Pike County Illinois Deer Hunting
We have run Pike County Illinois deer hunts for over 10 years now. The County’s consistent capability of producing record book whitetail deer never ceases to amaze me. In fact in accordance to a compiled number of all entries in all whitetail record books Pike County Illinois deerhunting has placed more trophy whitetail bucks in the record books more than any other location in the nation.
HISTORY, LOCATION, AND DEMOGRAPHICS OF PIKE COUNTY ILLINOIS
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 849 square miles (2,199 km²), of which 830 square miles (2,150 km²) is land and 19 square miles (48 km²) (2.19%) is water.
Pike County is located on the highlands between the Illinois River on the eastern border, and the Mississippi River on the west. It has one interstate highway, I-72, with bridges spanning both rivers to enter the county.
Townships include within Pike County Illinois for deerhunting Atlas, Barry, Baylis, Bedford, Cincinnati, Chambersburg, Detroit, EL Dara, Fishhook, Florence, Griggsville, Kinderhook, Levee, Martinsburg, Maysville, Milton, Montezuma, Nebo, New Canton, New Hartford, New Salem, Pearl, Perry, Pittsfield, Pleasant Hill, See Horn, Summer Hill, Time, Valley City.
Pike County, Illinois, is one of the few counties in the United States to border as many as nine counties. Illinois has two such counties--Pike and LaSalle. It is also one of the few counties in the United States to border its namesake in another state--in this case, Pike County, Missouri, across the Mississippi River. Illinois has another such county--Vermilion County, Illinois, which borders Vermillion County, Indiana (note that although they are spelled differently, they are both named for the Vermilion River).
Pike County was formed on January 31, 1821 out of Madison County. It was named in honor of Zebulon Pike, leader of the Pike expedition in 1806 to map out the south and west portions of the Louisiana Purchase. Pike served at the Battle of Tippecanoe, and was killed in 1813 in the War of 1812.
Prior to the coming of the first European settler to Pike County, French traders, hunters, and travelers passed through the native forests and prairies. Originally Pike County began on the south junction of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. The east boundary was the Illinois River north to the Kankakee River to the Indiana State line on north to Wisconsin state line and then west to the Mississippi River to the original point at the south end. The first county seat was Cole's Grove, a post town, in what later became Calhoun County. The Gazetteer of Illinois and Missouri, published in 1822, mentioned Chicago as "a village of Pike County" containing 12 or 15 houses and about 60 or 70 inhabitants.
The New Philadelphia Town Site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2009. It was the first town founded by an African American before the American Civil War. Frank McWorter was an early free black settler in Pike County. He had invested in land there sight unseen after purchasing the first few members of his family out of slavery. In 1836 he founded the town of New Philadelphia, near Barry, Illinois. He was elected mayor and lived there the rest of his life. With the sale of land, he made enough money to purchase the freedom of his children. After the railroad bypassed the town, its growth slowed and it was eventually abandoned in the 20th century. The town site is now an archaeological dig.
In the early 21st century Pike County acquired notability as a center for the whitetail deer hunting industry, especially bowhunting.
As of the census of 2000, there were 17,384 people, 6,876 households, and 4,778 families residing in the county. The population density was 21 people per square mile (8/km²). There were 8,011 housing units at an average density of 10 per square mile (4/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 97.38% White, 1.50% Black or African American, 0.17% Native American, 0.24% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.12% from other races, and 0.56% from two or more races. 0.50% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 28.2% were of American, 24.7% German, 17.5% English and 8.1% Irish ancestry according to Census 2000.
There were 6,876 households out of which 30.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.50% were married couples living together, 7.80% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.50% were non-families. 27.80% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 2.94.
In the county the population was spread out with 24.10% under the age of 18, 7.80% from 18 to 24, 25.70% from 25 to 44, 23.20% from 45 to 64, and 19.20% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 98.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.30 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $31,127, and the median income for a family was $38,583. Males had a median income of $27,687 versus $18,440 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,946. About 9.80% of families and 12.40% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.70% of those under age 18 and 11.40% of those age 65 or over.
