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Le Roy resident became first woman to win steel boar challenge at Pennsylvania festival

By Maria Pericozzi


Melissa Bender, a resident of Le Roy, made history at the Pennsylvania Bowhunters Festival, after competing with an all-male crowd, becoming the first and only woman to win the steel boar challenge.

The festival is held in Forksville in the middle of September, every year since 1957. It is the oldest gathering of bowhunters in the world.

“People come from all over the place to go,” Bender said.

The three-day event offers a variety of shooting activities and events designed to prepare the Bowhunters for the upcoming archery season. The festival features the famous “Forksville Running Deer” target, mechanical bear and turkey targets, pop-up and moving small game targets, a timed clay pigeon shoot, stationary targets set at variable distances, and three game trails designed with all 3-D targets.

The grand prize for the steel boar challenge, was a wild hog hunt, which drew Bender to competing.

“It was really neat because they had never had a girl win it before,” Bender said. “They were super excited for me.”

Bender’s love for archery began after she went hunting with her husband.

“When I was out hunting, I hit a deer,” Bender said. “We tracked it for two days and we never found it.”

Bender decided that she wanted to be a better shooter, so she started with the help of a local archery organization.

“The people down there [at C&C Archery] are so willing to help anyone,” Bender said. “Especially young people in becoming better shots, either in archery, in competitive form, just for shooting, or just in hunting.”

C&C Archery, in Le Roy, has an indoor archery range, with all different kinds of targets. They offer a variety of services and products to help anyone be successful.

“If I hadn’t gone down there to sign up for [archery] leagues, I obviously would have never had the opportunity to win that challenge.”

Bender hopes to continue strengthening her archery skills to become a more ethical hunter.

“I want to have a better shot so that I don’t have to go through what I went through a year ago,” Bender said.

Another good bow season for Batavia's Pietrzykowski brothers


Jake and Jeremy Pietrzykowski came into their own as bow hunters nearly a decade ago when they stopped buying into the philosophy of other hunters and decided to go their own way. Once on their own, success was immediate and consistent. (The photo above shows Jake with son, Gunnar, and Jake's latest bow hunting trophy)

Last Tuesday I arrived home for lunch and found a piece of paper attached to our kitchen door. On it was a brief message from Jake stating that he had taken a nice buck earlier that morning and he had stopped by to show me. He also said Jeremy had taken a good buck 10 days earlier and that he was sorry he missed me.

I was sorry, too -- and I prompty called Jake, making arrangements to get together with him and Jeremy. I not only wanted to see the big whitetails they had taken, I wanted to hear the story behind the hunts.

Two nights later I listened as the brothers related their recent adventures. Sitting on Jeremy's lap is his daughter, Paityn. 

Tuesday, November 13th found Jake in his stand at first light. The day broke cloudy and cold, and it was one of those mornings when it's not snowing per se, but a definite hint of winter was in the air. 

"Every once in a while I'd get hit in the face with a snowflake," Jake said.

But the sound of an approaching deer tends to take one's mind off the cold, particularly when it's a big deer.

"I heard him breaking stuff -- he was snapping stuff as he walked," Jake continued. "The noises he made, you could tell it was a big deer. For the next  minute or so the buck was on the move, covering about 80 yards in that time while periodically stopping to check his surroundings."

Jake waited as the buck drew closer and by 7:55 the buck was within 15 yards, plenty close enough for a shot. The buck's antlers green scored 153 6/8 on the Pope & Young scale, Jake's largest bow kill to date.

Jeremy took his big whitetail on the afternoon of November 1st.

"As soon as I got in my stand I could see him rubbing trees," he said. "He was 200 yards away but I could see his white rack."

Jeremy was fairly certain of where the buck would pass by, but still not sure if he was going to shoot or let the deer walk. Just in case, he used a folding saw to remove a few branches that might interfere with a shot should he decide to take it.

"He was downwind of me for half an hour, eating the leaves off raspberry bushes and that whole time I still didn't think I was going to shoot. Then I was able to see the antler mass and the striations in the main beams. At that point I decided I was going to take him. I sweet talked him with my Tru-talker," said Jeremy, referring to his grunt call.

The buck responded immediately.

"I saw him turn, looking in my direction, but he was looking past me," he continued. "Then his tail flicked. Once that tail flicked I knew it was game on. He walked to within 15 yards." 

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In the low light of approaching dusk it's hard to see Jeremy silhouetted in his tree stand. And while the stand may seem a bit high, the Pietrzykowski brothers have learned that in order to consistently take big bucks, proper stand placement is an important part of getting the job done. So is patience in waiting for the right deer. The brothers let plenty of deer walk past their stands before they see one they like.

