DREAMS DO COME TRUE
My Dad, Darrel Walker, was raised on a farm in Northwest Missouri. Hunting and fishing were normal activities that provided fare for the table as well as enjoyment. Being the youngest brother of three, most of his participation was playing bird dog and catering to the needs of his older brothers while in the field. My Dad joined the Air Force fresh out of high school and was later stationed at Moody A.F.B. in South Georgia.
My mother, the late Daphyne Taylor Walker, was born and raised in Berrien County Georgia. She and my Dad were married in 1960 and for the next 16 years traveled around the United States on different duty assignments. During this time our family was in and out of the Nashville, Georgia area. My Dad served one tour of duty in Viet Nam and two tours in Thailand. During these tours my mother brother and myself would live with or near my grandparents in Nashville, Georgia.
It was during this time that I developed a strong desire for the outdoors and any activity that involved hunting and fishing.
In the late 80’s, I started deer hunting for the first time in my life. I loved it! I wanted to learn everything there was to know about the whitetail deer, In order to be a good hunter, I read every magazine article I could find, watched the hunting shows on TV and talked with other hunters to learn from their experiences in the field. Over the years I matured as a hunter and harvested some respectable bucks but would often dream about the opportunity to harvest a “monster” whitetail.
In December of 2006 I booked a hunt with Illinois Monster Bucks, an outfitter that provides hunting and guide services in five states with over 50,000 acres of choice hunting properties. The hunt was booked for Pike County Illinois and scheduled for November of 2007. I knew that the 11 month wait would be an eternity. In the early summer of 2007 IMB contacted me by mail to apply for a license in Iowa. I called the office at IMB and told them I was supposed to hunt Illinois, not Iowa. They informed me the Iowa hunting permit was practically impossible to get for the first time applicant and they recommended all of their clients apply for the license in order to get a preference point, just in case I wanted to hunt Iowa in the future. I filled out my hunting license applications for both Illinois and Iowa and dropped them in the mail in June.
About 4 weeks later I received my hunting license for Iowa and a few days later for Illinois….It was a surprise to get an Iowa license and I didn’t know if I would even get the opportunity to use it but I decided to play things by ear and see what happened.
I left Nashville on Tuesday, November 27th, my hunt would begin on Thursday morning and I wanted to have plenty of time to drive up, check in to the lodge and fire my gun to make sure the scope was still sighted in. During the whitetail deer hunt in Illinois, hunters are restricted to shotguns only. The Game management division of the state has selected this guideline as a method to protect the age structure of younger bucks. Even with modern firearms, the range of a shotgun is less than high-powered rifles and hunters
are more able to judge the antler development and age of a whitetail buck at closer range. As I headed North the temperature continually dropped and I was filled with anticipation of the coming hunt.
The first morning I saw a really nice buck about 400 yards across a chopped corn field. The buck was chasing does and I knew there was nothing I could do but enjoy the show. The second day brought several sightings but no shooters by my stand. That evening at the lodge discussion centered around the deteriorating weather. It seemed that an ice storm was on the way that would essentially wipe out the next two days of the hunt. We could hunt in the storm providing that the roads weren’t too bad to drive on but game movement would definitely be less than ideal. I reminded my guide that I had an Iowa hunting license and asked what the chances would be that I could move on to Iowa. After all the Iowa hunt lasted two days longer than the Illinois hunt and the storm should be through the Iowa farms and still have some quality time in the field.
After a few phone calls my guide came to me and said we have a bed for you in the Iowa lodge and I would recommend that you leave tonight. The roads are good enough to travel on right now but by morning could be iced up. Within thirty minutes I was headed for the Iowa hunting lodge just outside of Corydon, Iowa.
I arrived at the Iowa lodge around 12:30 AM, quickly checked-in and unloaded my gear. At 4:00 AM I was up and getting ready for the first morning hunt in Iowa. The weather was terrible! It was 25 degrees and raining. As the rain gathered it would freeze, pretty miserable hunting conditions. The guides managed to get us out into the field and I sat in the worst hunting conditions of my life until 1:00 PM. The ice was getting so thick on the trees that large branches and trees could be heard crashing around me in the woods. The late arrival to Iowa the night before, the early rise to hunt and the horrible weather conditions had taken their toll on me. I called my guide on his cell phone and told him I was ready to return to the lodge.
As the afternoon waned on the temperature warmed above the freezing mark and all of the accumulation of ice on the trees and power lines started to melt away. This was a good thing because it would make travel easier the next morning and maybe just maybe that hunt for the monster buck would work out.
The next morning dawned cold and clear, 16 degrees and the wind whipping! I headed to the field once again optimistic that I might catch a big buck up moving. I had every stitch of clothes that I could possibly put on and still was freezing cold. The temperature never warmed above 25 degrees and the wind blew constantly at 15-25 mph with gusts in the 30-40 mph range all day. I sat in the stand from dawn til dusk and while I did see deer, not the monster buck.
