September 27, 2021
Breaking News Bucks 2021
After battling through life-altering health issues and dealing with a number of personal tragedies, Renee Blizzard was looking for a hunting trip that was more of an experience than a ‘hunt’, a destination where she could spend quality time sharing her passion for hunting with her young daughter, Mackenzie.
What she ended up with, thanks to the kindness of one Iowa outfitter and family, was the buck of a lifetime, as well as memories she and her daughter will cherish forever.
Hunting with Big Buck Down Outfitters of Stockport, Iowa, Blizzard downed a 23-point whitetail buck on Sept. 21 that features an incredible 13 brow tines including a kicker coming off the base of the left antler. The massive nontypical, which green scores 202 inches, was nicknamed ‘Browsy’ due to the extraordinary number of brow tines it sported. The deer was harvested during the Hawkeye State’s disabled hunter deer season, a season for which both Renee and Mackenzie held hunting permits.
The Ghost Buck Appears
The story of how Blizzard and Browsy came together on a fateful September evening is atypical in almost every way. While Big Buck Down owners Corbin and Caleb Millard and Reed Whiting have consistently put hunters on bruiser bucks in the 150- to 180-class for the past six years – sometimes observing individual deer for a few seasons in a row as they matured – they didn’t have any idea Browsy was around. In fact, the deer was actually located and scouted over the summer by the Millards’ mom, Kim, who enjoys driving around and taking photographs of big bucks throughout the year. She first spotted the bruiser in mid-July and immediately noticed something was very different about it.
“I just happened to be driving one night and had the grandkids with me. I saw this buck and I started rubbing my eyes, wondering if they were blurred,” Kim said. “I knew he was different and I knew I had to get a picture of him…”
“That first picture showed all those brows. It infatuated me terribly. Every night, I went back to see if I could see him and get a really good picture of him.”
After she spotted the deer on a few different occasions, Kim told Corbin and Caleb, who then set up trail cameras on the farm where the deer was coming out to feed in the evenings. The brothers secured a lease with the property owner, who happened to be a good friend, and they ended up getting some really good images of Browsy, laying the groundwork for a possible setup for the buck once hunting season opened.
In early September, however, the deer ghosted them, with no sightings of the big buck on the trail cams for 10 days. Just as the Blizzards were beginning to prepare to travel to Iowa from their New Jersey home, Browsy had all but vanished.
A Special Bond
For the Blizzards and Millards, Renee and Mackenzie’s 2021 deer hunt was as much an opportunity for friends to catch up as it was to hunt. To fully understand the special relationship between the two families, you have to go back to 2019, when Renee, husband Jack and Mackenzie were at the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pa.
Renee, a three-time cancer survivor, had also been diagnosed with a terminal illness, while doctors had also recently discovered Mackenzie had an inoperable brain tumor. Hunting had been an important part of Renee’s life since first being introduced to the sport by her dad 40-plus years ago, and she wanted to pass that on and share it with her then 10-year-old daughter. Hence, she was searching for the right situation, with the right outfitter who could accommodate both their goals and needs.
While most of the outfitters and guides at the expo were busy talking to potential customers – barely noticing the little girl walking very gingerly with her service dog – when the Blizzards stopped at Big Buck Down, Renee sensed something was different. Mackenzie was captivated by the giant whitetails she saw on the wall of their booth and Reed immediately came out to meet her and Simba. Mackenzie began chatting with him, along the way sharing that she had a brain tumor.
“When I told them what we were looking for – something for her and me to hunt together to get this experience – he said, ‘We’ll make it happen. Does she need a blind to put the service dog in with her because I’ll make that happen.’
“He gets his daughter on the phone, has her talking to Mackenzie and (later) puts us in touch with the right people at the Iowa DNR to get the special disability tags we need. They just made it happen.”
From there, the family began to make plans to travel to Iowa for a chance at the state’s legendary big bucks. It started last fall, when Mackenzie hunted with Big Buck Down during the disabled hunter deer season, taking her first buck. Then, this year, both mother and daughter were able to secure nonresident tags, ensuring a second consecutive trip to the Hawkeye State.
A Solid Start
When the Blizzards arrived for the start of the 2021 disabled hunter deer season on Sept. 18, they were greeted by unseasonably warm temperatures in the high 80s. Despite the warm weather, however, the hunt got off to a great start.
“We went out Saturday and still saw a lot of deer, which I was surprised in the heat,” Renee recalled. “I think I saw 20 deer and four or five bucks.”
