What a year....that is all I can say....WHAT A YEAR!!!
My Illinois whitetail season officially started on October 28th. It was one of those nights when it just felt right....and i was excited to be heading to a new stand on a section of the farm I have never hunted before. A good friend (Shane) was running the camera as we sat over a Vita Rack Winter Forage plot.
About an hour into our hunt I decided to rattle. It was my first time rattling with a rattle bag so I told Shane to get ready. It seems that every time I try something new....it works great the first time but never again. I rattle for about 15 seconds and less than a minute later a small 8pt was standing 30 yards from us. He spend several minutes investigating the area but bolted when he saw my buck decoy out in the plot.
About an hour later Shane whispered that he could see a deer walking the edge of the next finger over. I never could see what he could see so I hit the rattle bag again. As soon as set the bag down....Shane said "Shooter". I was scanning the edge of the next finger but couldn't find the buck. I asked where and he surprised me with...."40 yards". I shifted to the left and was able to look around a tree that was blocking my view of the approaching buck.
As soon as I saw him I recognized the tell tale signs that he had a radar lock on my buck decoy. His ears were pinned back and I knew the stiff legged buck would soon be lining up a downwind approach...which would put him inside of 20 yards. At approx. 12 to 14 yards he paused for a moment and I zipped a Spitfire Maxx right through him. He bolted back to the spot where he entered the field, took a moment to look back in our direction, and then started the "tippy" dance.
Copious amounts of blood were pouring out of the entrance hole and I knew his ticked had been punched. He took two more steps and it was all over!!! As the buck ran away after the shot, Shane made the comment, "did you see all of those kickers on the left side?". My answer was, "no....I was looking at all of the kickers on the right side!"
Knowing the tracking job would be short, we took a few extra minutes in the stand to soak up what we had just experienced. We were then down and it was almost a sprint to get to the buck. I found him piled up just 5 yards off the edge of the field and I soon had him propped up and looking good for the camera. What a great night in the woods!!!!!
Six days later I was making a 3 hour round trip drive after an all-nighter at the firehouse when Shane called to let me know he had to cancel our evening hunt. The plan was to film him on a farm near his home but now I was in search of a replacement. This turned into one of those deals where one guy says no so you ask another. Then the first guy calls back and says yes before you get a reply from the second.
If it was the first guy...he would be filming me. If it was the second guy...I would be filming. Knowing that my chances to hunt again for a few weeks were minimal, the three of us worked it out and before long...the first guy (Jamie) and I were on our way to the farm. The plan was to hunt a ground blind next to a food plot that had only been hunted twice so far...and there were some great bucks on the trail cams there.
When we got to the farm, the "northeast" wind was actually "northwest and that wasn't gonna' work. I decided to head over to a stand on a different part of the farm that I had just put up the day before. It actually wasn't quite ready for us because I needed to throw in a few more tree steps, an EZ Hanger, etc...and was able to do it quickly and quietly. 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 moment. It was also a good time for Jamie to get some valuable filming experience since he is new to the game.
I was surprised how windy it was but told Jamie that this area of the property has produced 4 good bucks for me in the past during strong west 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 9pt 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 be 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 and 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.
The rest of the night is a blurrr due the the high emotions....and a trip to the local water hole to celebrate (my first time in over a year so the headache was pretty good the next morning.
Two trips to the woods....two buck (both on film) and a pocket full of doe tags. What a year!!!!
And now for the the added bonus....it took me a while, but while filming some of the "after the recovery footage", I realized that this buck was THE ONE....the buck that I had trail camera picture dating all of the way back to early velvet season...all the way through hard bone pictures in September. I had just shot the buck that was #1 on my hit list and I was to pumped to realize it.
What a hunt....what a season!!!!!