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Rich Schweitzer
Rich Schweitzer • 11/27/2012 •Tuscarawas County, Ohio • Gun

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Bruce C. Leidy / Logan Carlton Buckman • 11/26/2011 Kent Co. , Maryland • Shotgun

Big Buck Central

Big Buck 411 Blog

13

Nikki Bechtel

By Mike Handley

Unlike the dinosaurs in the "Jurassic Park" movies, unlike the great white shark in "Jaws," and unlike the brawls between TV's professional wrestlers (with apologies to believers), the buck whose photograph appeared on Shawn and Nikki Bechtel's trail camera in 2011 was very real.

Husband and wife - it was she who taught him how to hunt - were instantly smitten with the deer they named Bullwinkle. Shawn had more time than his wife, and he had a slight advantage because he bowhunted from treestands. Nikki, afraid of heights, always hunted from ground blinds.

Nikki's time afield was mostly during weekends, since her drive home from work didn't allow any time for late-afternoon sits.

Regardless of how much time the two of them spent waiting, separately or together, Bullwinkle never once appeared while the sun was overhead. Not in 2011; not in 2012.

Shawn would not get to hunt in 2013, and Nikki lost her enthusiasm for it.

"My husband died in January of a serious and ongoing heart condition, and I nearly gave up hunting after that," she said.

Nevertheless, she left their trail cameras in the field, and she continued to monitor them - more out of habit than interest. But when Bullwinkle began mugging for them for the third year in a row, Nikki felt a familiar stirring.

She wound up buying a two-person ladder stand, and friends helped her erect it near her ground blind, which is where the deer had been photographed. The first time she reluctantly climbed into it, the bull of the woods walked right underneath her.

A short time later, she and two pals were standing over Bullwinkle, her first deer. She didn't even recognize him when the buck was in her crossbow's sights, since she'd never seen his monstrous rack from above.

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