Goshen News, Goshen, IN

November 25, 2012

OUTDOOR COLUMN: Women get their bucks this deer season


GOSHEN — The 2012 deer firearms season may go down as the year of “Girl Power.”

Check out these two gun-season kills and you’ll see what I mean.

Don’t get me wrong; men have killed some nice bucks, too. Space doesn’t allow us to run all of the buck photos we’ve received, but these two ladies shot a couple of dandies and it was worth sharing their stories:

Sydney Carson, 10-point: The John Glenn High School sophomore set the bar high with her first-ever deer kill. It will make the Hoosier record book easily and likely will get into the National Muzzleloading Association record book as well.

It green-scored at 154 1/8 (net) and field dressed at 200 pounds.

She was hunting on private property with her dad, Mike, last week when a four pointer strolled into sight about 80 yards away. That shot missed.

“I was really bummed out, but my dad told me that I’d be happy that I missed because a giant could walk out at any time,” said the North Liberty resident.

Dad must be prophetic.

Two hours later, dad spotted a deer and told Sydney to get ready. She didn’t see the deer until it walked within 15 yards and in front of the tree behind which they were sitting.

“Dad called him, he stopped and I took the shot,” she said.

The deer ran, leaving a traceable blood trail. They tracked it across a creek when they came across the brute lying on the ground.

“I was so happy I started crying,” admitted Sydney.

Maybe that’s the only difference between men and women hunters. Some men likely shed happiness tears over similar trophy kills; they just won’t admit it.

Cristy Kaniewski, 8-pointer: The Mishawaka insurance agent was hunting alone on private property in northwest St. Joseph County last week when she heard an impressive 8 pointer banging his rack into branches behind her stand.

“I had to be very patient and wait for him to move into the clear so I could get a good shot,” she described.

While it’s only her second year of hunting, her husband Tom and other family members are avid deer hunters and have shared their knowledge with her. In fact, they were hunting from stands on another property farther away that day.

“I hunted the bow season and every day of the gun season,” she noted. “I’ve seen a few deer, but not any big bucks. I’m selective and know that taking only the older bucks is the best way to self-manage the herd.”

Cristy rattled the buck out of the bush but it moved away from her. She called to the deer “with my best doe bleat” when the deer turned and quartered her.

She took the shot from 80 yards out with a 20 gauge, H&R single-shot Ultra Slug Gun. The deer moved another 100 yards where she found him dead.

“It was a very long shot but it was the only opportunity he gave me,” she explained. “I’m very confident in my ability to shoot because my family and I spend a lot of time at the shooting range making sure that if we get it shot, it’s going to be a clean kill.”

The buck field dressed at 211 pounds and is expected to score around 140.

She tracked the deer alone, which field dressed at 211 pounds, and then called her husband and father-in-law on the cell phone to get their help taking the deer out of the woods.

Cristy says some people are surprised that she hunted alone.

“They think that a woman hunter has to have someone next to them telling them what to do, but that isn’t always the case,” she said with a smile.

More deer kills

We’ve heard of other quality deer taken this season. Pat Dowling of Niles shot a beautiful 10 point — old school — with a 63-pound recurve bow. Avid deer hunter Leon Bogucki of Rolling Prairie says the 12-pointer he shot with a shotgun in LaPorte County has a chance to make the Hoosier Record Book.

(These deer and others can be seen in the Braggin’ Board section of my website at www.louiestout.com)

Overall, the first week of gun season has been good to Hoosier deer hunters but the same can’t be said in southwest Michigan.

A random survey of deer check stations reveals a lot of quality bucks have been harvested this week, but not many monster bucks that hunters dream about.

Eight and 10 pointers seem to be the norm, although the racks have been impressive.

“I haven’t seen many big-bodied deer but we’ve seen a lot of deer,” said Steve Gill at DC Meats in Osceola.

“We usually see quite a few 200 pounders, but most of these are in the 150-175 pound class.”

While Gill said the number of deer he’s processed is well above last year, some hunters are checking in deer online, a new feature offered by the Indiana DNR this year.

Jim Aldrich of Jaworski’s in South Bend reported the same and Ernie Bontrager of the Travel Tender in Goshen said his check-in is way down.

“We checked in 47 on opening day and we usually see nearly 150,” he reported. “I don’t know if that means guys are checking their deer online or if not as many are hunting.”

Bontrager said Middlebury and Goshen hunters aren’t seeing as many deer as normal while the Millersburg area is producing quite a few deer.

And unlike South Bend check stations, body weight is running high at the Travel Tender.

“I’d say at least 1/3 of the deer we’ve handled are pushing 200 pounds,” he said.

Dave Brauer at Crane Pond Game Area near Jones, Mich., the only check station in southern Michigan, said the harvest is low due to the EHD virus that hit Cass and St. Joseph counties hard.

“It’s worse than I expected,” he said.

“Other areas are reporting an increase in harvest, but we’re not seeing it here.”

More than 12,000 deer have died of the virus in southern Michigan this fall.

Despite the low deer numbers, Brauer said several nice bucks have been checked in.

“I think there aren’t as many guys hunting because of the virus,” he said.

“There are deer out there, though.”

Brauer said hunting pressure on the state game land has been light, yet there are deer being taken on public lands.

Deer scoring

Hunters who have killed a big buck this fall can get them scored officially by calling John Bogucki (574-656-4271). Bogucki is a certified scorer for Indiana, Michigan, Boone and Crockett, Pope and Young and the National Muzzleloading Association.

Steelhead tourney

The 2012 Capt. Dave Johnson Memorial Polar Bear Tournament for steelhead fishermen will be held next Sunday.

Tournament waters are St. Joseph River from the Twin Branch Dam to the railroad bridge in St. Joseph, Mich. Tributaries to the river are off limits. Only steelhead can be weighed in.

Anglers can sign up at Starboard Choice Marine (574-257-7827) in Mishawaka until 4 p.m. Friday.

Entry fee is $10 per person and there is an optional $5 Big Fish Pot.

Fishing time is from 7 a.m. to noon with the weigh-in at 1 p.m. at Central Park.

Contact Goshen News outdoor writer Louie Stout at info@louiestout.com