. As I sat (not calmly, for God’s sake!) having never seen a bear in the wild, especially so close to home, I was fumbling with my cell phone camera, while something warm and wet went down my leg! (Just kidding).  

Shaking, I attempted to take a picture with my phone, with my stupid finger over the lens — who can think at a time like that!  

He must have seen me move, because he then looked up toward me. The bear then sloooowly hunkered down, turned very slowly, walked behind me and departed, heading west.  

After I calmed down, which took a while, I then, like the bear, got out of Dodge. Of course, after sending my video to several thousand friends and family, can’t miss an opportunity like that.

But the video is not the quality you could use as evidence, for sure. What an experience after 40-plus years of hunting in Ashtabula County!


Roger Fetters


Deer-harvest numbers         

This report is for the first 25 days of the 2013 deer archery season. The percentages are in relationship to the same time frame in the 2012 archery season.  

n Ashtabula — Antlered: 228. Up 6.54 percent. Antlerless: 570. Down, -10.52 percent

n Geauga — Antlered: 141. Up: +39.6 percent. Anterless: 240. Down, -10.53 percent

n Lake — Antlered: 69. Up 11.29 percent. Anterless: 157. Down, -18.65 percent

n Trumbull — Antlered: 247 Up 18.75 percent. Anterless: 518. Down, -7.47 percent

n Statewide archery — Antlered: 8516. Up, 0.06 percent. Anterless: 19,623. Down, -8.66 percent.

n Statewide total: This includes the two-day early muzzleloader season: Antlerled: 8,573 Down, -0.58 percent. Anterless: 25,504 Up, 16.62 percent.

Sunderlin is a freelance writer from Geneva. Reach him at