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Hunter’s Chase for ‘Bullwinkle’ Buck Ends with 5 Days Left in the Season

Roger Pankey had been after the buck for two months straight when it finally daylighted for him in early December
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Roger Pankey with the 18-point buck he nicknamed "Bullwinkle." Photo courtesy Roger Pankey

Retired Michigan Department of Natural Resources employee Roger Pankey has spent a lifetime hunting whitetails in his home state. He primarily hunts fringe farmland habitat in southwest Michigan, where he owns a 100-acre parcel in Cass County. And over the past two years, he’s had his eye on a special buck there.

Pankey first caught the buck on trail camera in 2021, and in 2022, he found its sheds on his property. By the 2023 deer season, the buck had grown into a wide-racked monster with massive main beams, and the nickname “Bullwinkle” was born.

“Bullwinkle was hanging out a lot on neighbors’ land, and they were hunting him, too,” Pankey tells Outdoor Life. “But the deer started showing at night regularly on my property [in October], and that’s when I really dedicated the 2023 deer season to getting him.”

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Pankey captured this trail cam photo of Bullwinkle making a scrape in mid-October.

Photo courtesy Roger Pankey

Retirement allowed Pankey to hunt for his target buck nearly every day between Oct. 1 and early December. After striking out through archery and rifle season, Pankey switched to a rifle chambered in .450 Bushmaster to take advantage of the state’s 10-day muzzleloader season that started Dec. 1. (The rifle is classified as a short-range firearm in Michigan and therefore legal during the special season.) On Dec. 5, Bullwinkle finally showed.

“I had a trail camera photo of Bullwinkle the night before I shot him,” Pankey says. “My grandson Trace and I hunted that next afternoon, getting into two different elevated box blinds about 3 p.m. We were about 100 yards apart, near where we had night photos of [the buck].”

Later that afternoon, Pankey had several does walk into a food plot to feed. Soon after, he spotted Bullwinkle from about 120 yards away. It was the first time he’d seen the deer during the daytime.

“I had to calm myself, because I knew how big he was,” Pankey says. “He was walking straight toward me, and I couldn’t get a good shot on him for a while. When he quartered just a bit, I took a shot.”

The buck ran about 80 yards to where Pankey watched it fall.

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A close-up view of the buck’s massive, 18-point rack.

Photo courtesy Roger Pankey

Pankey says Bullwinkle was lean from the rut, with an estimated dressed weight around 175 pounds. One of his friends green-scored the 18-point rack at 192 1/8 inches, and Pankey believes the buck will make the Boone and Crockett book regardless of whether it’s scored as a typical or a non-typical. He’ll know for sure after the 60-day drying period is up.

“I’ve deer hunted all my life, and this buck is by far the best one I’ve ever taken,” Pankey says. “And I’ve got 30 buck mounts from the deer I’ve been fortunate enough to take over the years.”