Tag Archives: Nick Pinizzotto

Riverview Outfitters’ Elusive Bastard

By Nick Pinizzotto
AHT Contributor

“Elusive bastard!”

That short phrase summed up Tyler Sellens’ thoughts about a monster buck roaming one of the many great properties he manages with friend and partner Josh Turner at Riverview Outfitters in western Illinois. The outburst also provided a fitting name for the giant deer that represents all that we love about the challenge a mature whitetail buck can pose to even the most seasoned hunters.

Bastard Buck 2Only three photos of this deer exist, and the first time he triggered a camera was on September 29 at 4:46 a.m. Although the date on the above photo says 2011, it was most certainly this fall. Almost immediately after pulling the photos the guys posted it on their Facebook page with the comment, “Look who came strolling along.”

Those of us who know Tyler and Josh well realize that they must have been excited because they uploaded the picture so quickly. It’s not uncommon for a few of us to give them a hard time about being slow to post photos, but that wasn’t a concern in this case.

Exactly one week later, the massive monarch strolled past the same camera.

Exactly one week later, the massive monarch strolled past the same camera.

When the buck triggered the same camera one week later, it seemed like this would be the first of many photos of the old bruiser. That’s where the story takes an all too familiar twist. Like the biggest and most experienced bucks have a knack for doing, he simply disappeared. Despite several cameras being out, there were no more new photos.

Despite several different clients hunting the property and using a number of scattered stand locations, the buck was never seen. When I returned to hunt in early December I thought I was the first person to lay eyes on him across a long field, but after reviewing my mental images and comparing them to the photos, I’m almost certain it wasn’t him. I saw some good bucks that evening, but I have to believe if this guy stepped out it would have made a special impression on me. He simply vanished.

When the season ended with no new photos or a single sighting, we assumed the buck was either shot on a different property or that the deer simply spent a week in the area and just happened to pass by one of the cameras. I guess none of us was willing to believe that The Bastard Buck eluded us.

Although you hear stories all of the time about great bucks that made an appearance and then disappeared for months or even entire seasons only to turn up again, we just couldn’t let ourselves believe that it could happen to us. Just a few weeks ago, Tyler sent me a message that brought a smile to my face while also providing a harsh reality check. “You’re not going to believe this, but we got another picture of that buck.”

Although he is a little thinner after the rut, the Bastard Buck was alive and well just before Christmas.

Despite being a bit thinner after the rut, The Bastard Buck was alive and well just before Christmas.

Two days before Christmas, The Bastard Buck sent a loud and clear signal that he was alive and well, and still haunting the Riverview Outfitters property. At 7:23 a.m. on December 23, the magnificent stag made a daylight appearance on the opposite side of the property from where the earlier photos were snapped. Just like that, he was back into our lives and imaginations providing fuel for the fire as we look forward to next season.

Already a great buck, the fact that he has been a bit of a mystery only adds to his trophy status. How many times did hunters walk right by him on their way to a stand? Did he ever get to his feet during daylight hours while hunting season was in? How could he avoid all of those hunters and cameras for several weeks, especially during the rut when he would have been most vulnerable? Did he simply leave the area for a few months and eventually meet up with some girls from across the tracks during the rut? All we can do is guess.

bastard (adjective):  of abnormal shape or unusual size,
of unknown origin.

It appears that the buck has at least 13 scoreable points and he has good mass and long main beams. I’m not going to estimate a score as it would be a disservice to this great deer, but I know it is way up there. Although I would love to see what this buck looked like in mid-November in his peak, I feel pretty confident saying that the deer is likely 4 1/2 and possibly 5 1/2 years-0ld.

I’m going to lean toward 4 1/2 because he still has some room on his frame for growth and his neck is still fairly well defined. Regardless, the buck will very likely add inches to his rack this year and there’s no telling what he’ll look like. With any luck, Tyler and Josh will locate his sheds in the next few weeks and we’ll have a better understanding of how big The Bastard Buck really is.

As Tyler pointed out the other day, “If he just walked out on the first day and you didn’t have to hunt him, what fun would that be? That’s what drives a whitetail freak.” I couldn’t agree more. We’ll be thinking about this buck all summer long. He’ll be in our minds when we’re at the range, and increasingly in our dreams as the season approaches.

What makes a great buck legendary is the story behind him. It’s the pursuit you remember. Just knowing he’s out there somewhere and hearing a twig snap will be enough to send our hearts racing. We have no way of knowing how the story of The Bastard Buck will end, but with any luck he’ll make a dream come true for one of the Riverview Outfitters clients. In case you’re wondering, there are still a few spots left for next fall.

