March 27, 2023
By Cameron Coble
Husband and wife Nick and Paige Skinner are as serious deer hunters as they come. Nick and his brothers own Iowa Land Company, so they’ve built a lifestyle around hunting. Going into the fall of the 2022, the Skinners had several good bucks on their radar. But a late newcomer would surprise them both.
Because of work obligations and family duties, Nick and Paige took turns hunting at different times throughout the fall. In early November, Paige actually missed a close-range shot on a 180-class buck, which would have been her biggest.
While Paige was down on her luck, a new buck on a different farm showed up on camera on Nov. 4. Neither Nick nor Paige had seen the buck before, and it gave Paige a big boost of encouragement.
The couple only received one picture of the buck on the fourth, so Paige then gave him the name, “Cotton Eye Joe,” because they didn’t know where he came from or where he'd go. On Nov. 12 Cotton Eye Joe reappeared, and the couple knew they’d have to put their time in if they wanted any chance at the deer.
Paige put in several sits on the farm, including an all-day sit on Nov. 14. Nick and Paige took turns going after the deer when time allowed. Paige’s turn was on the evening of Thursday Nov. 17, but the buck never showed.
On Friday evening (November 18th) Nick was away at work, so Paige was up to bat again. This time, however, the buck wasn’t so elusive.
“I saw him 400 yards out in the field,” Paige says. “I couldn’t believe it. He was all alone, and I had several deer near me, so I was hopeful he would work his way into range.”
The buck disappeared into the timber and then reappeared at 350 yards, walking right down the field edge toward Paige. “I was getting pretty worked up at this point, and I knew I needed to take a minute to calm myself down before he was in close,” Paige remembers.
“When the buck was at 36 yards, I began ranging him,” Paige says. “He then got to 30. Thirty yards was the farthest shot I was willing to take, so I knew he was within my comfort zone. He ended up coming into 25 yards and turning perfectly broadside.”
At 25 yards Paige took the shot, hitting the massive buck and then watching him go down within sight. She immediately called Nick to tell him the news.
Nick made the long drive from Northern Iowa straight to the farm to help Paige recover the buck. The 17-point Iowa giant officially grosses 196 2/8 and nets 192 2/8 non-typical.
Check out the Big Buck Profile our digital editor, Dale Evans, shot with this buck while at the Iowa Deer Classic here