HISTORY OF WHITETAIL DEER IN PIKE COUNTY ILLINOIS
A brief introduction may be needed for those unfamiliar with the North American white-tailed deer, species Odocoileus virginianus and other member of the Cervidae family (which includes deer, elk, and moose - antler-bearing ungulates or even-toed hoofed mammals), as shown in Figure 1. Males grow antlers annually. These typically brown-furred, medium-sized mammals are herbivorous prey animal which have excellent hearing, sense of smell, vision clarity, coordination, and running speed up to 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour) for short distances (Robinson and Bolen 1989; Langenau 1994). White-tailed deer reach reproductive age at typically 1-2 years of age, reach maturity at approximately five years old (typically when maximum body size and maximum antler size in males), and have rarely been known to live 12-15 years of age (dental wear becomes significant). Deer are both capable of stealthful elusiveness in nature and of becoming habituated to human-related food sources in rural/urban areas (MDNR 2000). With access to reasonable cover and adequate forage/browse, these animals are capable of surviving prolonged cold temperatures, snow cover, and stresses of north-temperate climatic changes. This common game species ranges throughout the majority of the North American continent, except many areas west of the Continental Divide and colder areas towards the north, which is approximately the southeastern two-thirds of the continent (Robinson and Bolen 1989).
Today the white-tailed deer is a familiar sight in most of Illinois. This has not always been the case; deer almost went extinct in the state. During the early 1800s deer were abundant throughout the state. Market hunting and drastic changes in land use during the 1800s led to the elimination of the native deer herds by about the beginning of the 1900s. Apparently, the last native deer was sighted in 1912 in southern Illinois.
Illinois schoolchildren voted to select the white-tailed deer as the state animal in 1980. The vote was made official by the General Assembly in 1982. In Illinois' early days, Native Americans and Midwestern settlers relied heavily on the white-tailed deer for food and its hide for clothing and shelter. Interestingly enough, because of unregulated hunting in the mid to late 1800s, the white-tailed deer was nearly extirpated, that is, it had just about disappeared from Illinois completely. Years later, the Department of Conservation used careful management techniques and was able to bring the species back to abundance.
WHY PIKE COUNTY ILLINOIS DEERHUNTING
IS SO GREAT.
Pike County Illinois' reputation as a megabuck hotspot is well deserved. Even though there now is far more pressure on trophy deer there than was the case even a decade ago, the Prairie State keeps cranking out giants, due to a vast number of deer management programs. I hear sportsman from all over the nation say where they live, “If its brown it’s down.” Pike County Illinois deer hunts are provided by many Pike County Illinois Deer Outfitters. These same Pike County Illinois deer outfitters all have a deer management program. For all practical purposes this is a State or location where almost every deer in the woods is under a whitetail deer management program. This is why Pike County Illinois Deer hunting continues not to disappoint whitetail deer hunters upon their arrival.
Many theories lay claim to just why Pike County Illinois deer hunts continue to produce success. Let us take a look into the theories behind the mystery of Pike County Illinois deer hunting and why it continues to thrive year after year as one of the best location to hunt for trophy bucks.
A. Pike County Illinois lies between Illinois River and the Mississippi River, creating a huge water founded terrain funnel that gives harbor to some of the biggest river bottom whitetail bucks in the world. This is one reason why Pike County Illinois deer hunts continue to thrive. We all know river bottoms produces some of the richest soil in the world which provides a huge volume of nutrients and minerals to produce monster Pike County Illinois whitetail deer.
B. Glacier deposits have also been one theory to the production of many a successful Pike County Illinois deer hunt. Yes that right, glacier deposits. Many believe that between the regions of the Mississippi and the Illinois River glaciers deposited a vast or high volume of minerals for the soil, which other areas do not have. I have actually seen soybeans taller than me in the fields of Pike County Illinois. It’s the Midwest’s Garden of Eden. As a result the whitetail deer in Pike County Illinois consume a diet of a much higher volume of nutrients and minerals needed to produce monster bucks. 6 years ago one of our hunters took a 152 inch deer in on a Pike County Illinois deer hunt. The Illinois DNR examined the animal and determined the buck was only 2 ½ years old. Now that is some great eating and great genetics. In most states a 2 ½ year old buck would be a 6 pointer. Glaciation of North America has occurred many times in the past. Large ice sheets have advanced across this continent covering hundreds of thousands of square miles. The continental glacier that produced the landforms that we will be presented occurred during the Wisconsinan glaciation which ended approximately 10,000 years ago and was approximately 10,000 feet thick at its maximum. Ice sheets of this magnitude have the power to transport large quantities of sentiment long distances, and reshape entire landscapes during these glacial periods.
Glacial movement and deposition is a relatively simple process. As a glacier accumulates ice and snow, it begins to advance and move. To grow and survive, glaciers require low temperatures and consistent snowfall over a time period of thousands of years. The glaciers that affected Pike County Illinois originated in far-northern Canada. As the glacier advances, it scours the earth and pushes any material (rocks, trees etc.) out of its way. The material that the glacier moves around is carried along the base and sides of the glacier. The glaciers continue to advance until the leading edge of the glacier has high enough temperatures to cause melting, which is known as ablation. When ablation occurs faster than the accumulation of snowfall, the forward motion begins to stop and the margin of the glacier begins to retreat. As glaciers retreat, deposition produces a variety of new landforms.
