Trophy-buck stories from the field

What does it take to harvest a trophy-quality whitetail? Persistence? Patience? Luck?

In some cases, all three.

Commemorative Bucks of Michigan, which partners with the Department of Natural Resources by maintaining official trophy records for game animals in Michigan, held its annual convention/awards dinner this past August, at which hunters were recognized for their trophies (for the 2011 season) in a number of categories.

There’s a story that goes with every deer taken by a hunter, and sometimes the stories are every bit as impressive as the animals. Here are what four Michigan hunters who received awards at the recent banquet had to say about their successful hunts.

Nicole Fenwick, of Linwood, shows off her record-setting buck,
alongside John Knevel of Commemorative Bucks of Michigan at the
August 2012 awards banquet. Fenwick bagged the buck with her bow.
Father knows best 
Nicole Fenwick, a 25-year-old hairstylist from Linwood, wasn’t very happy when her father told her they’d be hunting behind the house.

“We have two places we hunt and when my dad said we’d be hunting behind the house, I was kind of upset,” she said. “We’d seen 11 deer at the other place.”

Nonetheless, Fenwick took her stand and when the huge 8-point buck drew near, she was shaking.

“I had to pull my bow back twice because I had buck fever so bad,” she said.

The result? Fenwick arrowed the 126 ¾-inch whitetail. It was the largest deer taken by a woman bow hunter in 2011.

At the banquet, Fenwick admitted that father does indeed know best.

Ann Orel, of Westphalia, posing proudly with her
trophy, “a 10-point with a near perfect rack” taken
during the 2011 season. Orel was among the hunters
presented with awards at the August 2012
Commemorative Bucks of Michigan banquet.
Patience pays off
Ann Orel, of Westphalia, usually hunts with her husband, but because he’d taken a buck on opening day of the firearms season, she was hunting alone on the third day of the season. At 11:45 a.m., after an uneventful hunt, Orel decided to leave. But instead of taking her usual path out of the woods, she decided to take a different route.

She hadn’t gone more than few yards when she “saw this big rack going through the deep grass.”

Orel hit the ground and called her husband and asked for advice. He told her she’d have to wait it out.

Orel slowly worked her way toward a tree 15 yards away where she could keep an eye on the buck, now some 35 yards away. She could see the bedded buck’s head, looking away from her, but couldn’t make a shot.

After about 90 minutes, a doe walked right by her, stopped and looked at her, then walked away. A short while later, an 8-point buck walked right past her trailing the doe. Fifteen minutes later, a fork-horn walked between her and the big guy.

Then the big guy got up, Orel stepped away from the tree and as the buck looked at her, she fired. She called her husband again – two and a half hours after her first call – and he told her to stay put, he’d come help.

The pair tracked the blood trail and eventually tagged the animal. “A 10-point with a near perfect rack,” Orel said. It scored 146 ⅜ – the best buck taken by a woman with a firearm in 2011.

“I’ve been hunting for 11 years and every year I learn something,” Orel said. “The biggest lesson I learned this season? Patience pays off.”

Tyler Wagner, of White Pigeon, poses with his trophy buck,
taken during the 2011 season. John Knevel (right), of Commemorative
Bucks of Michigan, presents Wagner with his award at CBM’s
August 2012 banquet.
Maybe it’s persistence 
Tyler Wagner, a 21-year-old community college student from White Pigeon, said he was so cold during his hunt that he was thinking about going home.

He’d been on the stand all morning, rattling, when he saw the buck approach. He watched it make a scrape in the distance until the deer switched directions and started coming right at him. Wagner drew.

“I had trouble drawing my bow – I was freezing,” he said. “I was at full draw for about a full minute, but I had a bad angle. Then he turned broadside.”

The 13-point had a 5x5 mainframe with split G-2s – “they looked like crab claws,” Wagner said – and a kicker off one of his brow tines. It scored 185 6/8 and was the best whitetail taken by an archer in 2011.

Constantine’s Robert Evenhouse (left) is all smiles, and for good reason.
Here he is at Commemorative Bucks of Michigan’s August 2012 banquet,
receiving his award for his record buck (taken with a muzzleloader)
from CBM’s John Knevel.
You can’t kill a big buck in bed 
Robert Evenhouse, of Constantine, had come home early from his morning hunt, feeling ill, and went to bed. After noon he got up and, despite protestations from his wife, decided he couldn’t let the rest of the day go by without trying again. Although he couldn’t get anyone to go with him, Evenhouse went out anyway.

Good thing.

He saw the buck approach, leveled his muzzleloader, squeezed the trigger, and … nothing. The firearm did not discharge and the buck disappeared into the brush.

Evenhouse found that he hadn’t properly tightened the mechanism on his muzzleloader. He adjusted it and watched, incredulously, as the big buck exited the brush and stepped out into an opening. This time, the firearm worked properly and Evenhouse collected the 6x8 whitetail with split G-2s on each side. The rack netted 198 ½ inches and scored 189 after deductions – the largest trophy whitetail of the season.

The moral of the story? According to Evenhouse – who already had another whitetail and an elk in the Commemorative Bucks record book – “You can’t kill a big buck in bed.”

To learn more about Michigan records for deer, bear, elk and turkeys, visit the Commemorative Bucks of Michigan website at To learn more about deer hunting, types of licenses available and other helpful information to make it a safe and successful season, visit