Autumn Pierwsza knew a giant of a buck was living on a farm just north of Pittsburg. When the buck stepped into an open alfalfa field with does and smaller bucks the evening of Oct. 9, the high-school junior was ready.
“We had trail camera photos of the buck for a couple years, and my daughter Autumn saw him last year while hunting,” says Erik Pierwsza, 45, who works on the farm where the buck was taken. “She was climbing up to a treestand when the buck showed up in 2022. She froze on the ladder looking at the deer, but he slipped away.”
The Pierwszas didn’t see the buck again in 2022; they thought another hunter might have killed him.
“Three weeks ago I was walking the farm and spotted the big buck and a couple smaller bucks,” Erik tells Outdoor Life, because Autumn was in school and unavailable. “We checked camera photos that night, and knew it was him.”
The 12-pointer with split browtines was hard to mistake. The Pierwszas patterned the buck using trail camera photos and Erik started checking the weather. The wind on Oct. 9 looked ideal. When Autumn got home from school that day, Erik decided, they’d go to the farm.
At 5:30 p.m., Erik left Autumn hiding in high grass at an unused cattle gate leading to an alfalfa field. Erik and his youngest daughter, Allysa, departed to hunt another spot.
Within 30 minutes, several does and young bucks were feeding in the field about 100 yards from Autumn. Finally, the big 12 stepped into the field.
Autumn is an experienced hunter, having taken eight other bucks over the years with a crossbow. So she was more than prepared that evening when she settled the crosshairs behind the deer’s shoulder, steadying herself behind a tripod.
Her arrow struck the buck; he turned and ran back into the woods. Autumn phoned her dad immediately and explained what happened. She was sure she’d made a good shot.
Erik and Allysa, 12, soon rejoined Autumn, and the three went home as darkness settled. They waited about two hours before going back to the field to recover the buck.
They returned to locate Autumn’s arrow in the alfalfa. There was minimal blood, and Erik wasn’t so sure the buck had been hit as well as Autumn thought.
“I was ready to back out and give the deer more time,” Erik says. “But Autumn was adamant that she’d made a good shot and heard the deer crash.”
Pressed on by Autumn, the trio reached the woods and found Autumn’s buck lying just inside the timber. The deer only run about 100 yards before falling. Friends later encouraged Erik to score Autumn’s buck and contacted Will Leonard, an official scorer with Buckmaster’s. (Buckmaster’s has a different scoring system than the one used by Boone and Crockett; in part, it doesn’t make deductions.)
Leonard scored the buck, a main-frame 10-point with symmetrical tines and double split browtines, at 184 7/8 inches.
It will rank as Pennsylvania’s No. 1 buck by a woman with a crossbow, according to Leonard, and number three for crossbow in the state. Autumn’s buck will be mounted, and Erik is delighted that she and her two sisters are dedicated hunters.
“They’ve all shot deer, and they are competitive about doing well,” he says of their friendly sibling rivalry. “Autumn’s twin sister, Samantha, is an accomplished deer hunter, too, and Allysa shot her first deer last year with a crossbow when she was just age 11 … I’m so proud of them all.”