Well I found myself back in Illinois for 2006 chasing the monster whitetails that this state is noted for. After bagging a 190 class B&C twelve pointer last year, I knew it was going to be a hard act to follow, if not down right impossible. My hunting partner would be my nephew, that die hard hunting machine, the illustrious Dr. Captain Lou. What I didn’t know was that not once but twice, I would be bitten by Murphy and end up with an unexpected deer.
We were set up for an eight day hunt, known as the COMBO hunt. This entails eight full days of hunting. Five days archery and three days Muzzle Loader. Let me tell you, if you don’t absolutely LOVE hunting, this is NOT the kind of hunting trip for you! We were up every day at 3:00 AM, we would be dressed, have a light breakfast of cereal or sweet rolls, and in the truck by 4:00 AM. That’s right….God 4:00 AM and delivered at our hunting spot and in our tree stands at the latest by 5:30 AM…everyday. Do you know how hard it is to sit still all day for 12 hours on a two foot by two foot platform? Now try doing that for eight days straight… Man I got to tell you though, I saw some beautiful sunrise’s ands sunsets. I figure the good Lord only gives you so many of these and it helps to take a good look at them every now and then.
The first three days of the archery season we hunted a special place we nick named the Sanctuary. We have seen some monster bucks on this tract of land and knew that there was a world class six pointer that would score over 160 B&C and few of his buddies in the 150 class range. But after three days of hard hunting in the Sanctuary I did not get a shot. At the end of the third day it started to rain big time. and we had a tremendous downpour that lasted until the next afternoon. It promptly flooded the creek around the Sanctuary, and when we normally hunted this spot we needed a row boat to get across a small creek. Well the water was so high that it was over 100 yards away from where we had the boat tied up; it was going to be at least two days before we would be able to get back in. Little did I know by that time I would have all ready taken my two bucks by then.
In the late afternoon of the fourth day of the hunt, we decided to go out hunting just for a couple of hours. It was still raining a bit but the urge to hunt was too strong to just sit around the camp. We were staying in a separate house across from the main lodge, thank god for small favors, because let’s just say there is not a lot of room for two hunters in one small room in the lodge. Besides Captain Lou and I, we were hunting with our good friends, a father and son deer hunting tag team by the name of Dennis & Matt. Dennis had this damn new hand held computer that showed the weather front moving out of the area, so with the latest weather report, from the newest gadget in the market, off we went in the wet wild blue yonder.
For this short trip Dennis and I would be hunting together in a food plot about 150 yards apart, and Louie and Matt were going up in climbers. Well Dennis and I reached the field where we would be hunting; I found my tree stand literally carved out inside this 25 foot hemlock tree. It was a ladder stand that had seen better days, and the tree was almost completely grown in around the stand. Now you got to remember it is still raining pretty hard and the wind is picking up. After I make my way into the stand, I tried to get settled in. It’s so tight that I can’t hook up my safety harness to the tree. I tried hooking up my tree umbrella but the rain was coming at me horizontally. I looked down and there is a puddle of water on the seat, so it means I will be standing for the next couple of hours. I thought to myself what the hell am I doing out here, I pulled out my cell phone and called Dennis who was in another tree stand down wind form me about 150 yards away. I said are we having fun yet, we have done some pretty stupid things in our time, but this takes the cake. He just laughed and said talk to you later.
Well the rain was smacking me in the face, I couldn’t sit down so I put my vest on the seat to try and soak up the water, that didn’t work either, my glasses had rain drops across them so I had to take them off. I think I laid them on my vest, not sure, but I never seen them again for the rest of my hunt. I think when I went to try and sit down on my water soaked vest they we there, but then it was in the way so I threw it to the bottom of the tree stand, yep the glasses went with the vest. Now as Murphy would have it my cell phone starts ringing, it’s Dennis, he’s telling me there is a nice Buck coming across the field just to my right, look as I may through the mist and rain I don’t see the buck. I call him back and say are you on drugs where do you see the buck, he says which way you are facing, I said north, he says then look left and poof there he is. I immediately go for my binos with the built in laser range finder, all I see is water dots. Ahhh but the laser is till working, I hit the button at the blurry image of the moving deer and it reads 49 yards, hmmm pretty far but the nice eight point is in a wide open field. The bucks starts very slowly feeding quartering away from me, I pick up the laser binos again and now he is 52 yards and moving, I have been practicing all month with my new Mathews Switchback at 50 yards and have a 50 yard pin so I give it the shot. The shot feels good and the buck takes off to the edge of the field about twenty yards away with his tail down.
To make a long story short, he took the arrow just above his left hind quarter and it penetrated straight up into his body almost thirty inches, right up to the feathers, straight up into his heart and lungs. He dropped stone dead in less than thirty yards. He would be a great deer back in PA but only marginal for a trophy class whitetail in Illinois. It’s still the largest Whitetail I ever took with the bow, and at a lasered 58 yards, in the rain, and the mist, he will always be a trophy to me and will grace my trophy room in the future.
