Firearm division winners share unique stories

Firearm division winner Jerald Higgins tells his story.

BIG RAPIDS — Skill obviously is involved in being a successful buck hunter.

But most any hunter will also tell you a certain amount of luck is involved.

This was the message from two finishers in the firearm division of the 2018 Big Buck Classic.

They were both honored at the Pioneer Group’s 2019 Sportsman’s Dinner on Monday at the Ferris State University Center.

Jerald Higgins, 78, of West Olive, who has relatives in the area, shot his first-place deer, an 11-point buck with 19 3/4-inch rack span, on Nov. 15 at 8:45 a.m.

He used one shot from his Remington .257 to bag the buck in the Big Rapids area.

Higgins used a muzzle loader with scope, donated by Dr. John Bailey of Bailey Chiropractic.

Brian Wolak took second place with a 10-point buck, which had a 19 1/2-inch rack span. He bagged his buck on Nov. 24, just before dark at 5:38 p.m. in the Paris area, and used one shot from his .243. Wolak won a $100 gift certificate for food plot seed donated by Big Rapids Farm & Garden.

In a previous interview, “this deer hit (a family member’s) pickup about eight weeks ago, they think so,” Higgins said. “It punched a hole in his windshield and bent the door, and trotted alongside him and went back in the woods.”

Higgins shot the buck around 8:45 a.m. He had been out at the spot more than two hours.

“I thought I saw another deer earlier,” he said. “It was only just movement. It went behind trees and was gone. That was after daylight. This one came back and was down the ridge a little way from me. There was another deer with him. I was thinking it was a 4-point.”

Higgins, at the dinner, told the audience what happened after he made his shot.

“I thought I missed him,” Higgins said. “He took off 100 miles an hour. I went down and looked for blood.”

Higgins walked in the direction the deer had ran and found him.

It was the first one he shot since 1999 when he bagged one near Woodville.

Wolak was hunting with his daughter and recalls seeing four or six deer go by

“We were watching the clock as it was getting dark,” Wolak said to the audience. “The deer responded to a grunt call. I borrowed her gun and put a good shot on it. I didn’t see any blood or hair. It was 50 yards away.

“It was one of the biggest ones I’ve shot,” Wolak said, in a previous interview. “For me in Michigan, it’s definitely the biggest. There’s one in Montana that was bigger.”

Wolak said he “kind of” knew the buck was out there prior to his hunt.

“We saw it on trail camera,” he said.



Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at

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