Making the most of every hunting opportunity includes going out when you’re sleepy, as this Ohio hunter did before seeing and dropping the biggest buck of her life.
More hunters are giving shooter bucks nicknames like “Big 10, “Wide 8” and “Houdini.” Giving a deer a moniker helps hunters identify it from other whitetails, enables them to efficiently share valuable scouting information, and to commiserate over failed hunts. What’s amazing is that once a buck is given a nickname, word of mouth quickly spreads, and soon hunters miles away are using it to refer to the same deer.
In the fall of 2015, game cameras captured photos of a gigantic buck on 10 acres owned by Sarah and John Walters of Troy, Ohio. The Walters family nicknamed the buck Bigkowski, a play the deer’s massive size and the maiden name of John Walters’ mother. Perhaps a better nom de guerre for the brute would’ve been the I-75 buck, because it would meet its Waterloo a stone’s throw from Interstate 75 in Miami County.
“Our property is a challenge to hunt, because it borders I-75 and we don’t live next to farms,” explained Sarah Walters. “But being able to get to our hunting spot in 15 minutes makes life easier, and we have a 100-acre wildlife preserve nearby, which is where a lot of deer hide out from hunters.”
Like a lot of other Americans, Sarah spent the evening of Nov. 8, 2016, glued to television coverage of the United States election. Walters stayed up until the early morning hours of Nov. 9 to witness Donald J. Trump become the country’s next president, leaving her bleary-eyed when the alarm awakened her at 6 a.m. Walters briefly considered rolling over and going back to sleep, but then her hunting instinct kicked in.
“I thought to myself, ‘No, I don’t get enough opportunities to hunt, so I’m not going to waste this one,’” she said.
That decision would change Walters’ hunting future. Groggily, she donned her camouflage, picked up her Wicked Ridge Lady Ranger crossbow and headed out the door. Minutes later, she was in her family’s elevated box blind overlooking a small clover food plot nestled between hardwoods and honeysuckle bushes deer use for cover.
At first light, Walters saw a doe in front of her to the southwest. Something spooked the doe, and no grunting from Walters’ call would halt the deer’s exit. Seconds later, a deer’s head popped up from behind some honeysuckle. It carried massive bone.
“I immediately knew it was Bigkowski,” she said. “His vitals were covered, so I had to wait for what felt like forever until he stepped forward a few feet.”
Bigkowski finally stood in an opening 25 yards away and Walters fired. The brute bucked like a bronco and tore off to the east. Walters felt confident in her shot until she and her husband couldn’t find any signs of a hit or the deer.
“I went from being on cloud 9 to just crashing,” she said.
The couple backed out and waited a few hours before resuming the search. After an exhausting search that made Walters feel like she was on a deer retrieval rollercoaster, she found her dream buck.
The nine-pointer green scored 152 7/8-inches, and is Walters’ biggest buck since she began deer hunting in 2004. Regardless of whether you call it, Bigkowski or the I-75 Buck, the Walters’ deer proves the adage that a rose by any other name smells just as sweet.