Deposits associated with glaciation contain sediments and materials consistent of the bedrock that the glacier crossed. Sediments from older glaciers are also intertwined with deposits from bedrock. The deposits from the most recent glacier, the Wisconsinan glacier, contain primarily material from bedrock located in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Canada. Deposits left by the Wisconsinan glacier consist of sediments that are economically valuable and are utilized for a variety of uses in our society, such as building and road construction, glass manufacturing and many other industries.
C. Genetics of Pike County Illinois deer hunting. Genetics of the whitetail deer in Pike County Illinois may need only be explained briefly. Big antlers require a long growth period, great habitat, and plentiful food sources full of high quality minerals. Pike County Illinois deer hunting provides it all. First the growth period for antlers is longer for Pike County Illinois deer because this is an area where hunters cannot use a rifle to hunt them. This gives whitetail deer the advantage of not being harvested at long distances. Which in turn gives Pike County Illinois deer the distinct advantage of avoiding death and living longer life spans. Second if you’ve ever been to Pike County Illinois and driven from East to West across the State you will see terrain begin to change into prime whitetail habitat just East of Pike County Illinois. One minute you’ll be wondering if the State has any ability to produce big deer based upon its lack of habitat and then the next minute when arriving in Pike County Illinois for deerhunting you will see the terrain begins to become timbered, farmed, and literally takes on a different scenic view which is one wherein you just know big deer await you on your Pike County Illinois deer hunt. My personal belief is glacier deposit mineral rich soil produces the best crops in the entire Midwestern United States. These deer are spoiled rotten. They have a huge amount and a vast array of food sources to choose from. Literally as a whitetail outfitter in 5 different States I’ve never seen finer or more abundant agricultural crops in any of the other States I’ve laid my boot heel in. Therefore genetics of Pike County Illinois deer hunting has evolved due to the aforementioned factors and produced some of the biggest whitetail bucks in the entire nation.
LEGENDARY ILLINOIS WHITETAIL DEER
MEL JOHNSON buck was tremendous. Hunters have bagged millions of whitetail deer in North America since the 1960s.
Bowhunting techniques have evolved, new products have emerged and equipment has improved in the past 42 years.
Yet the Peoria County buck Mel Johnson shot in 1965 still ranks as one of the most impressive whitetails ever killed with bow and arrow. The Metamora hunter’s 13-pointer is an archery world record for deer with a typical rack — antlers that are basically symmetrical.
Johnson’s buck is not perfectly symmetrical. It is massive. Three tines are longer than 12 inches. The inside spread measures 23 5/8 inches and the right main beam is 27 5/8 inches. No wonder Johnson earned The Boone and Crockett Club’s Sagamore Hill Award (right) in 1965, a medallion bestowed by judges for trophies of “great distinction.”
In the years since, time and ailments have slowed Johnson. Over the last three years alone he underwent six operations on his heart, hands and knees. But he still plans to be in the stand for Monday’s Illinois archery deer season opener, hunting a small property in Knox County with his Martin compound bow.
“I go every day I can,” he said, though the hunts are not as frequent as they were in the 1960s.
Back then Johnson worked full-time at Caterpillar Inc. and hunted each night after work. Most fall weekends he left work on Friday and drove to Wisconsin with friends — often returning just in time to work Monday morning.
“We’d hunt all week in Illinois and maybe see a few deer, maybe not, and then go up to Wisconsin just to see deer,” Johnson said. Seeing whitetails recharged his hunting batteries, though that wasn’t really necessary in 1965.
That fall Johnson spotted a huge buck three times without getting close enough to shoot. Then came Oct. 29. That evening after work Johnson set up in brush along a picked bean field. The wind was in his face.
“We didn’t have that many tree stands around then,” Johnson said. “We were just starting to dabble with them and build them.”
From his vantage point, Johnson saw the buck again. This time the deer emerged from the timber 300 yards away. From there Johnson said the buck walked “smack dab in front of me, probably three or four rows of beans away.”
Close. Almost too close. Fortunately for Johnson the wind did not shift. Nor did he.
“(The buck) turned and looked right at me, took two or three steps and I shot him right through the lungs,” said Johnson, a left-hander who was using a 72-pound Howett recurve bow and a Zwickey broadhead on a fiberglass arrow.
