Deep into the heart of Pike County, Illinois halfway through my morning hunt I just couldn’t talk my way into leaving my stand site and break for a hearty brunch. By 10 A.M. I had already viewed 21 does and several shooter bucks chasing does on this cool November morning. Pike County, Illinois is nothing short or magical. It’s simply a location every whitetail enthusiast must hunt at some point in life. I was positioned in a fencerow guarding a tractor gap. Whitetail deer often utilize tractor gaps to travel from one field to the next in search of hot does. Positioned high atop a pin oak tree 400 yards North of my location I watched a hot doe being corralled by a heavy racked deer. The chase was lethargic as I watched them trot into a ditch from which they never resurfaced. At that point I was convinced they had bedded in the ditch and would emerge from the same ditch later in the day. I lowered my bow and headed back to the house to retrieve another set of tree sticks and a stand. I was bound and determined to catch the monster and his mate coming forth from the ditch during the later afternoon hours after their brief nap time.
After grabbing a quick burger at the local diner I snuck back into the farm within about 125 yards of where I thought the pair was lying. As quietly and slowly as possible I hung a stand on the ditch’s edge with the wind in my face, wiped the sweat off my brow, and climbed up into the new location. I was in pursuit of that one individual buck.
An hour before sunset the pair emerged in the neighbor’s field, jumped the fence and began trotting down the ditch’s arm toward my direction. The doe trotted past my ambush site followed by the long tined 10 point trophy whitetail buck. Of course he was in a hurry to keep up, and was hot on her tail. I blew a soft grunt into my grunt call just to stop the trophy whitetail buck for an instant. It was the instant I needed to burry the 125 grain Thunderhead Broadhead deep into his chest. Kicking both back legs into the air he bolted down into the timber. Although I felt I had made a good shot I crept out silently and gave the animal a couple hours to lay up as this was one buck I didn’t want to jump up and chase off never to recover. It’s always wise not to immediately chase after an animal you shoot out of pure excitement unless you visually can see the animal down and lifeless. I don’t know how many hunters that have been in our whitetail outfitter camps that thought they heard their animal crash in a bush around the bend and then jumped the animal never to recover him. You simply cannot wait too long for tracking of an animal. As a general rule I like to give an animal 4 good hours to lay up and pass on to whitetail heaven. Upon my return he was laid out cold. The buck scored 160 inches but was a risky animal to pursue. The dangers of hunting one particular buck can be devastating.
At least on the aforementioned scenario I had watched the buck lay up and had some idea of how to intercept the mammoth. I personally have known hunters that have seen world class whitetail bucks in Pike County, Illinois as well other keynote locations that dedicate their entire season to the pursuit of one particular buck. Often times these hunters are ones that have captured a buck on a scouting camera and believe with enough dedication they can harvest the buck they have seen or photographed. This is not something I suggest any hunter attempt and is one of the best ways to come up empty handed year after year.
Just last week in a whitetail camp in Missouri we had a hunter in for an outfitted hunt of Northern Missouri for trophy bucks. The hunter had never harvested a buck over 120 inches and was told prior to his hunt in an orientation by IMB staff to shoot the first good buck he saw or be willing to go home without one. Immediately we positioned the hunter on a great farm where he viewed several huge whitetail bucks.. A couple of them were over 170 inches. On the second to the last day of the hunt the hunter was still in pursuit of one of the giants when a 140 inch deer presented a twenty yard broadside shot. The hunter refused to shoot, as he was hunting and was determined to take one of the giant 170 inch deer. The hunter went home without a deer. Over dinner after his last outing with us I repeatedly heard him say, “I was crazy to pass up that 140 inch deer. Now I’m going home with nothing.” A mere 24 hours later another hunter did the same thing.
I personally have harvested 13 Pope and Young Whitetail Bucks and with the exception of one of them I never was in pursuit of the very animal I harvested. I am successful because I continually setup in topographical advantages during the rut. I position myself in locations like funnels, spiderwebs, bottlenecks, and inside “L”s. Then I put my time in the stand and hammer the first good Pope and Young Whitetail Buck that presents an ethical shot.