Now comes the second deer of my trip. As I said we couldn’t get back onto the Sanctuary because of the rain swollen creek. So our owner and guide decided to let us hunt a property call Buzzards Roost. This special property was never hunted in firearms season before, and we were warned it is a minimal 140 class B&C area or better.
It was the first day of the three day shotgun and muzzle loader season and I was put in a tree stand between two clover fields. I was in a 25 foot tree in the hedge row of the two fields , one to my front, and one to my back. Well let me tell what a procession of deer I saw the first day. I saw over 35 doe and fourteen different bucks. There were wide ones, thin ones, fat ones, skinny ones. There were high racks, low racks, broken racks and freaky racks. But none came close to the magic 140 class B&C or better I was allowed to shoot. I was literally exhausted from checking out so many deer, I couldn’t even move, I was afraid to move around to much because they were always all around me. I just knew I was going to see something special the next day.
The second day dawned crisp and cold at around 32 degrees. At daylight it started off with an eight point I called in with my new Buck Growl call from over 200 yards away. Then a hot doe came in the field followed by another decent eight pointer. Then a bigger buck dashed across mid field, man it was hopping and it wasn’t even 7:30 AM yet. Then it happened…. Out of the corner of my eye, way down to the left at about 200 yards away, I see this deer moving quickly to my right with his nose to the ground like a hound dog. And ohhhh yes I can see his rack with the naked eye. When I get the binos up he literally takes my breath away, he is high, big and wide, with very long G1 & G2’s and if I am not mistaken, it looks like a drop time on his left hand side. All of a sudden a hot doe comes dashing by, the obvious desire of his attention., and he and she are off to the races. Now at the right hand corner of the field there is about a 50 yard opening, it looks like high sugar cane on either side of this opening. Here is where Mr. Booner decides to play hide and seek with his hot doe. They run in circles, he chases her over the edge between the cane, she comes back, he chases again. I watch this scenario for almost 45 minutes, the tension building more and more. I know I have to make a decision sooner or later, and if and when I am going to shoot.
I am using a new Savage ML-II using regular smokeless gunpowder. This baby shoots a 250 grain bullet at over 2500 feet per second. I am sighted in 2.5 inches high at 100 yards that means my bullet will only drop three inches at 200 yards. Now I have to tell you, I have literally hundreds and hundreds of shots through this rifle the past year developing loads for an occasion such as this. I have a gun rest screwed into the tree with my rifle set up as solid as a bench, and I know I can make the shot. Wild thoughts run through my mind, and for a second I thought man…for the second year in a row, I am going to tag a Booner… yeah right.
The hot doe is about 30 yards in from of the massive buck, when all of a sudden he turns tail and disappears over the edge, where the hell did he go? He comes back into the field, starts towards the doe and again jumps back toward the edge, what the heck is he possibly doing, and again he’s gone. After ten minutes my heart begins to sink, thinking I blew my chance at such a magnificent buck, why didn’t I shoot when I had the chance. I lasered the range at just shy of 220 yards from my tree stand with an open shot. The doe starts walking away and I figure, man I blew it. I started getting that feeling deep in the pit of my stomach that I screwed up and waited to long, if he sticks his head out just one more time, I will take the shot. I have the rifle up and am scanning the open area one more time before the doe disappears, then all of a sudden I see the high rack coming out of the cane, he is moving fast into the field, I am on his shoulder, holding slightly high, as he hits the opening he stops briefly….I concentrate on his shoulder and squeeze the trigger…. BOOM…. He rears back on his hind legs and makes a mad dash right toward my tree stand and falls dead less than 100 yards away, as I come out of recoil I see another deer in the scope…. No… No…No…it can’t be… it’s the Booner…. I rub my eyes and look again…How could that possibly be… if the Booner is still there what buck did I shoot ?… you got it….it was the wrong buck. It was the nine point you see in my picture. You see when the Booner was disappearing over the edge he was chasing the nine point away from his doe, I never saw the other buck until he made his appearance in the field instead of the Booner. Every time I think of this incident I am haunted of the mistake that I made. Even though my nine pointer was a legal deer in Illinois, it was an inferior deer for the area I was hunting. I had a second chance to collect a magnificent Booner and blew it by being to anxious at the wrong moment. Not once but twice I got a surprise buck this year. Yeah old Murphy was having a field day at my expense.
Well I guess that’s why they call it hunting and not shooting. I will have both my bucks from this
year mounted. The first one, I couldn’t really get a good look at in the rain and mist without my glasses, but he still is the biggest buck I ever took with the bow. And the nine point to remind me every time I look at him, that I was to anxious and should have waited even longer to make sure it was Mr. Booner.
Such is life, and consider it a hard lesson learned, hopefully never repeated. The good lord willing I will be chasing these magnificent animals again next hunting season, and this time it’s going to a 150 class or better. And I am telling Murphy to stay the hell home where he belongs..:)