From there, the buck ran into the field and disappeared over a rise. Johnson gave chase and found his arrow, which had passed through the buck. Then he saw the deer.
“I had a hold of him when he was still kicking on the ground,” Johnson said.
Antlers were not the only impressive features of the 4½- to 5½-year-old deer. The Beanfield Buck field dressed at 270 pounds, weighed an estimated 340 pounds on the hoof and had a thick, swollen neck.
Unlike today, there was little hoopla about antlers. The only prize Johnson won locally was for an archery contest at a Pekin store.
“People ask me what I got for killing that deer and I tell them I got a dozen arrows,” Johnson said. “They weren’t even good arrows.”
Over time, Johnson has become somewhat of an archery icon and has befriended or hunted with the industry’s most famed figures.
But he never got rich off his Beanfield Buck. In fact, Johnson does not have the actual mount, which belongs to Bass Pro Shops. Overlooking the recliner in his basement is a replica, mounted alongside a few plaques.
Eventually he realized the scorer left off a 10-inch measurement. A panel of Boone and Crockett scorers later agreed the buck rated 204 4/8 inches. No bowhunter has bagged a better typical trophy since.
Someday Johnson expects the record will fall, but he’s not worried. While Johnson still enjoys the thrill of the hunt, the thrill of being a record-holder is less powerful.
“It was exciting for awhile but now it’s old shoe,” Johnson said. “There have been so many stories written about this buck.”
BRIAN BICE could have kept on walking.
The day was cold and rainy. The first firearm season was coming to a close in 1992. But Bice decided to still hunt in an area he figured would hold bedding deer in such nasty weather.
What a good decision. Bice spotted this monster buck in some thick brush and got off a shot.
As a result, he bagged a buck whose huge rack scored 256 1/8 inches and had main beams of 30 and 29 inches. One point on the left beam measured 18 5/8 inches.
To this day his buck ranks as the seventh-largest non-typical registered in Illinois history.
JERRY BRYANT, a retired Caterpillar employee from Peoria, got this buck in 2001. However, he chose not to publicize the kill for over a year. This perhaps fueled a belief that the buck wasn't as big as advertised, or that there was some shady reason the deer was being kept out of the limelight.
The delay turned out to have a reasonable explanation. At the time of the kill, Bryant was involved in a difficult divorce, and his now-ex-wife later sued him for half of the rack's perceived cash value. The issue dragged on for months before Bryant prevailed in court, finally clearing the way for him to publicize his deer.
That's something the hunter says he's wanted to do all along.
"I feel I've been blessed to kill this buck, and I want other people to get to enjoy him too," he says.
To that end, Bryant and Illinois Game & Fish hosted the deer's "coming-out party" this past February at the Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic in Bloomington. There, plenty of deer addicts got to meet the hunter and see the new mount, which is the work of Peoria taxidermist Ron Meinders.
The deer is potentially one of the world's top four non-typicals, including those not shot by hunters. He is also the crossbow record by roughly 30 inches over a Wyoming buck shot in 1997. And he blows away Illinois' old non-typical mark of 267 3/8, set by Peoria County shotgun hunter Richard Pauli back in 1983.
That Illinois could grow such a deer is no real shock. Most experts believed it was only a matter of time until the state turned out a 300-class rack. What some people have a harder time fathoming is how the new record could be a crossbow kill.
In reality, several thousand deer hunters legally use crossbows in Illinois. They do so with special permits issued because of medical disabilities.
A right-arm injury Bryant suffered in 1990 led him to his join the crossbow brigade two years later. He tore ligaments in his right forearm, and not even a 6 1/2-hour operation could get the limb back to normal.
"I lost 27 percent of the strength in my right arm and 22 percent of my range of motion," he says. "I'd been shooting a compound bow, and for two years after my surgery I tried to shoot it. But my arm would lock up, and even at 15 yards I couldn't shoot a group smaller than 12 inches. I feared if I shot a deer I would only wound it, and I didn't want to take that chance. I've never lost one."
Luckily for Bryant, in 1992 a co-worker told him of the crossbow option. Bryant had ample documentation of his injury, and his permit application was soon approved.
He hunted a fair bit with his crossbow over the years, taking two does and passing up a fair number of nice bucks in the process. But curiously, when mid-November 2001 rolled around, Bryant had his eye not on a trophy deer, but on a bird.
He had never shot a turkey with his crossbow, and he figured one gobbler roaming that part of Fulton County would be a great way to break the ice. The turkey was huge - "I really think he'd have weighed close to 30 pounds," Bryant says - and walked with a limp, identifying him as a tom local hunters had been after for years. The old bird was a real trophy.
