Wanna step outside? Karen Nielsen makes history at 2023 Dixie Deer Classic
Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 12, 2023
By Dan Kibler
The king of deer hunting in North Carolina this past season was, well, not a king, but a queen — a 57-year-old grandmother from Burlington.
Karen Nielsen was crowned as hunting royalty recently at the Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh, thanks to a huge whitetail buck she killed last Nov. 5 in Alamance County.
Nielsen’s huge 10-point buck was voted as Best in Show by members of the sponsoring Wake County Wildlife Club, the first woman to be so honored in the 42-year history of the huge outdoor show, which now occupies three buildings on the N.C. State Fairgrounds.
In addition, the buck scored 170 4/8 points, enough to earn entrance into the Boone & Crockett Club’s all-time record book — again, the first North Carolina woman to be so honored — and the buck, the biggest ever killed by a woman in North Carolina, was ⅛-inch short of tying the record for the biggest North Carolina buck ever killed with a blackpowder weapon.
But when she squeezed the trigger of her .50-caliber CVS Wolf muzzleloader, she thought she was shooting at a big 8-pointer, not the 10-point king of the forest where she was hunting.
“We did have him on (trail) cameras a couple of times, more in the evening, late, and our neighbors had seen him,” Nielsen said. “We had some other nice bucks on camera, too.”
When the buck raised its head from behind a log, 30 yards from her stand, Nielsen looked through the scope on her muzzleloader and decided this was a big 8-pointer she knew about. It wasn’t until long after she’d pulled the trigger that she realized exactly what she’d killed.
Her stand was in a spot with scattered oak trees, along a creek with a swampy bottom, complete with a pile of corn and peanuts. She had been the host at a sleepover for her nine grandkids — she watches them all while their parents work — and was raring to go the day after, even if it appeared to be an awful day for hunting.
“It was one of those yucky 80-degree days we had,” she said. “Where I was sitting, two days earlier I had heard a deer stop and make some noise, and I thought it was a doe. The deer came back that day, doing the same thing. I saw the deer come out from behind some brush, and there was a log — I couldn’t see its head behind the log. Then, after he lifted up his head, I thought it was a good 8-pointer.
“I looked through the scope, I moved the crosshairs back behind the shoulder, and I got my breathing settled down. I was thinking about what my boys tell me all the time.”
With the deer broadside, she let fly, and after the smoke had cleared, Nielsen saw the buck head off to her right, stumble, then head out of sight.
It was about 6 p.m. when she shot, and she stayed in her tree stand for about 40 minutes. When she came down, she had a regular menagerie of grown children and grandchildren on site to help her look.
“There was no blood,” Nielsen said, “and I began to think I’d blown it.”
But 20 minutes later, with her relatives spread throughout the woods, she heard a son and granddaughter sing out at the same time that they’d found her buck, shot through the heart and quite dead.
But it was not just a “good” 8-pointer, but a 185-pound buck with a monstrous, 5×5 typical rack that had only 4+ inches of deductions from a gross score of 175 – with 170 being the Boone & Crockett Club qualifying score.
Nielsen’s buck was ⅛-inch smaller than a huge, 10-point Rockingham County trophy killed in 1987 by the late Lindsey Watkins, a buck that has held the No. 1 spot among deer killed in North Carolina with a blackpowder weapon.
Nielsen’s was not the only big buck that showed up in Raleigh. Perry Bagley of Winterville — a suburb of Greenville — killed an enormous non-typical buck in Saskatchewan, Canada, last fall that scored 223 6/8 inches. It won a category in the DDC’s big-buck contest, as did a fantastic, 170⅝-inch Orange County non-typical taken with a bow by Mickey Wilson, and an even bigger, 185 4/8-inch non-typical taken in Caswell County by Preston Allred.
Other category winners included:
• Best N.C. typical by gun: Alan Mashburn, Lee County, 162⅞;
• Best N.C. typical by female, gun: Laura Tucker, Warren County, 134 4/8;
• Best N.C. typical by muzzleloader: Lance Hamby, Stokes County, 152 2/8;
• Best N.C. typical by bow: Joe Willard, Rockingham County, 152 4/8;
• Best N.C. typical by gun, youth: Brock Cable, Guilford County, 145 6/8;
• Best N.C. typical by crossbow, youth: Austin Mangum, Granville County, 146-0;
• Best N.C. typical by crossbow, female: Kayla Pendergraft, Orange County, 137⅜;
• Best N.C. typical by bow, female: Brianna Henderson, Person County, 137-0;
• Best N.C. typical by crossbow: Dan Glosson, Person County, 152-0;
• Best N.C. typical by muzzleloader, youth: Brett Jenkins, Ashe County, 138⅛;
• Best N.C. typical by crossbow, female youth: Elleigh Grandstaff, Avery County, 138⅞;
• Best N.C. non-hunting: Travis Brewer, Guilford County, 191⅛ (non-typical);
• Best N.C. typical by muzzleloader, female: Karen Nielsen, Alamance County, 174 4/8;
• Best Virginia typical by gun: Tim Leary, Northampton County, 142 6/8;
• Best Virginia typical by muzzleloader: Steven Helms, Franklin County, 154⅛;
• Best Virginia typical by crossbow: Bradley Baker, Brunswick County, 146 2/8;
• Best Virginia typical by bow: Chris Dorman, Brunswick County, 127 2/8;
• Best Virginia typical by muzzleloader, youth: Dylan Johnston, Henry County, 131 2/8;
• Best Non N.C./Virginia by gun: Perry Bagley, Saskatchewan, Canada, 223 6/8 (non-typical).