The next evening, Renee spotted a large 8-pointer with good mass and split brow tines. But, as tempting as it may have been for many hunters to take that deer, she immediately decided to pass on it so her daughter could sit at the spot for a chance at the trophy. The next evening found Mackenzie, now age 12, on watch, overlooking the same field as her mother, Ruger 350 Legend in hand.
“The biggie I saw didn’t come out, but a bigger 9 came out and she saw him,” Renee said. "My husband didn’t see him; it came out on her side of the blind and she said, "Dad, big buck."
“The deer started going across the field and before he could get his binoculars up, he said, ‘He’s big.’ She said, ‘Yup’ – boom – and dropped him in the field. She was already on him, tracking him with the scope and dropped him.”
BrowsyTake Center Stage
Although Browsy hadn’t been spotted on the trail cameras recently, a marked drop in temperatures on the fourth day of Renee’s hunt persuaded guide Brandon Barker to place Renee in a portable ground blind they’d set up a few days earlier along the field where Browsy was known to frequent. The blind was erected near a ditch the deer liked to travel as it moved between the timber and beans. However, without a single sighting of the deer in well over a week, no one was sure what to expect.
Renee said the first few hours on watch passed quietly, without even a single deer sighting. Then, less than an hour before dark, it all changed.
“I said to my husband, ‘He’s probably in the other bean field laughing at us,’” she recalled. “At 6:30, all I see are horns in that ravine…and I just said to my husband, ‘Holy (crap).’”
“He had to come up a hill on the other side to go to the beans. So, he wasn’t coming towards us, he was going away. There were trees there. So, he starts up and all I can see is his head because of the weeds. I get on him with the scope and he’s behind a tree now (so) you could just see part of his body because of the weeds.”
Jack told Renee there was a better view of the deer from his side of the blind, so she shifted her tripod and position in hope of getting a clear shot.
“My husband is holding the tripod, because (the ground) is all uneven,” she said. “I’m squatting half on top of him and all I can see is a little spot (of the deer) on the side of the tree.”
After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, the buck moved enough that Renee finally had a small window between two trees where she could aim cleanly for the vitals. A well-placed, 100-yard shot from her Ruger 450 Bushmaster hit the mark, with the deer bolting at the impact.
Although she’d inflicted what would be a fatal hit, Renee didn’t know it at the time and decided to go after the deer once it disappeared from sight. Upon exiting the blind, she quickly caught up with the buck, which was definitely injured and moving slowly through a small ravine.
“He looks up, he sees me and I said, ‘Oh, (crap).’ He gets another burst of energy; I dive on the ground and I shoot him again. He’d gone down in the ravine and that one put him down (for good) in the really high weeds down there.”
One For the Books
Following the hunt, the Millards estimated the deer, which reportedly has 23 scoreable points and a circumference of 10-12 inches around the brow tines, would score in the 190s. However, when they dropped the buck off at Premier Wildlife Artistry to have a mount done, owner Jon Jones measured the deer’s antlers and conservatively scored it at 202. Renee now plans to have the buck officially scored by a Boone and Crockett Club measurer following the 60-day drying period. Not only is the deer the biggest buck Renee has ever taken, Corbin says it’s one of the Top 2 ever harvested at Big Buck Down Outfitters.
“I have to give my mom 100-percent credit on this deer, as bad as I don’t want to, because she got it scouted out and found it and we kind of took it from there,” he said with a laugh.
The Millards say they are ecstatic for Renee and her success.
“I am just so happy that she was the one who was able to put this deer down because she’s so deserving; she’s the most unselfish lady I know,” Kim said. “She, herself, is battling cancer and doesn’t talk about it much, but she’s totally focused on her daughter and her battle. She’s totally dedicated to making her daughter’s life be as much as it can be.
“Both of them are so full of life and so positive, and that’s what really makes the story.”
Renee says that from her perspective, not only did she make the shot of the lifetime on the deer of a lifetime, it’s also a hunt she will remember forever, especially since she spent it with her daughter and husband.
“I can’t even tell you how thrilled I am and what an amazing, amazing experience that was…,” she said. “I’m at a loss for words. I’m so appreciative to have gotten the opportunity.
“God was watching over me for sure. The only thing that would have been better is if my daughter would have shot it.”
For more information visit Big Buck Down Outfitters' website or call Corbin Millard at 641-919-7845.