One of the gobbler's hangouts was the farm of Richard Voorhees, Fred's brother. Fred manages the wildlife on that land, as well as on his own, and is allowed to take guests. Knowing Bryant was interested in the big gobbler, he elected to help his friend set up his ladder stand in a creek bottom where the bird had been seen.
On the morning of Nov. 15, the men went to a brushy bottom on Richard's farm. It was an area in which the huge gobbler had been seen. They set up Bryant's 15-foot ladder stand, went to eat lunch and returned at around 2:30 p.m.
While Voorhees drove over to hunt his own farm down the road, Bryant climbed into his own stand, hoping for a feathered encounter. The wind was from the south and the temperature was holding near 50 degrees.
At around 4 p.m., from a half-mile or more to Bryant's right came the droning of a chainsaw. To Bryant's left, someone on another farm was pounding nails, likely to repair a wooden stand before gun season.
Despite these disturbance
s, at 4:15 Bryant saw five turkeys - among them the huge gobbler - walking his way. But as the hunter slowly reached for his crossbow on its hanger, one of the birds saw him and sounded the alarm. They departed without a shot.
"All of a sudden, on top of a hill about 60 yards to my right, I saw movement," the hunter says. "I took my crossbow and laid it on my lap."
It was a big doe, and she was heading Bryant's way. In fact, she soon was standing 15 yards in front of the hunter, her chest centered in the "V" formed by two trees. But the doe looked behind her three times, and Bryant elected not to take the shot.
The doe finally ran on, crossed the creek and zipped over the hill to the left of the ladder stand. Then there was more noise to the hunter's right.
"I thought somebody was running through the woods," Bryant says. "But it was a buck, and he was on the same trail the doe had taken."
Since 1993 there had been no gun hunting on the farm in an effort to improve buck size and numbers. In addition, only bucks with racks at least as wide as their ear tips (15 inches or so in the "alert" position) were fair game. This rule was firmly in Bryant's mind as he sized up the buck prancing his way.
"I could only see the right side of the rack," Bryant says. "It was way past his ear and huge, as far as thickness goes. But I didn't try to count points. I've never been able to shoot one when I've done that."
Amazingly, the buck stopped right where the doe had - 15 yards in front of the stand, his kill zone perfectly exposed. Bryant aimed and shot, putting his bolt right through the heart. The deer made it only 15 yards.
By the time Voorhees arrived, Bryant had checked out the rack and found that it had far more points than he had imagined. When Tim Walmsley measured it for entry into Boone and Crockett, Bryant also learned that his deer - the only non-typical he says he's ever seen alive - had a world-class score as well.
The main beams have circumferences of up to 8 2/8 inches, and 15 of the points are at least 6 inches long. Total scorable antler is 138 2/8 inches on the right side, 139 7/8 on the left. Adding the inside spread of 23 1/8 yields a gross B&C score of 301 2/8 before 10 1/8 inches of asymmetry deductions on the typical frame drop the net to 291 1/8 inches.
"If anyone deserved to kill this deer, it was Fred," Bryant says. "He's put so much into that land, and he's a good hunter who's shot a lot of big bucks." But as is so often the case, fate cast a different vote.
Yes, tales of giant deer often play out in bizarre fashion, and it's hard to fathom anything much more bizarre than killing a world-class buck on a crossbow turkey hunt. But eventually, the state mark will fall again, and there's a real chance the next hunter's tale will be even harder to believe!
JILL ADCOCK’S BUCK is truly special.
Jill Adcock wasn’t worried about killing a trophy deer during the 1993 firearm season.
She just wanted a deer. Entering her fourth year of hunting, Adcock just wanted to take her first deer.
Instead of taking any deer she wound up with a 10-point typical Peoria County buck that scored 183 3/8 inches and at the time was the largest ever taken by a woman in North America.
“It was about 7:45. I had just set down my gun to pick up the hand warmer, and there he was,” said Jill. She took her first shot at the buck at 45 yards with a 20-gauge shotgun on the 40-acre of timber she and husband Therry had purchased one year earlier. Interestingly enough, the farm they hunt is just down the road from where Mel Johnson shot his 204 4/8-inch Pope and Young world-record typical in 1965.
Jill was hunting a 12-foot ladder stand that day (Nov. 20, 1993) on the second day of gun season near the center of the property in an area where several trails intersected and there was an excellent crop of acorns.
