Nick Peterson ended a 3-year story after tagging the bruiser in late October
|Rack Report Details
|178 6/8 inches (green score)
|Time of Year:
|October 22, 2023
|Hoyt Ventum 33
Nick Peterson shot this great Ohio buck on his 20 acres in late October.
One of the great perks of modern deer hunting is using trail cameras to learn all you can about a particular buck, hunting him for multiple seasons, and then finally closing the story with a punched tag. Ohio bowhunter Nick Peterson concluded just such a tale in 2023 after three years of history with a great whitetail nicknamed “Splits.”
“My father, Lee Peterson, is the reason deer hunting became a passion of mine,” Peterson said. “I harvested my first buck when I was 13 years old, with a gun in Pennsylvania. It was a spike, and I was hooked from that day on. I didn’t start hunting with a bow until I got out of college, and the rush I got after I harvested my first deer with a bow was unreal. It was only a 4-point, but I felt like I killed a Booner.”
This season, Peterson really did kill one. He's also pleased to have reached such a lofty goal on a small tract of land. In 2021, he moved to Tuscarawas County, Ohio. “We were able to purchase a beautiful home with 20 acres,” Peterson said. “That is very small to try to manage deer, but my neighbors all seem to be on the same page. My first year, I harvested an 8 ½-year-old 8-point. I sent in the teeth to Deer Age, and they aged my deer.”
Incredibly, the evening they moved in to the new place, Peterson filmed a nice 3 ½-year-old buck in his backyard. The buck had great brow tines and a solid 120-inch frame. Peterson named the deer Splits, and knew the buck had potential to grow. He put the deer off limits for himself that year. “Splits must have known, because I saw him well over 10 times from the stand that season,” he said.
Peterson knew passing the buck could be risky, but it paid off in massive antler growth.
In 2022, the deer had stacked on even more inches, approaching the 150 mark, big enough to be a possible target. But he became much more elusive. “He became mostly nocturnal that year,” Peterson said. “I only had four daylight photos of him the entire season. Opening day of gun season was one of those days.”
Peterson is purely a bowhunter, and had carried his Hoyt Ventum 33 to the woods with him that day. “As I saw Splits walking through the woods, I made the decision I wasn’t going to shoot him,” he said. “Had him at 23 yards multiple times over the course of 40 minutes. I was prepared to take the gamble. I only own 20 acres, and my neighbors have multiple stands on each side of my property line, but the gamble was worth it to me. I’ve always wanted to harvest a Boone and Crockett whitetail, and this was my chance, if he could just somehow make it through.”
Fortunately, the buck survived the 2022 deer season. And when he reappeared on camera in 2023, at 5 ½ years old, he was bigger than ever. Peterson had pictures of the deer every one to two weeks during the summer, but in August, the buck disappeared.
“I was worried beyond belief that something had happened,” Peterson said. “Maybe a car, coyote, or poached. Every thought went through my head.”
But finally, on October 7, the buck showed back up on trail cameras. From that point forward, Peterson had tunnel vision. The buck no longer hit food sources predictably, like in the past. So, Peterson decided to focus on scrapes and a pinch point.
October 22 was about 55 degrees and overcast skies with a minor cool front, and Peterson was in the stand. The general area consists of steep hills, bedding cover, and a small stream, with corn and soybean fields on the neighboring tracts. Peterson’s stand was on a steep hill leading to a smaller hill, forming a ravine and a perfect pinch point. He expected to see deer exiting the bedding area and working toward the ag fields.
The morning produced some small bucks and does. But the afternoon hunt proved more action-packed. Does, fawns, and small bucks filed by him. “I could smell a hint of corn,” Peterson said. “A famer harvested his ag fields earlier that afternoon.”
Then, around 6:30 p.m., big antlers materialized. “Splits showed up, checking and freshening scrapes,” Peterson said. “He went into the small bedding area in front of me looking for does.”
A few minutes later, a doe walked out in front of him, and Splits was right behind her. They walked up the hill toward Peterson’s position. Ready for the shot, Peterson drew, anchored, and sent it. The 33-yard shot connected on the slightly-quartering-to buck, which didn’t go far.
Peterson took the quartering-to shot with his Hoyt, and the buck didn’t make it far.
“In the moment, I was beside myself,” Peterson said. “Not really knowing if it was real or if I was dreaming. Walking up and seeing him for the first time was one of the best feelings I have ever had.”
Of course, it’s always bittersweet when a chase ends. “Prior to harvesting this deer, I had hopes of seeing him while in a stand,” he said. “I still have moments when I catch myself looking for him in pictures, but I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.”
Looking back, Peterson attributes his successful hunt to monitoring the wind, hunting when the conditions were good, and not overhunting his small tract of land.
“That sense of accomplishment is something I will remember the rest of my life,” he said. “Closing a chapter on a deer you gambled on, was called crazy for letting walk, and finally harvesting … it was a storybook ending for me.”
Nick Peterson is the co-founder of Run ‘N’ Arrow. He self-filmed this hunt, and it will be on the Run ‘N’ Arrow YouTube channel later this year.
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