Columbia junior wins Big Buck contest


By John Hummer 
Exponent staff writer

In these days of texting and gaming among school age kids, anything that encourages them to get outside, get some fresh air, and experience nature is a win-win situation.

That was Columbia School District parent Steven Tackett’s thoughts when he came up with the inaugural Columbia Central High School Big Buck contest. But that wasn’t his only motivation behind it.

“We have a lot of kids in the community who don’t play the high school organized sports, but do participate in a lot of outdoor sports,” he said. “So we came up with the idea of having a Big Buck contest for the high school kids.”

Tackett asked friend, avid hunter, and fellow CCHS parent Terrell Daniels to help him organize the contest.

“The really cool thing is CCHS principal Dan Hyliard was open-minded about it and understood the conservation piece and the community we live in, which is a large farming community where a lot of people do hunt,” he said. “I thought that was really cool for him to support it. That meant a lot to us.”

Tackett, knowing high school science teacher Mike Dickens was an avid hunter as well, asked him to be the teacher-administrator of the contest, take in hunter information, and post information in his classroom.

The contest took place in the normal archery and firearm seasons – not the youth season – to make it equal across the board. It was based on the biggest rack and number of points. If there was a tie with number of points, then they would go by the heaviest weight of the buck.

And the winner is…

The first winner of what is hoped to be an annual Big Buck contest for CCHS students was junior Hailey Dickens, Mike Dickens’ daughter. The buck she harvested had an 11-point rack and weighed in at 176 pounds. She used a 12 gauge shotgun to bring it down on her uncle’s property in Parma.

It was late morning, around 10 on opening day and Hailey was probably a little bored with the hunting experience that day.

“I was just sitting there on my phone helping to make a group video when the deer came running out of nowhere,” she said. “I was so surprised. It ran about 50 yards, then stopped and started walking toward me. When it was about 35 yards away, I shot it.“

The contest had four other entrants. Each entrant had to take their buck to Knutson’s Sporting Goods and have it weighed.

“She shot it early so everyone was intimidated,” Hailey’s dad, Mike, said.

Hailey has been hunting for five years and has now harvested five bucks in that span of time.

“I just pack her up and throw her in my backpack whenever I want to see deer,” Mike said jokingly.

“Year in and year out I think she takes the biggest deer,” said Tackett. “She’s established a reputation in the school of being ‘the deer slayer’,” he added, jokingly as well.

It wasn’t her first one of the season, though. She also downed an 8-point buck with her bow.

“For the first time doing this and starting to get kids involved, I thought it was fantastic,” Tackett said. “We hope next year to be able to do it again and maybe increase our purse.”

Wanted: your hunting and fishing pictures for The Exponent.  Do you have a cool outdoors picture of a big fish you caught or deer you took to share with our readers? Send it to, along with a brief explanation of who took the photo along with where it was taken and your contact information. We are looking for outdoors photos of all kinds to share on Jackson County as well as in The Exponent.

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