I was following the advice of my guides and staying in the stands all day but on Tuesday December 4th I decided to hunt south Georgia style. I would sit in the stand until 10:00 AM and if I hadn’t harvested a buck, I would come out. All of my Walker kin folk are
from North west Missouri. I was hunting 90 miles from my uncle Aubrey’s house and there was no way that I was going to get that close to him and not go visit.
On the morning of the 4th, I saw some deer but once again, the monster buck never showed up, the weather was beautiful and at 10:00 PM I came out and traveled over to Gentry, MO to visit my uncle Aubrey and aunt Jaunita.
My uncle took me out to his barn and started pulling antlers down that he had saved over the years and telling me the stories of the hunts. I was especially interested in a large, wide whitetail rack. Aubrey told me that my grandfather had harvested the buck around 1960 just a mile or so from the family farm. Of course in 1960 the hunt was all about providing food for the family and not much attention was paid to the size of the rack. However, since this rack was so large he had saved it as a reminder of the hunt.
Aubrey asked me if I would like to have the rack. I was thrilled with the thought of having such a treasure and at the same time couldn’t imagine his willingness to give the rack to me. I told Aubrey “if you don’t want the rack any longer, I will be thrilled to have it”. Aubrey then told me that he knew I would appreciate what the rack meant and he wanted me to have it. Before the visit was over he had given me the large whitetail rack harvested by my grandfather and several other whitetail and mule deer racks that he had harvested during his hunting days.
I visited for several hours with Aubrey and Jaunita, enjoyed a wonderful home cooked lunch and around 2:00 PM left for the drive back to the monster buck hunt. Aubrey said, “why don’t you stay longer, I’ve already loaded your truck down with trophy racks”. I thanked him once again for the antlers and reinforced my desire to harvest my own trophy whitetail.
I arrived back at the Iowa farm for the evening hunt at 4:00 PM, gathered my gear and hurried to my stand location. Within 15 minutes of getting in the stand deer started moving in to feed on the food plots within range of my stand site. Does, yearlings and some small bucks. This was the most activity I had seen in several days. There were literally 15-20 deer feeding and traveling by my stand location. I continued to watch the deer interacting with each other. If they snapped their heads up and looked in any particular direction, I would focus my attention in that area and inevitably more deer would move in to join the feeding frenzy.
Suddenly, a young 2 year old 8 point buck snapped to attention and focused his gaze up the hill. A larger mature buck had appeared that sported a rack in the 140 class. This was the largest deer that I had seen within shotgun range and I immediately focused my attention on this animal. I gently eased my shotgun in to firing position and decided to wait for the buck to close the distance between us. The buck had appeared about 150 yards from the stand and was coming straight to me. Since he was coming to me, I decided to wait until he was within 100 yards, the distance that I had fired many practice rounds through my shotgun.
I was watching the buck through the scope on my shotgun as he eased down the hill. As he approached the 100 yard mark, I heard some deer moving close to my stand. I lifted my head from the scope and looked to my right, holy cow, standing just 30 yards to my right was the biggest bodied whitetail I had ever seen! The head was obscured by some tree limbs and brush, but just a couple more steps revealed a huge rack, it was the monster buck I had been hunting!
I immediately focused on the monster whitetail. I needed for him to take a few more steps into the food plot so that re-positioning my gun and the subsequent shot could take place in one smooth movement. Adrenalin was coursing through my veins as I waited for the buck to move further into the food plot. Within 30 seconds the buck presented a good shot opportunity, although there were probably 20 deer in my immediate area, I could see none, other than the monster buck.
I lifted my shotgun, re-positioned and located the monster whitetail in the scope, the buck was only 40 yards from the stand and this movement alerted him to my presence, however, not before a well placed shot to the buck’s boiler room. I was extremely excited, I had finally realized a dream of harvesting my own monster whitetail. The buck was the largest harvested during this outfitted hunt. The exceptional mass produced over 40 inches of circumference measurements and grossed a whopping 178-7/8 on the Boone and Crockett scoring system.
Local taxidermists, Henry Ford and Tonie Benefield, worked together to mount my Iowa monster buck. I wanted very much to honor my grandfathers memory and preserve the trophy whitetail that he had harvested some 47 years earlier and asked Henry if they could mount my grandfathers antlers. Henry located a cape for the rack and did an absolute wonderful job on the mount. I am very proud to have my grandfathers trophy whitetail and mine hang together on my living room wall. A special thanks goes out to my Uncle Aubrey in Gentry, Missouri for preserving the rack all of these years and allowing me the privilege to own a treasure from our families history. Who says dreams don’t come true?
Submitted by: Rodney Walker
547 Homer James Road
Lenox, Georgia 31637