The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 14, 2013

Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: A letter of thanks...

For the Star Beacon

— I received this in my inbox this past week and just wanted to pass it on to all you fellow hunters out there:

Ohio’s Deer Hunters,

I recently emailed nearly 18,000 of you to inform you that you had been selected to participate in our annual deer hunter effort and harvest survey. Many of you took the opportunity to respond. The responses were overwhelmingly positive.

That feedback served as yet another reminder why after nearly two decades in this position, I still look forward to work every day. Without your help and continued support, our program would be just another deer program.

You define our deer program. You set it apart from the others. In fact, you really do manage it. You decide to hunt or not, shoot or not, report your deer or not, return your survey or not. You need to know this and you deserve to be recognized.

Thank you for all that you do to make this program what it is.

Very best,

Michael J. Tonkovich, Ph.D.

Deer Program Administrator

ODNR, Division of Wildlife

For the birds

More than 15,000 ring-necked pheasants will be released at 27 Ohio public hunting areas this fall to provide additional hunting opportunities across the state, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

“Ohioans have enjoyed more than 100 years of pheasants in Ohio,” ODNR Director James Zehringer said. “We are dedicated to increasing opportunities for Ohio hunters and continuing the strong tradition of game hunting for many generations to come.”

Pheasants will be released Friday and Friday, Oct. 25, prior to the small-game weekends for youth hunters. Hunter’s age 17 and younger can hunt statewide for rabbit, pheasant and all other legal game in season during two designated weekends, Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 26-27.

Ohio’s small game hunting season begins on Friday, Nov. 1, with pheasant releases to take place Thursday, Oct. 31, and on the evening of Friday, Nov. 8. The final release of the year is scheduled to provide improved pheasant hunting opportunities throughout the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and will take place the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 27.

Beach City Wildlife Area in Tuscarawas County will not be an in-season release location this year. The habitat at Beach City Wildlife Area is no longer suitable for grassland dependent species such as the ring-necked pheasant.

Youth and regular pheasant hunting within the Ringneck Ridge Area in Sandusky County requires a free permit from the Sandusky County Park District. For more information regarding the issuance of these free hunting permits, contact the Sandusky County Park District Office at (419) 334-4495.

Pheasant hunting season opens Friday, Nov. 1, and remains open through Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, with a daily bag limit of two rooster (male) birds. No hens (females) can be killed. Females are all brown while the males have a green head, a red and brown body and long tail feathers. Statewide pheasant hunting hours are sunrise to sunset.

Counties added

Ohio hunters can harvest a wild turkey for their Thanksgiving feast during the seven-week hunting season, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

Ohio’s fall wild turkey hunting season runs Monday, Oct. 14, through Sunday, Dec. 1, giving hunters the opportunity to pursue gobblers and hens. New counties open for fall turkey hunting this year include Butler, Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Hamilton, Huron, Seneca and Warren.

Hunters harvested 1,345 wild turkeys during the 2012 fall season. This year, Ohio’s wild turkey population is estimated to be 180,000 birds. Approximately 10,000 people, not including private landowners hunting on their own property, will enjoy Ohio’s fall wild turkey season.

Fifty-six counties are open for fall turkey hunting. Erie and Pickaway counties are closed to fall turkey hunting, despite a map error in the 2013-2014 Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations regarding open counties. Hunters should refer to Open Counties on pages 14 and 15, which correctly lists the 56 counties that are open to fall turkey hunting. The correct map can be found in the Turkey Hunting Resources page at

New this year, an enhanced website at offers Ohio hunters a quick and easy way to check harvested turkeys with their smartphones. The mobile-friendly site is available for all hunters to check turkeys, including landowners not required to purchase a turkey permit. A valid email address and phone number are required to use the website on a mobile device.

Only one turkey of either sex may be harvested during the entire fall season, and a fall turkey-hunting permit is required. Hours are one half hour before sunrise to sunset. Shotguns using shot, as well as crossbows and longbows, are permitted. Hunting turkeys over bait is prohibited, and turkeys must be checked by 11:30 p.m. on the day the bird is harvested.

A tagging procedure administered by the Division of Wildlife requires hunters to make their own game tag to attach to a turkey. Game tags can be made of any material (cardboard, plastic, paper, etc.) as long as it contains the hunter’s name, date, time and county of the kill. Go to the Turkey Hunting Resources page at for more information on changes to the game check process.

All hunters must then report their turkey harvest using the automated game-check system. Hunters have three options to complete the game check:

Game-check transactions are available online and by telephone seven days a week, including holidays. Landowners exempt from purchasing a turkey permit, and other people not required to purchase a turkey permit, cannot use the 877-TAG-ITOH option, but they can use the new enhanced website.

The Division of Wildlife advises turkey hunters to wear hunter orange clothing when entering, leaving or moving through hunting areas to remain visible to others. Additional details regarding fall wild turkey hunting can be found in the 2013-2014 Ohio Hunting and Trapping Regulations or at

Mike’s Monarch

Mike Irwin had been watching this particular buck for 3 years; let him go so he can grow. Originally he started showing up on camera as a big 6-point, then last year as a big 8 with a split brow tine. He has passed on him for the last 2 years hoping that he would be bigger and better in the future. It paid off.