Fame and Fairy Tales
Over and over again I have seen hunters get on Outdoor Television and testify in whitetail specialty magazines that have harvested world class bucks. You know the bucks……………….the bucks that get named after you. You hear the hunter say they have collected the animal’s sheds for years. Or maybe captured him on infrared camera many times in the same general area. Some claim that world class buck they harvested was patterned by them as the buck did the same thing day after day and as a result of the hunter outsmarting the deer they “took him down”.
Having been in the hunt industry for the majority of my life I know what we watch on television and read in magazines often is misrepresented. I have had celebrity hunters beg to shoot footage of domesticated trophy bucks in a 10 acre fence and ask me to represent them as their whitetail outfitter on the Outdoor Channel pretending we were in the wild. Each time I have declined. Once I declined such an opportunity and I will never forget the hunt celebrity saying to me, “Boy this isn’t the hunt industry this is the entertainment industry.” Not all Hunting Shows and Hunting Celebrities are fake but don’t think for a second that everything we are seeing in the modern age of whitetail hunting is real. Just last week on Outdoor Television I watched one of the biggest names in the hunt industry claim to have patterned and shot a huge whitetail but what he didn’t do was edit his footage well enough, as in the scene before the shooting of the animal a tag was in his ear by accident. Tags are placed in the ears of animals in high fences. I only wish I could name this person and the episode without fear of a lawsuit.
Dangers of Hunting One Particular Buck
There are many dangers to dedicating one’s season to the harvest of one specific whitetail buck you may have gotten a photo or glimpse of on your hunt property. There are a number of reasons why it’s a poor choice for most whitetail hunters to pursue one buck in particular.
Whitetail bucks can be very predictable during the off season. My belief how incredibly insane it may seem is that mature deer know when it’s hunting season and when its not. Let us assume they don’t have this ability to reason. We can at least assume during the hunt season more human activity occurs in the woods alerting whitetails to danger, thereby sending them into safe zones or unhunted areas or turning big bucks nocturnal. This means you can be watching a world class whitetail buck throughout the summer months but upon entrance to harvest the animal have a very slim chance at taking that one specific buck you want.
During the rut it is a scientific fact that a buck may travel up to 9 miles during the rut in a single day. That monster buck you’ve lost sleep over all year long may be on your hunt location one day and 9 miles away the next, never to return again.
The very buck your hunting could already have been harvested by another hunter or been killed by predators, car wrecks, or natural causes. Throughout the summer months I had an Iowa landowner phoning me every week telling me of two non typical Boone and Crockett Bucks that were crossing the road from one farm to the next. He even told me where to sit the stand for the client upon the beginning of the Iowa Deer Season. A couple days ago I received a call from the same landowner who called to tell me that one of the deer was killed by a truck. It made me sick. Had I not known I wonder how many clients would have begged to sit that farm waiting for a buck that didn’t exist.
Also let’s discuss the statistical probability of getting a shot at one particular buck you are hunting in a mere hunt season. Think of it. How many times has just any ole buck walked into shooting range and something has went wrong during the shot episode. Your arrow fell off the rest. A tree blocked your shot. Your arrow hit a sapling. The deer was just outside of ethical bow range. It was too dark to shoot. Misplaced shots. Trophy whitetail deer hunting and Murphy’s law go hand in hand. What can go wrong sometimes does go wrong.
Frustration………………………..Most often times the pursuit of one specific deer ends up with an unfilled tag and a season of frustration. Enjoy your season.
How to Put Trophy Whitetail Deer on the Wall
While Outdoor television has been a great promotion of the Whitetail Industry it has also been the chief creator of unrealistic expectations. Outdoor Television has led the average hunter to believe Boone and Crockett Whitetails Bucks reside on every farm in great states and as a result many hunters have set goals beyond reach in regard to what they think they should be harvesting. As mentioned earlier in this article I know for a fact that many outdoor hunting television shows are filmed within the confines of high fences. Also hundreds of man hours may go into the harvesting of one trophy buck, but as it is displayed on television it is shown in a 30 minute airing. I wonder how long television shows would be if the television crew displayed every minute of footage that actually went into the harvest of a trophy animal. Hunting trophy whitetails especially be means of archery is difficult.
