Big Buck Contest brings business to Whitetail Crossing with chance for cash

By Tim Wohlers

In an attempt to increase sales at the end of autumn, the five Whitetail Crossing Convenience Stores operated by the Ho-Chunk Nation held their first-ever Big Buck Contest throughout the state of Wisconsin.  The contest took place from Oct. 21 to Dec. 21 and aimed to attract new customers.   
“The whole idea of this contest was to bring customers in the door and increase sales,” said marketing rep Ken Lewis.  “December is kind of a slow month for convenience stores.  And November is somewhat slow, too.  So we were trying to time it (right).”   
To enter the contest, hunters had to bring their bucks to one of the five Whitetail Crossing locations and register.  They could not simply send in pictures of their stags. 
“We wanted them to actually stop in with their deer,” Lewis said.  “It’s one way we can get them to interact with the store.” 
Those who came up with the idea hoped that, once inside, hunters would purchase items from Whitetail while registering their bucks for the contest. 
“We want hunters to come in and gas up,” Lewis said, “and buy their food or whatever they might need at our stores.” 
After being brought to the store, the bucks were photographed by staff on site so that they could be judged at a later date.  The format allowed judges to compare the bucks, side by side, at the end of the competition. 
“It’s a photo-judged contest,” Lewis said.  “And we have them sign a waiver to use their picture.” 
The pictures were then posted on social media, where hunting enthusiasts could share the posts with friends and family.  By doing so, those users would also be sharing a link to Whitetail’s social-media page. 
“We try to use social media,” Lewis said, “because it’s free and reaches a lot people.”  
Judging of the contest focused mainly on size and character.  But other factors such as antler characteristics were also taken into consideration. 
“(The bucks) were judged on character and visual size,” Lewis said.  “That’s mostly what they were judged on.” 
Based on those criteria, an overall winner was selected out of everyone who entered the contest.  Judges then separated the remaining hunters by the location at which they registered and voted on a winner for each of the stores. 
“We had an overall winner,” Lewis said.  “And each store had an individual winner.” 
The overall winner, Wisconsin Rapids resident Rose Ann Crowns received the grand prize of $400.  And at age 73, Crowns proved that you’re never too old to compete in anything. 
“There was no age limit,” Lewis said.  “They just had to be a lawful hunter and have a license.” 
Individual store winners included Corey Loosen (Nekoosa), Nick Coplien (Black River Falls), Kevin Funmaker (Baraboo), and Kurt Opper (Wittenberg).  Each of them took home big bucks, and an award of $200. 
“I wish I was able to enter the contest,” said GIS specialist and contest judge Nik Anderson.  “I wasn’t even luck enough to shoot a buck this year.” 
With only 15 total entries, however, judges said the participation level did not meet expectations.  In fact, the Tomah store failed to receive a single entry. 
“We didn’t get as many entries as we expected,” Lewis said.  “But we’re looking to work on what we learned from it and get more participation next year.” 
At the end of their meeting, judges agreed that promotion of the event could have been better.  So one of the ways they plan to increase participation for next year is through greater advertising. 
“I think it’ll be better next year,” Anderson said, “(because) more advertising will be out there.” 
And bigger bucks may be there for the taking.  Hence, hunters are advised to bring their A game.