Deer hunters often use the term “buck of a lifetime” when describing a big whitetail. But Ohio bowhunter Jason Shenkel takes the phrase literally since he hung his tag on a huge nontypical whitetail in early November. “I’ve been deer hunting for 40 years,” Shenkel told F&S. “And it took all my experience to get this buck within bow range. I have no doubt I’ll never kill another as big. It’s been over a month since I shot this deer and I’m still excited about it.” Shenkel has good reason to be excited, as the buck notched a 214-inch score on the Buckmasters BTR irregular scale.
Shenkel first noticed the buck in 2020, when it was a 2-½-year-old main-frame 10 point. “You could tell he had a ton of potential, and he was easy to spot because he had these little paddles for brow tines,” he said. “I hunt a 300 acre farm of a dear friend who lets me hunt in exchange for doing food plots and habitat work and hanging stands and blinds. I value the relationship as much as the hunting, and I told the guys that hunt with us that we needed to let this buck go for a couple years. He was going to be a special one.”
When the 2021 season came, the buck was “really coming together” as a trophy, but Shenkel felt he needed another year to mature, and so the buck got another pass. “He looked beautiful in 2022, but we didn’t have many pics of him,” Shenkel recalled. “There was a big 10-point on the property that fall, and I think that buck was keeping the big non-typical off the farm. But I didn’t figure that out until I killed the 10 point, and then the nontypical came back and we had lots of pics of him.”
When the 2023 season opened, Shenkel turned all his attention to the big nontyp. “I devoted the first 8 days of the season completely to that buck,” he said. “And I never laid eyes on him, even though I knew his core area and only hunted the fringes of it, waiting for him to make a mistake. When that didn’t happen, I finally realized my approach was probably wrong and that buck was able to see me heading to one of my stands. So I took a break and decided to come back for the rut.”
Conditions were perfect when Shenkel returned for an early November hunt. “It was cold and sunny on November 2, and I was in a stand in the thick stuff where I knew he felt comfortable,” Shenkel recalled. “I saw a doe coming, and he was right behind her. I grunted to try and draw him in, but he was not leaving her.
The next morning, I was in the same spot and I had the bow in my lap as I knew I might not hear him coming. At 7:45 I looked up and saw those antlers heading my way. I never tried to get up. I just drew the bow and watched him walk into my shooting lane. I grunted to stop him and the arrow was on its way before he came to a complete stop. I made a perfect shot and watched as he tore through the woods, then I heard him crash. Even though I knew he was dead, I sat up there for a long time, just soaking it all in. I’m a retired police officer and the woods has always been the place I go to reset—and now I had a huge buck to celebrate. So I wasn’t rushing anything!”
Shenkel had plenty to celebrate. His massive buck has 25 scorable points and incredible mass, and, of course, those distinctive brows. “Buckmasters scorer Toby Hughes measured the buck and he said, ‘You could scoop taters with those brows!’ “ Shenkel laughed. “He was one special buck and I was so blessed to share the woods with him. We’ve shot some great bucks off this farm, and this deer was like the culmination of a whole lot of hard work and great friendships!”