As the evening with the Pietrzykowski brothers was drawing to a close, Jake showed me into his garage where he had a collection of framed pictures. Looking at the photos I felt I was seeing a story board of Jake and Jeremy's last eight years in the deer woods. None of the deer in the photos were marginal, all were pictures of Jake and Jeremy with good bucks, sizeable whitetails, a number of which would easily qualify for the NYS Big Buck Club.

But the brothers could care less about records. Plain and simple, their passion is deer hunting, whether it's the archery or firearms season, though both prefer the former.

That's an old Fred Bear recurve mounted on the pegboard just above a photo depicting Jake with a whitetail that field dressed at 206 pounds, a memento from a time when both he and Jeremy tried their hand at traditional archery.    

Here's a quartet of Jeremy's mounts. Not counting this year's buck, he said there are three more at the taxidermist's studio awaiting completion. In addition to bowhunting, in recent years Jeremy has begun running marathons. This year he qualified for the prestigious Boston Marathon, which he plans on running in 2014. 

Until this year, this had been Jake's biggest deer taken with a bow.

This is Jake's biggest all-around, taken during a previous shotgun season.

The Pietrzykowski brothers do enjoy other aspects of nature -- Jake took this photo of a black squirrel...the first I've seen north of Route 20.

It was a pleasant visit with the Pietrzykowski brothers, whether talking about deer hunting or simply shooting the breeze. Though they are only in their 30s -- Jake is 33, Jeremy 34 -- the past eight years has seen them amass a number of good bucks. And judging from the photos and the trophy mounts, it becomes clear they employ a no-nonsense approach in their pursuit and method for consistently taking big whitetails.

Elba teen bags 10-point buck

By Gretel Kauffman

Early Saturday morning, Alexis Aratari surprised herself by killing her first buck -- and then surprised herself further when she discovered that it was a 10-point deer.

"It was really shocking," she says. "My heart was going about a mile a minute."

The feat, which is impressive for anyone of any age, was even more incredible in Alexis's case due to the fact that she has only been hunting for two years.

"It's really rare to have girl hunters, especially teenagers, get that big of a buck," the 16-year-old explains. "So it was really lucky that my first buck was a 10-pointer. It was beginner's luck."

Alexis, who goes out hunting every day during the season, says that she spotted the buck at around 8:30 Saturday morning. When she shot at it with her bow, it dropped right away. Her father, Mike Aratari, who was in a tree on the other side of the field, had seen the buck earlier and hoped that she would get it.

"We both thought it was just a six- or eight-pointer," Alexis said. "When he heard the shot, he yelled for me to stay up in the tree and he looked at it and told me it was a 10-pointer. I couldn't believe it."

"Now he says he has to try to top it," she laughs. "He's been hunting for 20 years, and he's only gotten two 10-pointers."

Hunting is clearly in Alexis's blood. Along with her father, her uncle and aunt also enjoy the pastime.

"All my family is really proud," she says. "We sent them all pictures, and my uncle in Florida has been telling everyone about it."

So what exactly will become of the massive buck?

"We're sending it to get mounted, and we're going to put it up on the wall next to my dad's 10-pointer," she says with a grin.

Batavia Duo Bag Swamp Bucks


Troy Emke and John Lawrence have 32 years of archery hunting between them. Ironically, both arrowed the largest deer of their bow hunting careers little more than 12 hours apart.

Both deer were taken in swampy environs, John taking his big eight point Tuesday evening just before dark. He knew he hit his mark, but rather than track the deer through the swamp after nightfall, he decided to let it lie and wait until morning. Wednesday morning saw Troy in his stand well before shooting light. The 10 point showed up not long afterward, prior to legal shooting time. Troy watched the deer amble around his stand, actually sniffing the hunter's tracks. At sunrise Troy let him have it from a distance of 25 yards and the big buck took off, running maybe 50 yards before he went down with a big splash.

Shortly after sunup this morning, while Troy was field dressing his deer, John located his buck. Like Troy's, John's whitetail was found lying in water. Both deer field dressed at approximately 175 lbs.

Opening Day Success


Joe Lawrence is on a roll. Last year he closed out the deer season with a monster whitetail scoring 144 on the Boone & Crockett scoring system and placing him high in the New York State Big Buck Club’s muzzleloader division. (The Batavian, Dec. 20, 2008 – Father & Son Memories). On Saturday, the opening day of archery season in New York’s southern zone, the elder Lawrence did it again. He began his fortieth bow season by taking another massive whitetail that is all but certain to make the NYS record book. The big buck sported ten points and weighed a whopping 202 lbs. field dressed.

It was late afternoon when the buck appeared, already displaying rutting tendencies by chasing after four does.  “I used a grunt to call to turn him, and he stopped and looked in my direction,” Joe said. “I hit the grunt call again and he came right to me.” He made the shot from a tree stand at a distance of fifteen yards. 

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