When bow season opened in Area 2 on Oct. 1, the clock started ticking for Nikki Gaspard.
The 22-year-old from Lafayette had only a matter of days to take down an 8-point Bienville Parish buck she had been hunting since last year — before she had to report to western New York and work as a spotter on a natural gas pipeline.
“I only had 10 days to hunt him before I had to leave,” Gaspard said. “I hunted hard. I hunted every single morning and afternoon.
“I hunted a 6-hour hunt one day trying to get this deer.”
To say Gaspard is serious about her bowhunting is an understatement: She shot her first deer with a rifle at age 7, once had a boyfriend break up with her because she hunted too much (go figure), and she drove 12 hours round-trip last fall to hunt in Louisiana on weekends while working a pipeline job in Oklahoma.
Not to mention the fact that she handles pretty much the whole operation on her lease near Jonesboro single-handedly because both her parents work as inspectors on the pipeline.
“I do everything,” she said. “We rent a tractor for the food plots. I put feeders up. I do trail cameras. I hang my own stands. I’m not kidding — my dad will even tell you: I do every single thing for that deer lease by myself.”
In her first few days on the stand earlier this month, she shot a doe — but was never able to find it. Her confidence took a hit, but she kept on hunting.
“I guess my arrow didn’t go through all the way,” she said. “So I went to the bow shop and they upped the poundage on my bow some more.
“But I was freaking out because I knew I was going to shoot this buck soon, and that arrow did not kill that doe.”
Gaspard switched to Slick Trick four-blade broadheads, and with a little more power in her Hoyt Vixen bow, returned on the afternoon of Oct. 6 to her lock-on stand more than 20 feet up in a tree line overlooking a thicket.
She saw lots of does, but things got interesting about 6:50 when the buck she was after finally made a rare late-afternoon appearance.
“I’ve been having cameras out for six months, and I don’t have one single picture of him in the afternoon,” Gaspard said. “So I wasn’t expecting him, to be honest.
“He’s more of a morning-type of deer.”
The buck came out from behind her trailing a doe, and literally walked within 2 feet of the base of Gaspard’s tree. After confirming this was, in fact, the buck she was after, Gaspard had to contend with a very wary doe potentially blowing her cover.
“She was torn up about something. She was acting weird about something coming from the thicket on the other side,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I have this old doe right here that’s smart, and I have him over there. What am I going to do?”
The nervous doe positioned itself 10 yards directly in front of Gaspard’s tree, but the buck made its way to some corn she had put out, and casually started munching.
“I try to pour my corn out in a line so the deer are always broadside, so he lined up pretty good,” she said. “He just stopped, and kept his head down the whole time. I shot him right away, because she was acting weird.
“I wasn’t going to waste any time.”
Her Carbon Express Blue Maxima arrow found its mark from about 15 yards, and the buck whirled around and bounded into the thicket.
“I was pretty confident,” she said. “But I couldn’t see him go down. I was pretty sure I heard him crash, but there are so many noises in the woods…”
She crept out of her stand and went to meet her dad, and they came back about 45 minutes later to track the buck in the dark.
“The wait was terrible. I was so excited, but then I had to think about that I had shot the doe four days earlier and didn’t find it,” Gaspard said. “But I had confidence in my shot. I knew I made a very good shot.”
Sure enough, the Slick Trick broadhead worked and they found the buck piled up only 60 yards from where the deer was last eating corn. Finding the deer with her dad — who taught her the ropes of bow hunting — was a memory she won’t soon forget.
“I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ It really did not hit me until about a week later that I had actually killed him, to be honest,” she said. “It didn’t register at all. Finding him was the best thing. I tell my dad, ‘I wish I could just go back and hold him again.’”
The 8-point buck hasn’t been officially green-scored yet, but it’s estimated to measure about 140 inches Pope & Young. The big deer weighed 200 pounds, and is probably between 4 ½ and 5 ½ years old.
So Gaspard bagged the buck she was after — with only three days to spare before she had to leave and make the trip up to New York.
“I may go hunting during Thanksgiving or Christmas, but I was expecting that was going to be my only 10 days this year,” she said during an interview from the pipeline. “Thank God my taxidermist is only going to take six months.
“At least I’ll be able to get him back pretty soon.”
Don't forget to enter photos of your bucks in the Nikon Big Buck Photo Contest to be eligible for monthly giveaways and the random drawing for Nikon optics at the end of the contest.
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.