After Jill’s first shot the buck froze, but showed no sign of being hurt. So she fired twice more. Then she reloaded and pumped three more shells at the deer. The buck ran off and Jill had to wait 30 minutes to see if all her rapid reloading had paid off. That’s when she found the buck mortally wounded near her stand. Apparently her first shot had hit near the base of the buck’s main beam, stunning the animal without knocking the antler loose.
At the time, Adcock’s big Peoria County was the 14th largest taken by any Illinois hunter and was 122nd on Boone and Crockett’s elite list.
For Adcock, the big buck culminated an evolution as a hunter that saw her go from reluctant to passionate.
She first started hunting in 1989 when her brother, Jack Loughridge, moved to Florida. “My husband Therry had always hunted with Jack, and when he
moved it left Therry with no hunting partner,” Jill explained. “Ihad been hearing so much about it I figured I’d give it a try.”
Showing more courage than most husbands I know, Therry encouraged Jill’s interest.
“I was pretty tickled by it, actually,” Therry said. “It’s really worked out well.”
And while it took her four years to shoot her first buck, Jill said her interest in hunting never faltered.
“I just like being outside in the woods whether it’s hunting or mushrooming or camping,” she said.
Still, it helped her spirits immensely to see a deer in range on the second day of the shotgun season. “When I saw him I said to myself, `Oh good, he’s got antlers, too,’ ” she recalled.
It didn’t occur to her then that this was a dream deer—the type of buck many hunters will never see in the wild. Later, embarrassed that one of her shots hit an antler, Jill even questioned whether to have the buck mounted.
A few measurements ended that debate. The symmetrical 10-pointer grossed 195 6/8 inches, had an inside spread of 21 7/8, tines of 13 1/4 and 12 1/2 inches, and even with 5 inches missing from one point, turned heads. The deer, which field-dressed 193 pounds, was aged at 4 1/2 years old.
“I still stare at it every night,” said Therry, who has no wall mounts of his own. “I’m biased, obviously, but to me it’s just about perfect.”
And though she wants to be considered a hunter, not a woman hunter, Jill still looks at this weekend from an obviously female perspective.
BARB BREWER BUCK OF ILLINOIS. In 1997 she shot the largest non-typical buck ever killed by a woman.
And for Brewer, killing her 253 3/8-inch buck on Dec. 7 with a 16-gauge shotgun was no lucky thing.
She worked hard for the 24-point Hamilton County buck she killed on property owned by her brother, Brad. Also hunting that weekend was Barb’s husband, Jim.
“Brad and Jim had hunted the year before on this property and had seen two huge bucks,” Barb said. “One of the bucks got into some heavy brush and had to back out, swinging his head trying to get its antlers loose from the brush.”
Little did she know she would encounter the same deer—more than once.
First came a big doe, though, around 8:30 a.m. of opening morning of the first shotgun season.
“She was just running around, making a circle in the woods near the stand I had trouble getting into,” Barb said. “Then, she suddenly ran out of the woods and immediately came back in — running all around, crazy. I thought maybe she had winded me and couldn’t figure out where I was. Then she disappeared. About 45 minutes later, I heard a buck grunt.”
Since it was time to head back to camp, Barb opted to pass through the timber from where she had heard the grunt. Then she saw a huge buck, headed down a gully.
“I thought I would be able to get a shot if I just stepped out a little bit,” Barb said. “He came right to the edge of the gully and spotted me. He stopped, dead in his tracks, and went into a sneak position with his head down real low.”
Though the deer’s head and neck were all she could see, Barb shot. After tracking and finding no blood or hair, Barb and Jim decided she had missed.
For the rest of first season, others hunted the same stand, but nobody encountered Barb’s buck.
And for the first three days of second season, Barb did not have much luck either. But then, as the shotgun season was drawing to a close, Barb went out at about 1 p.m. for a final hunt. She blew a few times on her grunt call and quickly attracted attention.
“Off to my left, I saw the top of a buck’s rack,” she said. “But I couldn’t get a clear shot. He was there for about 10 minutes, and I was just sick. After a few minutes, he turned his head and I could see the drop tines. Then I really got nervous. I just kept thinking, I’ve got to get myself together and not blow this.”
“When I raised my gun a big, I bumped the grunt call around my neck. I thought, Well, I’ve ruined it now. He threw his head up and tried to wind me, but he couldn’t.”
Instead, the buck started rubbing antlers, took a few steps forward and gave Barb a clear shot.
After she shot, the buck ran off—at first making her think she had missed him. Then she remembered seeing steam coming from the buck’s sides.
