The muzzle-loader hunter strolled up and out along the trail, past where I was sitting and toward the small parking lot that held our respective vehicles.
We both had permission to hunt this corner of Geauga County, a parcel with deeply steep ravines, benches and open woods.
He was dejected. Today was the close of Ohio's seven-day firearms deer hunting season and it ended with a whimper. No make that no noise at all. In four hours of hunting today the muzzle-loader hadn't seen a single deer - and he had ventured far into the large piece of private property.
For me I snatched another hour or so, situated myself at the pointed edge of a ridge overlooking a bench and seeing one further below. The last thing I wanted to do was move forward to overlook the next step, however. What goes down must come up and if I shot a doe down yonder it would have been one heck of a drag up the hill.
I had hunted nearly all of two days and parts of three others. In that time I had seen but two deer, a buck and one doe. Not very promising.
But the word throughout Northeast Ohio was how empty the fields and forests seemed to be both of deer and deer hunters this gun season. It's been a puzzle but maybe the muzzle-loader had accidentally hit on something.
Today - Sunday - was the first opportunity he had during the entire seven-day season to seek a deer with his side-lock percussion rifle. He's been busy. So busy that he apologised to no one in particular that he and his friends were not able to even get together and assemble typically successful drives on various holdings in west-central Geauga County.
That could very well be the case with many other hunters as well. In this tight economy trying to take time off to go and chase deer might bring down the wrath of an employer. So perhaps hunters are holding back, dreaming of the day when the economy turns around and they can take vacation time to pursue game.
Then again - and like the muzzle-loader - they're just waiting (and hopeful) the weather will cooperate, the deer will cooperate and the boss will cooperate and then they'll be able to take in the bonus two-day gun hunt or even early January's muzzle-loading season.
No use pining over what was. Now's the time to look ahead and keep the spark of hope alive.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn