CUTLER - It took Burl Williams half an hour to bag a buck, while Brian Rzeszotarski had come up empty after a day-and-a-half of hunting.
But both men agreed actually taking a deer is only part of the fun of Ohio's annual deer-gun season, which started Monday.
"I've seen a few, but that's about it," Rzeszotarski, 29, of Cutler, said of his hunting success Monday and Tuesday. "It's just nice to see 'em, you know?"
Photo by Evan Bevins
Cutler Community Auxiliary member Linda Heeter, left, hands lunch to Cutler resident Zach Pritt, right, during a hunters lunch Tuesday at the Cutler Community Center.
Williams, 52, of Dayton said good hunting and good friends draw him back to the region each year.
"I've been hunting this (area) probably for 30 years," he said Tuesday at the Cutler Community Center, where a couple dozen hunters gathered for a lunch prepared by the Cutler Community Ladies Auxiliary as a week-long fundraiser.
About half of those who arrived just before 11 a.m. were members or friends of the Hafer family. Some had already gotten deer and some hadn't, but they were all laughing as they shared some of their hunting traditions.
If You Go
* What: Hunter's lunch.
* When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Saturday.
* Where: Cutler Community Center, 4550 Two Mile Run Road.
* Menu: Hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, onion rings, homemade soups and desserts, soft drinks and coffee. Daily specials will include homemade noodles, lasagna and spaghetti.
Seventeen-year-old Austin Hafer, of Cutler, was sporting a near-mohawk thanks to his uncle Shane's barbering skills.
"Last year, I shaved his eyebrow off," Shane Hafer, 42, chuckled, admitting it was no accident.
Austin returned the favor by removing a great deal of his uncle's hair on Sunday night, a ritual that's been going on, often with other members of the family joining in, for more than a decade.
"Day before gun season... You gotta wear it all week," said Austin's father, Pudge, 41.
Another tradition is that if somebody misses a shot, the other members of the party get to cut off a scrap of their shirt.
"That's why I haven't shot yet," said Jon Hafer, 23, who comes down each year from Akron to hunt with his family.
Esther Hafer, Pudge's wife, said she'd like to see more children get involved in hunting.
"Keeps them off the streets; gives them quality time with family," she said.
In addition to the camaraderie, some hunters enjoy the solitude the season can offer.
"No telephones, no bosses, no kids, no wife," laughed Cutler resident Richie Kennedy, 41.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife will post new deer harvest totals by county today at ohiodnr.com, so no numbers for the gun season - which started Monday and runs through Sunday, with an additional weekend Dec. 15-16 - were available Tuesday. However, the tally from archery season, which started Sept. 29, indicates the number of deer harvested in Washington County through Nov. 20 was 1,015, up nearly 39 percent from last year. The ODNR website indicates that the early archery harvest can be a strong predictor of how the other seasons will go, assuming average weather conditions.
Several area hunters agreed Monday's conditions, with highs in the low 50s, were pretty nice compared to Tuesday's colder weather with some rain and even sleet.
The visitors that hunting draws to the area benefit businesses like the Lakeside Golf Course on Ohio 60 just south of Beverly. Nearly 30 of the 38 rooms at its Lakeside Motel are booked with hunters, a nice boost considering it's not golfing weather.
"It's our busiest week when it's not golf season," manager Dave Combs said. "A lot of people from up north come down here, from the metropolitan areas" like Cleveland and Toledo.
Guests can also hunt on the more than 600 acres of land that Lakeside owns. Combs said he saw 11 trucks parked in the lot Monday, each with one or two occupants taking all-terrain vehicles out for the hunt.
Meanwhile, last year's transition to online checking of game doesn't mean things are quiet this week at businesses that serve as checking stations and license agents.
"It's been pretty steady, especially this past weekend, we had a lot of licenses going out and now we're starting to have some check-ins come in," said Jake Edie, manager of the Newport Mini-Mart.
Even people who want to check their kills at the store only have to do so verbally, rather than taking someone out to the animal in their vehicle, he said.
A number of hunters do their online checking at Pit Stop Hardware on Ohio 821 north of Marietta, said employee Roger Ritchie. The shop also provides a venue for hunters to tell their tales, tall and otherwise.
"There's a lot of yarns that come through here (in) deer season," he said.