“Then I was pretty sure I had gotten him, and then I really started shaking!” she said. “My Dad taught me never to get down right away, because you might push the deer and never get it. So I sat there for about 20 minutes. It was the longest wait of my life. As I climbed down, the stand was really shaking from my legs quivering so badly. I went out to where I thought I had first hit him and couldn’t find anything. Then, after another 10 yards, I found a drop of blood. Then it started to spray the grass red and was an easy trail to follow.
“As I peeked over the hill, I could see him lying there with that rack sticking up. I waited to make sure he was dead before I went over to him. When I saw he was dead for sure, I let out the biggest ‘war whoop’ you’ve ever heard in your life!”
BILL BROWN BUCK OF ILLINOIS.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was printed Jan. 26, 2000 in the Peoria Journal Star.
PEKIN—Rack up another state-record whitetail deer for the Peoria area.
After being scored over the weekend, Pekin attorney Bill Brown’s unique Fulton County buck has emerged as the latest chart-topper bagged by a local hunter. The deer’s non-typical rack scored an impressive 251 6/8 inches to easily surpass the old mark—a 245 5/8-inch Vermilion County buck Robert Chestnut killed in 1981. (NOTE: Brown’s buck was later supplanted as state record).
“Right now it stands as a state record,” said Tim Walmsley of Fowler, who scored the buck. “The only thing that could change that is if either (of two national record-keeping groups) don’t agree with how we scored the buck.”
Official acceptance of the scoring should come within a month from the Pope & Young Club but will take up to six months from the Boone & Crockett Club. Walmsley, who consulted with several scorers before rendering a final judgment on the rack, does not anticipate any problems.
(NOTE: Brown never had the deer scored by a Pope & Young Club panel, so it stands at 251 6/8.)
That being the case, Peoria-area hunters will hold state records in three of the four major deer hunting categories. Mel Johnson’s 1965 Peoria County buck still tops the archery typical list and Richard Pauli’s 1983 Peoria County monster leads the firearm non-typical rankings.
A typical deer is one whose antlers are nearly symmetrical. Non-typical deer often have more antler points, but they are irregular in form. Browns 25-pointer was very irregular, as the accompanying photo attests.
“And it’s impossible to really capture this deer in a two-dimensional photograph,” said Brown, who bagged his buck in early November.
In addition to a 30-inch outside spread and a 25-inch inside spread, the basic 11-point frame included a whopping 71 inches of irregular points.
“What makes him even more impressive is the velvet-covered drop tines and the way his main beams droop down,” Walmsley said. “It’s mounted beautifully, too.”
Locie Murphy of Bushnell handled the taxidermy work for Brown, who has hung the mount in the entryway to his home.
“It booted my son’s deer out of the spot,” said Brown, who has been bowhunting since 1991. “And he killed his buck during his first weekend of hunting when he was 12.”
So obviously this is a special deer - though not as special as some rumors purport.
“Down at the bowling alley I’ve even heard I turned down an offer of $1 million for the mount,” laughed Brown, 49, who has not received any serious purchase offers. “I told them to find that buyer and it’s sold.”
In the meantime, you’ll have a chance to see the buck at the Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic March 24-26 at the Peoria Civic Center. North American Whitetail magazine also is planning an upcoming story on Brown’s deer.
Pekin attorney awaits judgment on `deer of a lifetime’
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was printed Nov. 12, 1999 in the Peoria Journal Star.
Forget Novocain. All it took for Bill Brown to ease the pain of a raging toothache was a single arrow.
That arrow, released from his bow Monday morning, dropped a whitetail Brown appropriately called “the deer of a lifetime.”
The Fulton County buck sported a tangled mass of non-typical antlers that green-scored an impressive 243 7/8, which would rank second all-time among non-typical Illinois bow kills. And according to two scorers for the Boone and Crockett club, there’s still a chance after the mandatory 60-day drying period that the rack could overtake the record—a 245 5/8 buck killed in 1981 by Robert Chestnut.
“It’s a tough deer to score and because of that it will probably be scored by a panel (of Boone and Crockett club officials) in two years. So we scored it pretty conservative,” said Tim Walmsley, who measured the deer. “It is hands down the No. 2 (non-typical bowkill) in Illinois and could even be scored No. 1. And it’s very possible that could be the biggest deer killed with a bow in North America this year. It’s awesome.”
At first glance, the huge drop tines on the 23-point rack make it look like two sets of antlers combined. The basic 10-point main frame features six points on one side and four on the other—along with a whopping 75 inches of abnormal points. Most of those drop tines are still covered in velvet and one forked dandy measures almost 13 inches.
