Ohio National Guard News

For one family, Camp Ravenna deer hunt
provides lasting father-son memories

By Stephanie Beougher, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

Michael Stewart (foreground) snaps a picture while hunting with his dad Tom during a Camp Ravenna Controlled Deer Hunt. (Photo courtesy of Michael Stewart)

Tom Stewart beams proudly with the seven-point buck he shot during the 2015 Camp Ravenna Controlled Deer Hunt. (Photo courtesy of Michael Stewart)

Deer hunters sign in for the annual controlled deer hunt.

Deer hunters sign in for the annual controlled deer hunt held at Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center in Portage County. Applications for the Nov. 12 hunt are due by Sept. 16. (Ohio National Guard photo) DOWNLOAD APPLICATION.

Early mornings during hunting season were an exciting time for Michael Stewart.

“I remember when I was a boy, waking up to my dad whispering, ‘Hey, you want to go hunting?’ I would jump up and get dressed as fast as I could,” recalled Stewart.

Last November, he and his dad Tom were sitting patiently while hunting on the grounds of Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center when two bucks came into view.

“One was a nice big buck, and my dad got the rifle scope on him and fired. The buck ran off but I heard it crash in the pine trees,” Michael said.

The prized seven-point buck would be Tom’s last. A few months later, he lost his battle with cancer and passed away.

The Stewarts were able to share their last hunt together thanks to a mobility-impaired component of a controlled hunt at Camp Ravenna, a yearly tradition at the Ohio National Guard facility in Portage County since 1955. Hunters fill out an application and names are drawn at random for a chance to tag a deer.

Brian Riley, Ohio Army National Guard natural resources manager, oversees the hunt to help control the deer population on the more than 22,000-acre facility.

“The controlled deer hunt is important to maintaining a healthy and viable deer population at Camp Ravenna,” Riley said. “Because only 147 deer were harvested during the three controlled hunts last year, we know the deer population is not up to carrying capacity and we’ve reduced the number of hunts this year to allow the herd time to rebound.”

Hundreds of people try to get a coveted spot in the annual hunt. This year’s hunt will be Nov. 12, with 40 active or retired service members drawn from those who apply for the military drawing and another 88 civilians drawn by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, through a separate application process. Each hunter selected may bring along a hunting guest, while mobility-impaired hunters may bring a non-hunting partner to assist them. Every hunting party is teamed up with an escort familiar with Camp Ravenna.

“The escorts make sure everyone enjoys a safe hunt,” Riley said. “They show hunters where deer are running and where deer tend to bed. They escort mobility-impaired hunters to easily accessible hunt locations, and do everything they can legally and safely to maximize the hunters’ chances of going home with a deer. Our deer hunts wouldn’t be possible without these dedicated volunteers.”

For Michael Stewart, the time he and his dad spent hunting is something he won’t forget.

“The greatest memories I have is me and Dad hunting and fishing together. If it wasn’t for the program Camp Ravenna offers, I wouldn’t have those memories,” Stewart said.

Current members of the active and reserve components of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, as well as military retirees, may apply to the Camp Ravenna Controlled Deer Hunt Drawing. Each applicant drawn will be authorized to bring a guest, who may be another current or retired service member, military dependent or civilian guest. A $5 administration fee paid by each hunter drawn goes toward wildlife management projects and purchasing supplies for future hunts at Camp Ravenna.

Military drawing applications for the Nov. 12 hunt are due by Sept. 16.

NOTE: The application form is for the military drawing only. Mobility impaired civilians interested in applying for the deer hunt through Camp Ravenna (not through the ODNR Division of Wildlife) must submit their name and complete contact information via email to: Ravennahunt@outlook.com. They can also send general questions about the hunt to this email address.

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