Experienced deer hunters know that sometimes, you have mere seconds to decide whether to pull the trigger or let a whitetail walk. It’s one of the things that make deer hunting so exciting and unpredictable. Success often boils down to skillfully handling small windows of opportunity, and botching that moment of truth can give other hunters their opportunity to take the buck you’ve been dreaming about. In the case of hunter Nicole Stroobants of Chilton, Wisconsin, and this huge 16-point buck, her window of opportunity was, well, literally a window.
“My husband [Bill Stroobants] and I were sitting in the same blind and facing the same direction, and I got to shoot the buck because the window in front of me was open,” explained Nicole. “His window was closed.”
The Stroobants family owns about 700 acres, divided into different sections, in Calumet County, Wisconsin. They’ve spent 15 years transforming the land into ideal whitetail habitat and letting bucks mature before harvesting them.
During Wisconsin’s 2016 firearm deer season, Nicole and Bill were pursuing two bucks that both had split G2s and likely came from the same genetic pool. One of the whitetails had some prior close calls with two other Stroobants hunters. In 2015, Nicole’s brother-in-law Jared narrowly missed getting a shot at the deer during bow season. A few days later, her father-in-law Keith was hunting from the ground when the buck snuck up on him and ran off before he could get his crossbow’s scope settled on the 16-point buck. Keith had nicknamed the buck The Son of Sam, because it was believed to be the offspring of a buck he’d bagged a few years earlier. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, Keith would tell others they had a “killer” deer on their property.
Son of Sam was also a traveler, with a neighbor as far as 5 miles away collecting game-camera photos of the serial escape artist. Stroobants hunters had been after S.o.S. for three years, but none could close the deal.
On the morning of Nov. 26, 2016, Keith sat alone in an elevated two-person box blind, known as “the Bill and a Nicole blind” because the married couple liked to sit together while hunting. The blind is strategically placed in a wide swath of tall grass that provides deer with perfect cover. The grasslands are surrounded by cedar patches, food plots, small swamps and highland slopes, with neighboring agriculture fields around the property.
During the morning hunt, the elder hunter saw no sign of either buck. The day was unusually warm for eastern Wisconsin, with temperatures climbing into the upper 40s and a strong westerly wind keeping deer on edge.
“We heard something in the high woods to the east of us that sounded like two bucks sparring,” explained Nicole. “I opened my window to be able to hear them better, and then, because it was so nice out, I just left it open.”
Minutes later, a handful of does came out of a drainage ditch that travels northeast in front of the blind. A small buck followed them, eager to scent-check each doe. Unfortunately for the young buck, a larger foe was about to take over.
“Out of the ditch we could see some huge antlers traveling toward the other deer,” said Nicole. “The buck came out of the ditch and ran straight at the young buck to chase it off. Suddenly, the big buck stopped for a few seconds, and turned broadside.”
With her window open, Nicole was ready. Bill gave her the thumbs up, and she quickly aimed her .243 Savage and made the 140-yard shot a lethal one. The giant buck immediately collapsed.
The 16-pointer would net 187-4/8 inches and tip the scales at nearly 200 pounds field-dressed. Although Nicole’s husband had his sights set on the buck, the deer would go to the hunter who was first able to get the buck in her sight.
The mother of three not only bagged the buck of a lifetime, but again proved that all it takes is a small window of opportunity to make your deer-hunting dreams come true.