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Nick Pinizzotto blogs at www.WhitetailWriter.com. He is the Chief Operating Officer of Delta Waterfowl. The Western Pennsylvania native currently resides in North Dakota, where his passion for the outdoors is put to good use on a daily basis.

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Wild Game – The Ultimate Organic Food Source

By Nick Pinizzotto
AHT Contributor

I was having a conversation with a co-worker recently about why we hunt and it was interesting that both of us had one of the same top reasons, which is for truly organic food.

Within hours of being shot, these fine mallards were processed and in my freezer.

Within hours of being shot, these fine mallards were processed and in my freezer.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the only reason I hunt is to put meat on the table. In fact, I’m toying with the idea of getting more into predator hunting because there is an overabundance of predators and they have a profound impact on game that we eat as humans. What I am saying is if I didn’t eat the wild game that I shoot, I likely wouldn’t hunt. That may surprise many of you, but rest assured that I am the furthest thing from killer, which I define as someone who hunts for the sake of the thrill of the kill.

Vacuum packing ensures the meat will stay fresh for several months, although I doubt these mallard breasts will be waiting long.

Vacuum packing ensures the meat will stay fresh for several months, although I doubt these mallard breasts will be waiting long.

Just prior to moving to North Dakota, I had come pretty close to eliminating any meat from my diet that wasn’t wild game. I admit that I occasionally had a weakness for a pile of hot wings and a stadium hotdog, but for the most part I only ate what I shot. When we relocated to North Dakota last spring, I had to give my remaining meat away leaving me with nothing in the freezer for our first few months here. While this didn’t impact Angela as she is a devout vegetarian, it had a definite effect on me because for the first time in a long time I was eating store-bought meat products. While often tasty and juicy, I never felt quite the same after eating commercial meats and there was something about the richness of the various cuts of beef, pork, and chicken that just didn’t seem right.

I was elated when hunting season finally came around this year and I was able to begin refilling the freezer. After a pretty successful fall, the freezer is now full of a variety of duck species, geese, and the whitetail buck that I shot in early November.

My whitetail buck was quartered and partially processed in the field before final cutting and wrapping. This is a necessary practice if you hunt far from road access in the wilds of North Dakota.

My whitetail buck was quartered and partially processed in the field before final cutting and wrapping. This is a necessary practice if you hunt far from road access in the wilds of North Dakota.

I really appreciate knowing exactly where these animals came from, and there is something special about having a hand in processing all of them. The same cannot be said for commercially packaged meats, particularly those that are purchased at large chains and big box stores. Please don’t get me wrong. This is not a rant about not eating meat from commercial sources. In fact, I encourage everyone to purchase meat products as close to the farm as possible, and directly from local farmers where possible. Farms that allow their stock to grow naturally and practice grazing as a primary way to feed are preferred to those that overfeed and under-exercise their animals. There are a number of good documentaries on factory farms and processed foods that I encourage you to check out in order to help inform your opinion.

There is plenty of wild game in my freezer for the coming year.

There is plenty of wild game in my freezer for the coming year.

There is a lot of quality information out there about the differences between wild game and domestic meats, and I found a very balanced report prepared by the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension that is worth reading. You might be surprised to learn that there isn’t a huge difference between protein and fat content of wild and domestic meats, but this varies widely among species as described in the chart below. The real difference is in the lifestyles of the animals while they are still alive, and how they are handled from death through the butchering and packaging process. It’s a big enough difference for me to choose wild game over commercially processed meats at least 90% of the time.

I’ll conclude this article by sharing the interesting story of author Tovar Cerulli with you. Mr. Cerulli turned vegetarian and eventually vegan in his early 20s, only to later decide to take up hunting as a way to feed himself and his family better. Cerulli states on his website: Over the past three years, my blog has brought omnivores, vegetarians, hunters, and non-hunters into dialogue with one another. It is a place for celebrating all the ways we are sustained by the larger-than-human natural world. A place for asking questions. A place for not being too sure any of us has all the answers. A place for listening, learning, and laughing, especially at ourselves, peculiar animals that we are.

I became acquainted with Cerulli through Twitter, and have been intrigued by his perspective ever since.

I’m blessed with the ability to obtain my own meat through hunting and a wife that works hard to fill our refrigerator and shelves with organic foods. Granted, I could get crushed under a giant piece of falling space junk tomorrow and it wouldn’t matter, but I think it’s worth my time to eat as healthy as possible in anticipation of many years ahead.

While there are many reasons that I hunt, being able to put healthy meats on the table combined with the humane nature of harvesting it through hunting make me proud of the lifestyle I’ve chosen.

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Nick Pinizzotto blogs at www.WhitetailWriter.com. He is the Chief Operating Officer of Delta Waterfowl. The Western Pennsylvania native currently resides in North Dakota, where his passion for the outdoors is put to good use on a daily basis.