RAVENNA ARSENAL - The buck stopped there for Bev, not more than 75 yards from her stand and not more than 25 yards from where the 7-point deer was first shot.
Visibly shaking and a tinge bewildered, Bev stood over her buck for a long moment, clearly uncertain that, yes, she had done it her way.
A little background and backup, if you don’t mind.
Bev, my wife, had been urged to enter the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s annual lottery to participate in the Ravenna Arsenal women’s deer hunt.
The odds of being selected for this hunt are way better than for the general Ravenna gun hunt. Try one-in-four odds for the women’s hunt and compared to the one-in-53 odds for the general drawing in which men can apply.
In all, 352 women applied this year to participate with 90 applicants being selected; among them being, Bev.
Though a female who is lucky enough to earn a draw can take a male as her partner, rank does have its privileges. For starters, as the primary hunter - or huntress in this case - Bev could shoot any deer, including a buck.
I was limited to shooting an antlerless deer only, as were all of the other participating males.
We all met in the wee hours of last Saturday morning at the Ohio National Guard’s sprawling 21,683-acre installation hard-pressed to the north shore of West Branch Reservoir in Portage County.
A sea of orange waved inside the massive building used for the required pre-hunt orientation. This meeting was just one leg of a process that included many other stops.
Every vehicle, every hunter, was required to pass through a well-oiled security operation that included an inspection of our firearms (no muzzle-loaders, no handguns, no archery tackle, no trees stands, not ground blinds, among other “nos.”)
As for the meting, that was to go over the hunt’s rules, regulations, protocols as well as to receive our exclusive unit assignments.
Bev’s and mine pre-selected area was Unit 42-A and which covered about 150 acres, one of the reserve’s larger hunting blocks. Other units are carved out in smaller chunks, down to 40 acres or so.
The assembled crowd was attentive to the addresses presented by a pair of officials.
Not surprising was that the hunters and huntresses were behaving themselves in the eyes of the camp’s Fort Ohio Environmental Supervisor, Tim Morgan.
Earlier in the week Morgan had responded to a telephone inquiry about the women’s hunt, to which he enthusiastically gave two thumbs up.
“Women are more relaxed hunters than are the men and we se far fewer problems with this hunt than with some of the other hunts and we never seem to encounter anyone becoming lost,” Morgan said.
“They are more cautious, aren’t as aggressive and are more careful in what they do. The women’s hunt is a lot less stressful for me.”
As it is for the battalion of volunteer “hunt escorts.”
These individuals spend their Saturdays checking vehicles for contraband (“You’d be surprised what we find,” said one inspector), directing traffic, registering the hunters, along with conducting a multitude of other behind-the-scenes chores.
Perhaps the most visible hunt escorts, however, are the ones assigned to each of the hunt unit’s designated parking areas.
These guys - and we didn’t see any female parking lot hunt escorts - help the assigned hunt pair best pick where to set up operations for the approximately eight- to nine-hour hunt.
Fortuitous for Bev and me was that our hunt escort field marshal was Ray Gorby.
“My suggestion,” said Gorby after we had exchanged parking lot pleasantries, “would be to walk down the road to the bottom of the hill where there’s an old trail on the left.”
The other option, said Gorby, was to walk about one-half that distance down the hill and opposite a large yawn in a high fence across an access road.
It is here, Gorby said, that deer often exit our unit and enter the one opposite.
“Just look for the well-worn deer paths,” Gorby said.
This Bev and I did, plunging through a heavy screen of detested multiflora rose patches. On the other side of the thorn-encrusted barrier was an multiflora rose-free alcove that stood on the lip of a hill.
“Good enough,” I quietly mouthed an affirmative response to Bev.
Each of us were quipped with a folding camp chair, a backpack crammed with an assorted stash of hunting essentials.
At that point Bev and I plopped ourselves down for however long it would take. Which didn’t take all that much time, actually.
An hour or so after beginning we were done. Make that, Bev was done.
A single Lightfield sabot round fired from a 16-gauge rifled-barreled Ithaca Model 37 Deerslayer was all that was required.
Transfixed by what she had just accomplished all by her lonesome, Bev’s mind had begun to reel in the requirements that go along with killing a deer. And that included field dressing the buck herself.
Bev was even determined to drag the animal out solo, too, employing a borrowed plastic toboggan my older brother, Rich, had picked up at a garage sale. Can’t asked for a better deer drag.
Once the field-dressing chore was completed Bev’s heart rate had retreated to some level of normalcy.
We decided at that point to continue with the hunt, hoping that a doe would saunter by for my shotgun’s sake.
However, every now and then Bev would look at the buck and toboggan, an act that elicited me to ensure her that the buck was thoroughly dead and was down for the count.
When the end of the hunt arrived no more deer had crossed our paths, Bev’s 7-point buck being the only unlucky-for-it animal to show up.
On the short drag back the access road Bev was rather quiet. No doubt she was processing everything that had presented itself, soaking up every detailed morsel of sight and sound.
Then again, I suspect her thoughts carried even further down the road, that being, what to do with the set of antlers.
As for my thoughts, I couldn’t get past the mental image of a neck roast bubbling away in a crockpot.
Oh, and one more thing: Savoring a really serious case of pride.
As for how the troupe of arsenal hunters did overall, a total of 244 permitted public and military hunters shot 55 deer.
Another 26 deer - all antlerless - were killed by the program's 103 volunteer hunt escorts, each of whom were allowed to participate in the hunt.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn