Bowhunting mature whitetails is an art that requires time, patience, and dedication that many hunters don’t have. But none of those factors discourages traditional bowhunter Nick Krivoniak from setting high standards for killing a buck with his recurve.
Krivoniak, a taxidermist from Ohio, picked up traditional bowhunting in 2018. Previously, he had killed several mature bucks at close range with his compound bow, and felt it was time to step up to the challenge of using a traditional bow. He managed to take a wild turkey and several whitetail does over the next few years. He wanted to shoot only mature bucks, and had few opportunities, though he did miss an 8-pointer his first year.
“I like to hunt big mature deer, because big mature deer are hard to kill,” Krivoniak said. “I love spending time in the woods bowhunting, as much as I can. So, by hunting mature bucks, it essentially elongates my season. My motivations have changed over the years as it pertains to bowhunting. And I’m at a point where I want to go afield as much as possible. Hunting bucks of this caliber requires that. So, I focus on them, unless I’m after a doe.”
For any deer hunter, standards tend to change when you go several years without filling a buck tag. I’m guilty of that myself. There is nothing wrong with it. Shoot what makes you happy. But someone who sticks to their plan of only killing mature deer, will always have my admiration. It took Krivoniak three years before he broke his antlerless streak. It was well worth the wait.
Targeting a Well-Known Whitetail
During the 2021 Ohio archery season, Krivoniak targeted one specific buck: a unique main frame 10-point with split brow tines. It was a buck with history, one he had been watching on private property since 2019 when it was an 8-point that would have scored about 130 inches. In 2020, he found the buck’s sheds. It had grown to a 140-class 10-point. By 2021 he was a 12-point that green-scored at 172 1/8 inches.
“This buck was my main focus,” Krivoniak said. “I was going to hunt him anytime the wind allowed. He was living on a small farm that was landlocked and I had access from only one direction. So, I could only hunt him when the wind was perfect for access.”
He wasn’t sure how big the buck was until Oct. 13, 2021. Krivoniak saw the buck in all its glory, working a scrape 45 yards away. It was unmistakable that this was his target deer. Every trail camera photo he had of the buck was at night, so he only hunted evenings, figuring at some point the buck would cruise by and he would get a shot.
A Close Encounter with an Ohio Giant
On the evening of Nov. 2, Krivoniak settled into a lock-on stand. It was the first sit out of this tree, and bucks were moving. It was a typical early November afternoon in Ohio: 42 degrees with some sun and a light wind. Several bucks came through; a small buck and then another with one side of his antlers broken off. Around 6 p.m., he spotted the buck. That’s him, he’s gonna hit that scrape and walk right past me, Krivoniak thought. And that’s exactly what happened. The buck came to within 18 yards.
Krivoniak drew his bow, a 47-pound Black Widow recurve. His arm hit the tree, making a soft noise. The deer stopped, looking for the source of the sound. Still at full draw, Krivoniak crouched until he had a clear shot at the buck’s vitals and released his arrow. The arrow clipped a small branch on its way but that didn’t affect the trajectory too badly.
The deer mule kicked and took off. Krivoniak watched as the deer bedded down. With a clear view of the buck, he knew it was a liver shot and waited until dark to climb out of his tree. Assuming the deer would likely expire right where he was bedded, Krivoniak decided to come back in the morning. At daybreak, he returned with a friend and a tracking dog. They found the buck only 20 yards from where Krivoniak last saw it.
“I was relieved and excited and awestruck,” he said. “The years of watching and waiting for a buck of this magnitude had paid off. Holding off to shoot one with his traditional bow made it that much sweeter.”