September 19, 2022
By Valerie Lashley
I’m fortunate to be a fourth-generation female whitetail hunter here in my home state of Ohio. I started out deer hunting with my shotgun during the state’s gun season, and my husband introduced me to archery hunting 20 years ago. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of harvesting several mature bucks with my compound bow over the years. But none can compare to the buck I was fortunate enough to take with a crossbow in 2021.
In the summer of 2020, as we were gearing up for the coming archery season here in Muskingum County, a neighbor shared some trail cam pictures with us. He was excited to have the opportunity to hunt this 145- to 150-inch 3 1/2-year-old 10-pointer. We were happy for the neighbor and really hoped he would get a shot at harvesting the deer, too.
We began referring to the buck as “Biggie.” The buck spent most of his time two farms up the road from our property. We got a few sporadic trail camera pictures of him, and soon we made the correlation that the buck would likely end up on our farm if he became pressured.
In the middle of December 2020, my husband was hunting an 11-pointer that we knew from the 2019 season. That buck had recently made his appearance on our game camera. But to our surprise, another big buck soon showed up! It was Biggie. Knowing that Biggie was younger than the 11-pointer he was already hunting, my husband even decided to pass on a 15-yard shot at Biggie that season.
I never had an encounter with Biggie during the 2020 season. But on Feb. 5, 2021, game camera pictures would confirm that he had survived the hunting season. Biggie then returned to his main core area. To our knowledge, his sheds were not recovered.
In summer of 2021, the neighbor again shared pictures. And by then Biggie had blown up as a 4 1/2-year-old whitetail. He was without a doubt a Boone & Crockett caliber deer! We were all anticipating the opportunity to hunt this giant as the season slowly approached. I guessed him to gross somewhere between 180 and 185 inches. He had gained an impressive 40 inches of antler that spring and summer.
Each time we checked our cameras, we were filled with anticipation of getting a better look at this buck. But it wasn’t until three days before the 2021 archery season that Biggie ventured down to our property. I learned that there had been human activity in his core area, with other hunters setting up for the fast-approaching opening day.
A few days later, Biggie returned to his summer home range. But I had picked up on his pattern of being pressured and visiting our property. Based on what I’d seen, I thought our farm seemed to be Biggie’s “safe place.” After a few times of being pressured out of his summer home area, Biggie decided to stick around our property. I began to get regular pictures of him, but they were all after dark. My husband, my 11-year-old daughter and I all took turns hunting the area this buck was staying in, just hoping he would make a daylight appearance. Our hope was that Biggie would stick around on our property during the rut, through gun season and even into late season, if he was undisturbed. I was confident one of us would eventually have an encounter with him.
Making the Move
As the pre-rut period started to ramp up, Biggie made two daylight appearances on trail camera. And his activity in our hunting area became more and more regular. On the evening of Oct. 27, 2021, with temperatures in the mid-40s, I headed out at 5:00p.m. to a ground blind overlooking a one-acre brushy field. I chose this blind as it’s located just below a core bedding area we refer to as “the bowl.”
The bowl is somewhat of a sanctuary, meaning we only access this portion of our property to track a deer or shed hunt. I chose this location for ease of access and minimal disturbance, due to the nature of this buck’s behavior. We were being cautious of our activity around Biggie, knowing it was only the pre-rut and deer were still extremely intolerant of human activity.
I got settled into my blind, and within 10 minutes, four mature does made their way into the field to browse. They fed to about 20 yards in front of my blind. A short 20 minutes into my hunt, I looked to the back of the brushy field to see a massive rack above the weed line. I knew without a doubt what buck it was. There was Biggie!
The does became fidgety but continued to feed right in front of me. My focus zoned-in on the buck as he was 60 yards in front of me. He was calm, occasionally scent checking the air, and he approached the does one slow step at a time. Biggie grunted several low, deep and long grunts. For 20 minutes he slowly but confidently made his way across the field toward me.
When Biggie was at 40 yards, he turned and was broadside, slightly quartering towards me. I put the crosshairs of my crossbow on him, but I decided not to chance the shot on a buck of this caliber, for fear he would jump the string. My patience paid off as he again turned and began walking straight toward me. As he closed the gap to 20 yards, Biggie stopped and starred directly at me.
I somehow held my composure as he slowly started circling around the does that were still browsing. At just 15 yards, he put his nose to the ground to smell where the does had been feeding. Biggie was slightly quartered to me as I settled the crosshairs tight against the front of his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. I was confident in my shot and anticipated watching him go down before he left the field.
Biggie and the four does scattered in all directions! I watched as he took long leaps across the field, and he went back into the woods he had come from. It was 5:43 p.m. I headed back to the house and waited for my husband to return from his stand at dark, as there was no cell service to text him.
My legs were weak; my chest was tight, and my hands were shaking. I had never been surer of my shot, but I kept second guessing myself. While I waited on my husband to go with me to track Biggie, I reached out to the neighbor who had shared trail camera pictures with us and asked if he’d like to be part of the recovery. A couple other relatives showed up as well, and we shared in the excitement and anticipation.
To start out, it was a very scarce blood trail. I knew there was no exit wound. With only a few drops of blood in the first 70 yards, things weren’t looking good. I knew in the back of my mind I had made a great shot. Finally, the blood trail picked up, and I knew Biggie couldn’t be much farther.
Another 20 to 30 yards, and there he was! And he was even bigger in person than I had realized. I knew immediately that this was a buck of a lifetime for me. We celebrated what a magnificent animal Biggie was, and everyone took turns admiring and respecting him. What an opportunity it was to even be a part of recovering such an animal.
Tale of the Tape
Most of us guessed Biggie’s antlers would score in the 190s. After the 90-day drying period, official scorer Adam Cramer confirmed he had a total gross of 191 1/8 with a net typical score of 179 2/8, giving Biggie the title of Ohio’s largest typical whitetail taken by a female with a crossbow!
As word traveled fast in our small community, I received a message on social media that the owner of a neighboring property believed to have the 2020-2021 sheds from Biggie. This was the first knowledge I had of him traveling that direction, but it would explain why we could never locate his sheds.
I am honored for the opportunity to hunt such a magnificent animal. I’m grateful that the sport of hunting was instilled in me from an early age, and I’m excited I get to pass the tradition of female hunters on to my daughter.
In conclusion, I would like to give a huge shoutout to Brian Yurco for the amazing work he did on the taxidermy mount of Biggie. Finally, I would like to dedicate this story to my late great grandmother, Eva Jean Curtis, who shot a 176-inch whitetail in 1979.