Five days after filling my first of two Illinois buck tags, I took a quick trip to the farm to move a stand. Jess Johnson was coming down the following week to hunt with me for a few days and I wanted to fine tune the location of a stand that Jess and I hunted last winter. With everything in place, I figured the next time I visited this stand I would be filming Jess.
Just 24 hours later my plans changed when I got a call from Shane. He had to pass on our evening hunt (me filming), so I made a few phone calls to line up a replacement. Within a few hours Jamie Campbell and I were making plans for our evening hunt. Jamie is new to filming and I was excited to get in the woods with him. Our plan was to hunt a particular ground blind and the forecast called for a perfect wind.
When we got to the farm, the "northeast" wind was actually "northwest” and that wasn't gonna' work. I decided to head over to the stand I had just put up the day before. At 3:30 we were set up and ready for whatever the night had to offer. I was there to do nothing more than have fun because the "pressure" was off and it was time to just relax and enjoy the tree time. It was also a good time for Jamie to get some more filming experience.
I was surprised how windy it was, but told Jamie that this area of the property has produced four good bucks for me in the past during strong westerly winds. About an hour later the first buck showed up. He was a beautiful 10 point in the 130" range, but the only thing that would be "shooting" him this night was the camera. He worked a side-hill trail like most bucks do in this area and before long he was heading out across a picked corn field.
About 30 minutes later buck #2 showed up. He was a heavy 9 point that had a great left side, but a spindly 4 points on the right. It was a great opportunity for Jamie to burn some tape, but I knew it was killing him filming bucks that were DEFINITELY shooters in his book. (It wasn't too many years ago when they would have been shooters in mine) Believe me, if I could take someone there to hunt, he would have been behind the Hoyt. This buck was actually locked down on a doe, and even though he made a few scrapes in front of us, he never let her out of his sight. Before long, the doe walked off with the buck in tow.
About 30 minutes before we were out of camera light I glanced to my left and saw buck #3 working the side-hill trail. This buck was a definite shooter and there was a 50/50 chance he would come our way. When he zigged instead of zagged, I was on the rattle bag and grunt tube…but he would have no part of it. When he disappeared from sight, I really hit the rattle bag hard but he just ignored us (or couldn't hear us with the wind). I thought he was gone for good but just then Jamie said, "In the neighbor's corn!"
I spotted the buck and quickly took advantage of a lull in the wind by cracking the rattle bag hard...followed by a few grunts. The bucks head popped up and he went from 80 yards to just over 10 in no time at all. I came to full draw and mouth called him to stop....then sent a Spitfire right into the chest. My peep was turned a bit so I didn't have a perfect view of the buck. This resulted in a shot that was a bit forward but it pinned him good. He ran up over a hill and we heard him "crash?" about 35 yards from the stand.
Even though I was sure he was dead, we decided to back out and give him an hour. An hour turned into 90 minutes but soon we were back at the stand and then off to look for blood. I went to the point of impact and the flashlight lit up all kinds of good sign. This was a typical Spitfire blood trail and I knew it would be a short tracking job. Within no time at all, we had found him and it really started to hit me what we had done. I pulled a double on back-to-back sits, and Jamie had just filmed his first buck kill.
Two trips to the woods....two bucks (both on film) and a pocket full of doe tags left. What a year!!!!
And now for the added bonus…it took me a bit, but while filming some of the "after the recovery footage", I realized that this buck was THE ONE. The buck I had trail camera pictures of dating all the way back to early velvet season. I had just shot the buck that was #1 on my hit list.
What a hunt....what a season! What a great night in the woods with Jamie. The excitement in his eyes and voice were the icing on the cake.