Waitin’ on a monarch

On Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, opening day of Ohio Archery Season, Mike got in his stand at 6 a.m. and at 7:21 the first deer of the morning showed up, a little 4 point. After that, came a 6-point and then a 31⁄2-year-old scrub buck.

He watched them for about an hour under his stand feeding. Past trail cam pictures had shown that all of these bucks and the big 11-point he had been stalking were always together when feeding. Mike decided to play the waiting game.

Bad day ⁄ good day

Then about 9:30 a.m., Mike received a text from work, “Could you come in today, we’re short-handed.” His heart sank as he replied, “I’m on my way.” He snuck out of his stand as quietly as possible without spooking any deer and headed off to work. Once at work, even though Mike really didn’t want to be there, he had a good day selling three Harley’s and decided to leave work at 4 p.m. to get back in the stand.

Back at the stand

Mike was back in his stand at 5:10 p.m. and it only took 20 minutes before the first buck came in, the 4 point, then over the next hour, all 3 bucks from the morning were back out feeding. He heard another deer coming from the woods behind him, as he scanned the woods for the noise that’s when Mike noticed the white horns coming. He quickly grabbed his Hoyt Katera and drew back.

Back steppin’

The big bruiser was extremely cautious but finally stepped out in an open area. Unfortunately, there was one branch blocking a clean shot at his vitals, Mike needed him to take one more step, that’s all, just one more step. Instead the big 11 actually walked backward back into the woods from whence he came, Mike’s heart stopped.

Go a few rounds?

Mr. Monarch proceeded to walk around a little in the woods and then the scrub buck and him locked horns and sparred for a short time. The scrub buck deciding he had enough, backed off and walked out to feed with the big 11 right behind him.

Here we go again

Oh no, here we go again, the big 11 came out in the same exact spot at 20 yards with the same branch in the way of the vitals, really what are the chances of that. Mike held off his draw still needing that one more step. As the Monarch stood there he looked back and forth and then took that step, Mike came to full draw, placed his 20-yard pin right behind the shoulder and pulled the trigger on his release. “Thawap,” was the sound he heard as he watched his arrow disappear behind the shoulder.

The big fella spun around, ran back into the woods crashed at 40 yards, then got up went another 10 yards and made his final crash.

Giving thanks

Mike was in complete awe of the situation. The first thing Mike said to himself was, “Thank you, Dad.” Mike knew in his heart that he was with him in spirit that day. He had dedicated this season to his father who had passed way since last year.

In memory of Dad

Mike climbed down and went to the spot where the big 11 was standing and found his arrow completely covered in blood from end to end. Mike eased forward into the woods where he had heard him crash and saw a sapling bent over with him laying on it.

As he walked over to him that’s when he realized he had just shot a record book buck in memory of his father. While he stood over the buck a flood of emotion and memories engulfed him. Memories of all the times he had hunted with his Dad over the past 40-plus years. He thanked Dad again and said, “This one is for you, Pops.”

A hard drag

Mike reached for his knife when he remembered that he had left his pack back at the vehicle. He decided to pull his big boy to the field wanting to get him out of the woods. He hooked his Hunter Safety System dragline to him and started to pull, no luck. He couldn’t budge him, way too heavy. Plan B, Mike tagged him, retrieved his knife, field dressed him and tried again. This time little by little he was moving him. Once he made it to the field he sent a text to a couple of friends saying that he had gotten a buck and asking for help. They drug him out to his vehicle and loaded him up in his Ford Escape, yep into a small SUV he went and it took all 3 of them to jam him in.

Make those memories

Mike’s closing comment was, “Life is short and the time you spend with family and friends in the great outdoors is not to be wasted. Make the most of it and hopefully you, too, will have memories that flood your mind like it did for me.

“Thanks again, Dad!”

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

Mike’s stats

Mike Irwin harvested his Big 11 on Sept. 28, 2013 at 6:45 p.m., using a Hoyt Katera 65-pound draw weight compound bow powered by Easton Axis aluminum arrows tipped with NAP 100 grain broadheads.

He arrowed his buck at 20 yards and he traveled another 50 before expiring. Mike was wearing a Realtree camo Scent Loc suit using Dead Down Wind spray while hunting from a 25-foot ladder stand.

His buck had 11 scoreable points at 153 7⁄8, weighing in at 217 pounds field dressed.


Pheasant-hunting opportunities, Ashtabula Rod & Gun Club has opened it’s pheasant hunting and dog trail area to the public. Pheasant hunts can be booked seven days a week. For more information and the costs of hunts, call John at 667-1297 or Denny at 228-4369

Extreme Jakes Event the Maple Country Chapter of the NWTF and Crooked Creek Conservation Club will be having an Extreme Jakes Event on Saturday at Crooked Creek Conservation Club located at 4323 State Route 534, Hartsgrove, 44085-9540. This year’ s event will be the choice of a Pheasant/Partridge hunt and trap shoot or a .22 Rimfire and Archery challenge. There will be a limit of 15 kids per event, sign in start at 8:30 am and goes to 9 a.m. and the cost is $10 per child, which got to a NWTF membership for the child. Contact Adam Hollobaugh at 313-7406 to register.

Sunderlin is a freelance writer from Geneva. Reach him at