Early on the morning of October 11, while hunting in a newly positioned Bear River treestand on my Illinois property, I spotted a tall-tined buck to the west of me, about 60 yards away. The path he was taking would bring him directly to me, broadside, at roughly 15 yards. The wind was right, and I was wearing my Scent-Lok, Mossy Oak Break-Up suit. But he stopped at 35 yards with no clear shot opportunity. He didn’t know I was there, yet he turned and walked away, passing under my other empty stand. I was in awe of this deer; he appeared to be an 8-pointer, but the antlers were so large they didn’t seem real. It was the first time this year I was bowhunting—and now I was unable to think about hunting any other deer.
I hunted the edges of these woods for the next few weeks, mornings and afternoons. I was afraid to enter too close to his bedding area, so I waited until it was closer to the rut to hunt him hard. I had opportunities to shoot other Pope and Young Club quality bucks; unfortunately, this big deer made me realize I would not be able to appreciate any smaller buck.
On the morning of October 25, I was in the stand the big deer had previously walked under. At 7:30 a.m., I spotted a doe followed by a big 10-pointer. The doe was coming toward me from the west, and was still about 70 yards away. As they came closer, I noticed movement further behind them. It was the big one and they were all moving my direction, and a north crosswind made my ambush perfect. As luck would have it, at 40 yards, the doe started to head south and take any shot opportunity with her. Now I had seen him twice, just out of reach, but only 20 yards from where I had spotted him the first time. I had been very lucky not to spook him on either of those two encounters.
On November 7, the wind was blowing from the northwest, and it was a cool, clear morning. I walked a half mile out of my way that morning, hoping to avoid any deer feeding in the fields surrounding most of the woods, on my way to the stand in the center of the woods. It was 4:50 a.m., and I was settled in my stand for an all-day hunt. As the sun began to come up over my back, I heard the clashing of antlers to the north of me. It lasted about 10 minutes. It was now 6:50 a.m. and I hadn’t seen any deer, only hundreds of geese flying over head.
Suddenly I spotted a big buck 50 yards away, coming from the southwest. He was slowly working his way toward the direction of the sparring that had happened earlier. If he continued, he would pass by me within 20 yards.
Unexpectedly, he stopped 30 yards in front of me, behind a fallen treetop. I had no shot window! I slowly stood to see if I could find a small hole that I could send an arrow through. Through the fallen tree branches, I could see a window the size of a 5 gallon bucket lid. He stepped into it and began to turn away. I drew my Mathews Outback, focused the top pin on his vitals, and released.
I watched the arrow hit flesh and disappear. He swung around, ran 40 yards and fell.
I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I had seen this deer three times all fall, within a 25-yard circle, and this time I was in the right place to make a shot. He’s a main-frame 8-pointer with a 2-inch drop tine jutting from the end of the left beam, and he scores 173 5/8 Boone and Crockett Club points. I always feel an increased adrenaline rush every time I talk about this deer!