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Whopper buck taken in X12 zone first week of season


There has been a steady stream of whopper bucks taken during the Eastern Sierra Nevada deer hunting seasons this year, and five days into the X12 season on Sept. 21, Amanda Pelichowski of Bridgeport took one of the best bucks so far this year.

The heavy-racked four-by-four was 25 ½-inches wide, and the deer weighed 190 pounds field dressed at Ken’s Sporting Good in Bridgeport. It is in the running for the annual Big Buck Contest at Ken’s. Pelichowski first shot the buck at 300 yards, hitting it a little far back, but it ran toward her and she finished the deer at 120 yards with her .243 Savage.

Pelichowski was hunting with her husband John, a Highway Patrolman in Bridgeport, and he spent hundreds of hours scouting since early June while she was at home (most of the time) with their one-year-old daughter.

“I spend a lot of time in the bushes,” said John Pelichowski. “I had a buddy who was drawn for an archery tag, so I had been scouting a lot since June. I’d seen 120 to 150 bucks while scouting and 30 of them were 24-inches wide or more. I’d been watching this particular buck for three years.”

Amanda, along on one of the scouting trips, saw this buck and made up her mind she wanted this particular deer. Her first deer, a Nevada buck taken a couple of seasons ago, was a pretty straight-forward hunt, she said.

“With that first tag, I didn’t know what to expect. I found the deer when we were glassing, and then shot it. This second tag was so different – we were looking for a particular buck and it was frustrating because he kept giving me the slip,” said Amanda Pelichowski.

The pair had watched the big buck several times before the season opened, but once opening day rolled around, the deer seemed to disappear. They had only seen the big buck one time and that was in a spot where it was just impossible to approach.

“You can’t walk right up in where they’re living,” said John. “The last thing you want to do is send them into another area.”

On the Thursday after the opener, the pair were out again at dawn and spotted the buck from a mile away after watching six other deer. John saw an antler tip, and then the buck moved out where they could see it. The pair put on a long stalk and moved to within 75 yards of where the deer was bedded down, but they couldn’t see the animal. When it finally stood up, Amanda was so excited she could get steady for a shot and wouldn’t shoot.

“I was fine with that, happy with that,” said John, not wanting to risk a wounded deer.

The buck went over a ridge and the pair climbed up and eased over the top and almost immediately saw the buck. John ranged the distance at 300 yards as Amanda snuggled up behind the scope on her rifle. John had Amanda practice all summer on water-filled milk jugs at 200 and 300 yards, and they both knew she could make the shot. The problem is that there’s not a lot of adrenalin and buck fever involved when shooting milk jugs.

At the shot, the buck sagged from the hit that was just a little far back. But the deer started moving toward the two hunters, stopping at 120 yards away and then being dropped instantly with another shot through the heart.

“That was the most intense thing ever,” said Amanda. “I just had a baby and that hunt was more intense.”

John said that was when the work began.

“There’s a big buck contest each year at Ken’s and standing over that half-horse, I knew it could win. I haven’t seen a body on a buck like that in a long time,” said John. But that meant dragging a field-dressed buck all the way back to their truck nearly a mile away.

“I’m the gopher/Sherpa,” said John. “She’s the hunter.”

“I stand there and look pretty while he does the work,” said Amanda, who has been rubbing it in mercilessly that she’s now shot two deer bigger than anything John has taken. (Her Nevada buck was also a nice four-by-four, but not quite as big as this one.)

“I just remind her that’s she older than me,” said John.

“Only by a couple of months,” shot back Amanda.

Now it is back to collecting bonus points for Amanda, who can’t wait for her next opportunity to hunt deer with her husband.

[Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 909-887-3444.]

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