When I was attending college I also was forced to work part time at a local factory to finance my schooling. During those years of my life and prior to I had maybe one evening or two a week to dedicate to hunting trophy deer. After graduation I obtained a job that provided me with ample opportunity and a great amount of time to put into hunting. Prior to graduation of college I had only harvested one Pope and Young Buck that scored 131 inches. It was my pride and joy. The result of a lot of hard work as well as luck and expense. I had always said up to that day my goal was to kill a Pope and Young Buck with a bow.
After that buck was hanging on the wall my goal became, to put as many Pope and Young Bucks and the wall as possible during my lifetime and hopefully shoot a buck that exceeded 170 inches one day. As of 10-19-08 or 13 years later I have harvested 13 Pope and Young Whitetail Bucks, as well as 16 other trophy big game animals that hang in my trophy room.
I accomplished the filling of a trophy room by doing three things.
#1. Hunting States where trophy whitetails thrive. For example Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, etc.
#2. Hunt as many hours as humanly possible without losing my job or upsetting my family and sometimes I do upset my family with the amount of hunting I do. The more man hours you can put in the woods the more whitetails you will kill.
#3. I studied topographical advantages and whitetail behavior in depth placing and positioning myself in funnels, bottlenecks, spiderwebs, Inside L’s, and other locations I know trophy whitetails will present shot opportunities.
Its all about location, and the amount of time one puts into the sport of whitetail hunting in an effort to generate results in the form of consistent trophy kills.
God has blessed me with much. I am on many hunt pro staff’s in the hunt industry and now own a very nice whitetail deer outfitting service located in Pike County, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas. Still to this day with all the opportunities I have to hunt I don’t pass up whitetail deer that score 130 inches and above. As a result I have put 13 monster deer on the wall. I do not believe my trophy room would be half as impressive as it is if I would have been hunting one particular buck or only waiting to shoot deer that were hideously large. I just don’t understand the hunter that seems to think they must kill a deer over 170 inches. In 2007 I managed the Iowa Division of IMB Outfitters during the First Gun Season. The first 3 bucks that hit the dirt the first 2 hours of light were all over 170 inches. At lunch one hunter ran around the lodge from guide to guide begging to be placed on a buck exceeding 170 inches, and even went to the extreme of offering bribes to the guides. I chuckled under my breath knowing that their was no way to guarantee anyone you could put them within range of a monster buck. That whole week this particular hunter drove himself crazy passing up great buck after great buck simply because they didn’t score over 170 inches or possess a drop tine or have something going on with them that would do anything less than making him famous. I know he didn’t enjoy himself. He also went home without a deer.
One morning in the office the phone rang. A hunter on the other end of the line told me he was ready to book his trophy whitetail hunt. I proceeded to describe our operation. He proceeded to tell me he wanted me to make sure he killed a 170 inch plus drop tine buck wider than 23 inches. I told the man I couldn’t guarantee that however I could offer my best advice for what dates, states, and strategies to utilize with our whitetail outfitting service to attempt such a feat. That wasn’t good enough. He wanted a guarantee. I declined the booking. As whitetail hunters we need to learn how to be satisfied with just being in the woods hunting instead of driving ourselves crazy with thinking we just have to have one specific buck that will make us famous. Get out their and just enjoy yourself.
With this premise in mind I entered the woods last season just after a slight rain and climbed up a treestand to enjoy the afternoon. I hung my rifle, harnessed myself to the tree, read a couple verses from the Bible I tote in my backpack and looked up. Their stood a great deer. I put the Bible down, picked the gun up, fired off a round from the 300 Win Mag and collected a 160 inch monster whitetail buck. Prior to shooting I knew the deer was over 130 but didn’t have an idea the deer was only 10 inches short of making the Boone and Crockett Club requirements.