Sixteen-year-old Kody Bukoski understands the value of hard work and setting high goals. In the spring of 2022, he planned to raise money for a Whitetail hunt out West. Along with the cost of the hunt, Kody needed cash for a new rifle scope. He was determined to make the money before the summer ended.
Kody worked two jobs while attending high school and still making time for extracurricular activities. He worked at Mr. Shiver’s Ice Cream Stand and Laidlaw Forestry. His schedule was busy, yet he found time to balance work, play volleyball and shoot on the trap team.
Working hard to reach his goals, Kody decided to have a bake sale. With help from his mother, he sold over 30 dozen cookies and gobs. Kody made, baked, decorated and delivered all the treats people ordered.
Before the end of August, Kody reached his goals. He paid for his trip and had the money for a new scope. He and his mother, Stacy, went to Sportsman’s Warehouse, where he purchased a Vortex Crossfire 4x16x24 scope and spent the following days sighting in his Ruger 6.5 Creedmoor. He was elated that he was ready for his trip to South Dakota and that he could start focusing on the Pennsylvania archery season.
Passing Time in PA
Kody was busy in the fall with school and cross country. He found time in September to hang a treestand on his property and set up a Spypoint Link Micro trail camera. He practiced shooting his Diamond Infinity Edge compound bow, hoping to fill his Pennsylvania archery tag before heading to South Dakota.
After one long October school day, Kody headed home to spend the evening in his treestand. The wind was perfect for his stand location near a cut clover field. He got there, climbed the ladder, pulled his bow up and set up for a relaxing hunt. The magic hour was approaching, and he heard something behind him. Two mature does walked down the trail, passed his treestand and headed into the clover field. Kody watched the deer feed, then saw two more deer enter the clover. The two deer began walking toward each other and then started fighting. Kody looked at his watch and knew time was running out. The two bucks quit fighting, and the bigger one began walking toward him. Looking through his binoculars, he saw the deer was a six-pointer. He grabbed his Diamond bow and hoped the buck would come closer.
Scanning the woods, Kody saw a doe trotting toward him. Directly behind the doe was the six-point. He slowly stood up and waited for the deer to close the distance. The doe continued on a path that would bring her less than 15 yards from his stand. Kody watched the doe stop momentarily; the six-point was not far behind. Heart pounding and legs shaking, Kody drew his bow and waited for the buck to enter the opening. The doe was a natural decoy and he waited for the six-point to get near her. Kody found the buck in his peep and floated the pin on his vitals. Squeezing his release, he watched the blue GloryNock disappear through the deer.
The buck kicked wildly and bolted. Kody watched the deer stumble and fall 50 yards away. He grabbed his phone and called his mom to tell her the fantastic news. Stacy congratulated him and asked if he needed any help. He said he would be fine taking care of the deer and getting it back to the house. He sat in his treestand and shook with excitement. He had just killed his first buck with a compound bow. Kody soaked in the moment and then realized he still had a trip to South Dakota coming up the following month. He worked the entire evening taking care of his deer so it could be processed. That night, he fell asleep replaying the hunt in his mind.
Go West, Young Man!
Kody woke up early on the morning of November 10. His Uncle Ashley arrived to pick him up for the drive to South Dakota. Kody climbed into the truck and sat next to his cousin Austin. They entertained themselves on the drive talking about the bucks they hoped to kill. Each boy had a tag that allowed them to shoot a mule deer or Whitetail deer.
After what seemed like the longest trip of Kody’s life, they finally arrived at camp. He was surprised when he saw his Grandpa Wayne was also at the camp. Grandpa Wayne lived in Montana and drove down to help the boys on their hunts. Even though Kody was tired and needed to sleep, he was excited to see his grandfather.
November 11 was devoted to scouting the property. Kody and Austin sat on a bluff and watched tons of deer funnel out of the woods into the open fields. The boys were mesmerized by the number of mature bucks they saw, but they wondered how they would get close enough for a shot. Uncle Ashley knew the property well and promised the boys that they would be able to get close enough for an ethical shot. At dinner, Uncle Ashley explained the game plan for the following day. The boys paid close attention as they ate their food. They couldn’t wait for morning and a chance to fill their tags. They headed to bed and found it difficult to sleep.
November 12 was the opening day of South Dakota’s rifle season. Everyone in camp was up early and ready to hunt. Uncle Ashley took Austin to his spot, and Grandpa Wayne took Kody to his. Kody and Grandpa Wayne saw plenty of deer, but there was nothing he wanted to shoot. As Grandpa Wayne and Kody returned to camp, they heard a shot and hoped that Austin had connected on a big buck.
Grandpa Wayne and Kody ate lunch and waited for Uncle Ashley and Austin to return to camp. Finally, the camp door opened. When Kody saw Austin’s face, he knew Austin had filled his tag. Austin sat at the table and told the story of his hunt. He was excited to show them the large mule deer he had shot. All helped Austin bring his deer back to camp, and they all had fresh mule deer backstraps for dinner.
