Mike Stanoikovich never thought he’d be hunting alone on Jan. 7, 2017. The plan was for him and his 13-year-old son, Jack, to share the ground blind, but the boy refused to trade his warm bed for the freezing cold.
“You're not going to see a buck anyway,” the kid reportedly said.
Ohio’s late muzzleloader season spanned only four days, so the 52-year-old deer hunter went by himself.
The Double Bull blind was set up in a low spot between corn and soybean fields on a friend’s 200-acre farm. The temperature was about 5 degrees when dawn broke.
As soon as it was light enough to see, Mike spotted four does and three bucks – one really nice one – in a field about 300 yards from his hiding place. The nice one’s rack might’ve scored between 140 and 150 inches.
After watching the distant deer through binoculars for 10 minutes, he spotted another, noticeably bigger buck emerge from the nearby woodlot. And this one began walking his way.
“I put my binoculars down when the buck stepped out of the woods,” Mike told John Phillips, who penned the story for Rack magazine. “I knew it was a shooter, and I've learned from bowhunting not to look at a shooter’s rack.
“I knew only that it was big with a good number of points (26),” he continued. “I raised my CVA Accura and started looking for where I wanted to place the bullet. I remember telling myself, If you're going to take this buck, you’ve got to do everything right.”
Eventually, the top-heavy whitetail came to within 30 yards of the blind. And the moment the Nikon scope’s crosshairs stopped dancing, Mike squeezed the frontloader’s trigger.
Though the subsequent smoke cloud was intense, Mike glimpsed the deer crossing the field unsteadily. One of its legs wasn’t working.
The buck powered its way uphill for about 30 yards before rearing up on its hind legs and falling over backwards. The whole time, Mike was frantically re-stoking his muzzleloader.
Needlessly, as it happened.
The deer’s crown scores 237 7/8 inches.
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