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Quick shot turns lucky for Ohio hunter

David T. Lemaster, right, shows his dad, David Allen Lemaster, the banded rooster pheasant he shot about five miles south of Mitchell, during the first hours of the pheasant season opener. Both men are from Grove City, Ohio. The younger Lemaster found out Sunday he had won a $500 Cabela's gift card. (Ross Dolan/Republic)

Skunked. That was the general impression a group of Grove City, Ohio, hunters had during the first hours of the pheasant opener as the seven walked back to their trucks Saturday afternoon.

Then two brilliantly colored roosters broke cover and took wing, only to be dropped by two quick shots from the surprised group.

David T. Lemaster's rooster turned out to be one of 100 banded birds released by Cabela's within a 50-mile radius of Mitchell. The rooster was taken in a public hunting access about five miles south of town.

"Well, there's only 99 out there now," quipped John Newkirk, of West Union, Ohio.

Lemaster, who was visibly excited about the shot, knew the special band would make him eligible for drawings worth thousands of dollars in prizes.

On Sunday, he found out he won a $500 Cabela's gift card. Thirty-eight bands had been turned in as of Sunday night, store officials said.

Hundreds of hunters thronged the popular outdoor store in Mitchell early Saturday, buying, eating and getting pumped for the noon season opener. Cabela's had set up 16 clerks with laptops to process game licenses.

By 10 a.m., hunters dispersed and headed for hunting spots throughout the region.

Like fishermen, they were circumspect about where they were headed.

"We're hunting about 20 miles west today." said Jeff Krieger, of Jefferson City, Mo., a 12.5-hour, 525-mile trip for himself and his father.

"I've been coming to South Dakota for 23 years," said Krieger, as he hurriedly tossed new gear into his truck. "I wouldn't miss it for the world."

Weekend weather cooperated, with lows in the 40s and high temperatures in the mid-60s.

"It was a grand day to be out," said local guide Mike Kuchera. "We limited out by early afternoon and stopped and had a field lunch. There was a light breeze out of the southeast; it was just beautiful," he said.

Kuchera cringed to think of a pheasant opener occurring in the hurricane-force winds of just days earlier.

"We'll be hunting every day from this point on."

Kuchera said this year's opener was on a par with last year's event, but it was too early to tell if will be a better season overall.

"We haven't been over enough ground to tell," he said.

Official results have not been released, but Conservation Officer Andy Petersen said hunters averaged 1.5 to two birds each for the opening weekend in Davison County.

"I think hunter numbers are a little lower than they have been in the past, but we're still seeing quite a few people in the field and hunters are doing well," Petersen said.

Hunters filled area motels and restaurants and they hit the supermarkets hard on Friday and early Saturday.

Adam Cerny, a manager at the County Fair Food Store, said, "We were really busy Friday and hunters piled into our cafeteria for breakfast on Saturday."

The most popular items were luncheon meats, snack foods, premade sandwiches and plenty of beer, liquor and other beverages, he said.

At Mitchell Municipal Airport, Gulfstream, Lear and Citation jets worth up to $50 million were lined up wing-to-wing, their occupants long since off to hunting camps.

One person on the tarmac, who asked not to be identified, noted that a lot of corporate business gets done during the pheasant opener.

"Everyone's dressed in hunting gear and having a good time, but there's usually one guy with the group who's dressed a little different, who's carrying a briefcase. By the time the weekend's done, they've got their birds, the papers are signed and the deals are done."

But it was just about being together for old college friends Andy Ford, of Watertown; and Trevor Powell and brothers Andy and Toby Kaiser, all of Rapid City, who hunted south of Mitchell Saturday with their two pound-rescue dogs.

The smallest, a beagle terrier mix about a foot high at the shoulder, waited for a drink after his unsuccessful hunt.

"He's small and sometimes has a tough time getting through the heavy brush," Andy Kaiser said, "but he's got the heart of a lion."