The next day, Kody hunted hard with Uncle Ashley, though they never fired a shot. Again, they saw tons of deer, but the big bucks never showed. Kody returned to camp hungry and tired, hoping he would have better luck tomorrow.
When tomorrow came, Kody’s alarm went off and he quickly jumped out of bed. Uncle Ashley was already up eating breakfast. They ate quickly then got dressed. Austin decided to come with Kody, hoping to bring him luck. The group walked to the highest hill on the property and set up for the morning. The high vantage point allowed them to see a long way. After watching the sunrise, Austin saw three deer on the neighboring property. Uncle Ashley glassed the deer and told Kody that one of them was a giant Whitetail. The three of them watched the deer, hoping they would come over to their property.
Sitting motionless on the hill, Kody watched the buck push two does toward the property fence line. All three deer jumped the fence and headed into a draw that Uncle Ashley knew well. Uncle Ashley told Kody to get ready for a spot-and-stalk hunt. He listened to his uncle’s directions before they headed to the spot Uncle Ashley described. Kody and Austin snuck along the fence line until they reached an abandoned house and waited at the home for Uncle Ashley to arrive. They hoped he would push the buck past them. Uncle Ashley came, but the deer had yet to appear. It was now time for plan B!
Uncle Ashley told Austin to stay at the house while he and Kody went above the draw. Kody’s heart raced as he followed Uncle Ashley to the top of the hill. The buck jumped up and ran down the slope as Kody sat down. Uncle Ashley was able to stop the deer at 200 yards. Kody found the deer in his crosshairs and slowly pulled the trigger.
The 6.5 Creedmoor barked, and Kody heard the bullet hit the deer. Uncle Ashley told him to chamber another shell and shoot again. The buck fell over just as he was getting ready to squeeze the trigger. Uncle Ashley radioed Austin and told him to walk through the draw and to meet them at Kody’s buck.
Kody was speechless when he saw the 10-point buck. Austin walked up the draw and joined the celebration. They radioed camp for help, and soon Grandpa Wayne arrived. The team of four worked together to get the big-bodied buck back to camp. Kody’s hunt had been a huge success.
Not Done Yet
On the drive home from South Dakota, Kody reflected on his success in Pennsylvania and South Dakota. He was in disbelief at how his hunting events had unfolded and that he had harvested two terrific bucks. He was a tiny bit sad that his hunting season was over and it was only mid-November.
Kody returned to Pennsylvania on November 17 with an exciting story to tell his family. Then his mother told him that Dr. Bell, a family friend, had called to see if Kody wanted to hunt on his New York farm for the opening day of the gun season. Kody couldn’t believe his luck! After a short conversation with Dr. Bell, he ran into the living room to tell his family he would be hunting in New York on November 19.
On that Saturday, Dr. Bell arrived early to pick up Kody. Dr. Bell’s friend, Mark Stanley, greeted Kody and explained they would be hunting together. He was excited and couldn’t wait to get to the farm. Cold temperatures and deep snow greeted Kody as he opened the truck door. The 10 inches of snow made walking to the elevated blind tough, and Mark led the way to an area that overlooked a bean field. They both climbed into the blind and waited for the sun to come up.
The fresh snow and cold temperatures had Kody on high alert. He figured deer would come to the bean field to eat, but he didn’t see any deer. They sat in the blind until 10:30 a.m. before deciding to get lunch. When the pair returned to the truck, Kody was starving and excited to eat at the local McDonald’s.
After warming up and filling their stomachs, they returned to the farm. Dr. Bell was waiting for them to hear about the morning hunt. He suggested another elevated shooting house overlooking another bean field on the far end of the farm. Mark and Kody grabbed their gear and began trudging through the deep snow. They were almost to the elevated shooting house when they looked into the bean field and saw 20 deer already feeding in the beans. They cautiously climbed into the shooting house. The duo was amazed that the deer didn’t spook.
Mark loaded his Remington 7mm and told Kody to watch the south end of the field. Time seemed to pass quickly and more deer entered the field. Mark reached for his gun as he watched a mature buck sneak into the north end of the field. Kody watched as Mark fired a shot and anchored the buck.
As they celebrated the great shot, Kody saw another mature buck enter the field. Mark handed Kody his 7mm and told him to shoot before the deer spooked. The deer was standing broadside, 15 yards away. He shouldered the gun, found the buck’s vitals and slowly squeezed the trigger. Boom! The shot echoed through the valley and the deer dropped. They left the shooting house and walked to their bucks. Standing in the snow, Kody stood in awe of the wide eight-point. The buck’s body was massive!
Light snow began to fall, and it hit him that he had killed three bucks, in three different states, in less than a month. All of his hard work brought had him to this moment. Kody believed that he had just experienced his best hunting season ever!