Ohio's annual deer-gun season starts today, and over the next six days approximately 420,000 hunters are expected to roam the state's woods and fields in search of a trophy white-tail, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.
Deer-gun season runs today through Sunday, with an extra couple of days for gun hunters scheduled on Dec. 15 and 16 this year. Washington County usually is among the top counties for deer kills each year.
Shelby Offenberger, 20, of Waterford said she'd be out deer hunting bright and early with friends and family today.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Ted Offenberger, right, owner of Southeastern Trading Post, shows a pink .22-cal. rifle to Carissa Bosch of Logan at the gun shop in Waterford Sunday afternoon.
"I look forward to it every year," she said. "There's usually a big group of us out hunting. We're up around 6 a.m. to get ready to go."
Offenberger said the more experienced hunters try to help the younger members of the group bag their first deer.
"I've taken one so far since I started hunting-but I'm just looking for a nice trophy-sized deer I can put on my wall," she added.
White-tail deer season in Ohio
Gun season for white-tailed deer in Ohio begins today through Dec. 2.
Ohio also provides an extra weekend for deer hunting with a gun on Dec. 15 and 16.
Muzzleloader season for white-tailed deer will run from Jan. 5 to 8.
Bow season for deer began Sept. 29 and continues through Feb. 3.
Bow hunting for deer is permitted within the city of Marietta during the archery season.
City hunters must have proof of bow proficiency certification and insurance; must hunt from elevated tree stands in wooded areas of an acre or more only; and must have a landowner's permission to hunt on private property.
For more information about in-city hunting, call (740) 373-1387.
More information about Ohio hunting is available at www.ohiodnr.com
Hunters who want to donate a deer to help feed the hungry can find information at the Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry Web site, www.fhfh.org
Offenberger's father and mother, Ted and Jenny Offenberger, are owners of the Southeastern Trading Post hunting supply shop on Main Street in Waterford.
"We have five children, and all of them hunt-even our 9-year-old son," Jenny said. "They really like it."
She said deer-gun season is great for business, too.
"We're doing good. This is our season," Jenny said. "We're selling a lot of shotguns and mounting scopes-and we're doing gun repairs. People are also buying a lot of cold weather gear."
Shelby also works at the Workingman's Store on Putnam Street in Marietta where hunting season sales are brisk, too.
"The Workingman's Store normally does get a lot of business this time of year," she said. "People come in to buy boots, hats and jackets for going out in the cold."
ODNR's Division of Wildlife says hunting has an $859 million economic impact each year in Ohio through the sale of equipment, fuel, food, lodging and more.
Russ Farley, owner of Farley's Fishing and Hunting Supplies in Malta, said business has been "crazy"on the weekend preceding today's start of deer-gun season.
"Everyone's out getting their last-minute supplies," he said. "We're open extended hours this week, but people were already waiting at the door when we opened (Sunday morning)."
Farley said ammunition probably makes up the lion's share of his sales this time of year, and hunters are purchasing a lot of blaze orange to wear for safety on hats and coats as they enter the local woodlands.
"But the state already makes a lot of money on licenses in the weeks before deer season," he added. "Hunters from out of state pay $125 for their license, plus a $24 sales tax. That's $149 from every guy that comes here from another state."
Many of those hunters are taking lodging at local hotels and motels.
"We had at least 20 hunters checking in Sunday-they usually come in groups because we offer a special rate during hunting season," said Trista Burns, desk clerk with the Holiday Inn on Pike Street in Marietta.
She said most of the hunters-many from out of state or from northern Ohio-stay through Wednesday or Thursday.
Across the street, the Comfort Inn also sees an uptick in business during deer season.
"There's always a flood of business for a week or two during hunting season," said front desk manager Shane Vincent.
"Some arrive Sunday, but (today) we'll be seeing a lot more coming in," he said.
Marietta councilman Mike McCauley heads out into the woods and fields with a group of other deer hunters-some from out of state-every year. He was packing for this year's trip on Sunday.
"We stay at a couple of deer camps, one in the Dalzell area, then move to another near Waterford," he said. "We get to spend some time with guys we don't normally get to see for the rest of the year."
McCauley said the hunters usually stay at the camps for the entire week.
"We play cards, eat our meals, and go hunting together," he said. "It's just a good time for a lot of camaraderie."
Deer can be hunted with a muzzleloader, handgun or shotgun from one half-hour before sunrise to sunset during the deer-gun season. The state encourages all hunters to take proper safety precautions, such as using safety harnesses in tree stands and wearing hunter orange.
Hunters also are encouraged to donate any extra venison to organizations assisting Ohioans in need.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.