“He looks like he’s got a big cage around his head,” Brown said. “When he turned his head in the woods it looked like a Ferris wheel going around.”
That the 49-year-old Pekin hunter got a shot at the big buck is due in part to his achy tooth.
“If I didn’t have to be in the dentist chair later that morning getting my gums cut up, I’d have been working,” said Brown, an attorney at Peoria’s Goldfine & Bowles firm.
Instead, following an unsuccessful Sunday hunt he ventured back into a tree stand Monday. After a few hours, three does bedded down in some nearby brush.
Moments later, the trio jumped up, looked around and took off—giving Brown fair warning that something was approaching. That something turned out to be a buck unlike Brown—or most of us—have ever seen.
“He couldn’t even get through the trees, he was just banging his antlers on everything,” Brown said. “He had to turn his head and twist it and he was still knocking trees.”
With the buck still out of range, Brown bleated on a doe call and turned the big deer—drawing him to within 20 yards.
“I’ve never really had much success calling deer before, but this time it worked,” said Brown, who has been bowhunting since 1991.
Once it came into range, Brown’s arrow found its mark and the buck ran a short distance before collapsing in a nearby bean field. From there, Brown dragged it out, checked it in and headed for the dentist’s chair.
Ironically, his deer was checked in shortly after another Fulton County monster—a 22-point non-typical buck that scored 206 and was killed by Jack Link of Ellisville.
Even more ironically, the two big bucks were killed during an unseasonable heat wave that has slowed deer activity.
“With this heat the deer haven’t been moving in the morning much at all,” agreed Brown, who may soon be joining the resting whitetails. “I’ve told my buddies I may not hunt anymore this year. I’ll just come around camp, drink some beers and give some advice. “
BRIAN DAMERY BUCK OF ILLINOIS.
BLUE MOUND—Every whitetail deer hunting season brings wild rumors of monster bucks and trophy deer.
Sometimes, as in the case of Blue Mound resident Brian Damery, the rumors don’t do justice to the truth.
Hunting on a private farm in the southwest part of Macon County on Saturday, Nov. 20, 1993, Damery stalked and killed a typical 12-point buck that set the local and national hunting community abuzz. The buzz would have been even greater had not Milo Hanson shot his 213 1/8-point Boone and Crockett world record in western Saskatchewan days later that same year.
Even so, the Damery buck still amazes.
“A lot of times when they get that big, (the antlers) don’t hold their symmetry. This one did,” said Ron Willmore, an Illinois Power Co. biologist. “It’s literally a one-in-a-million deer.”
Willmore was not exaggerating. Though not a world-record, Damery’s buck has the highest grossing typical frame of any deer ever at 231 1/8 inches. The deer was officially scored at 200 2/8 inches, had 32 4/8- and 32-inch main beams and an inside spread of 28 3/8 inches. The deer field-dressed at 210 pounds and was estimated at 5.5 years old. The right antler alone grossed 104 1/8 inches typical, while the left was 98 5/8
The only drawback were some abnormal points, five of which are typical deductions. The biggest blow to the rack’s score, though, are double brow tines. The extra brow on the right side is 6 4/8 inches. Had that tine never grown or been broken off, the net score would have been 206 6/8. The extra brow tine on the left is 7 4/8 inches, without which the rack would have netted 214 2/8.
Damery was 28 when he shot the big buck and working in the fertilizer business in Blue Mound. Primarily a bowhunter, Damery also hunted with a shotgun during firearm season.
And the buck he wound up with in 1993 was no secret to Damery or to other hunters in the area. Damery had been aware of the big deer since at least early 1993 when a neighbor showed him an antler from the big buck. Damery showed the shed to friends who scored the right antler at 85 inches gross. Couple that with another 85-inch antler and a conservative 20-inch inside spread and Damery quickly calculated the buck could gross 190 or better.
Based on that, he got permission to hunt the ground where the shed had been found. But he never saw the buck while scouting. Then he failed to see the buck in the early going of bow season. Work then called and Damery had to limit his hunts until the firearm season arrived on Nov. 19, 1993. On the first day in the stand, he saw the buck—despite one eye being swollen shut due to an unfortunate encounter with poison ivy vines.
His first glimpse of the massive 12-pointer came around 1 p.m. when the deer stood up from its bed in a grassy waterway about 600 yards from Damery’s stand. Damery then watched the buck and a few other deer with him for nearly two hours. He also kept tabs on another nearby hunter who had not seemed to notice the buck. Damery finally got down at 3 p.m. to creep closer, but when the wind changed he opted to back out and to return the next day.
That proved to be a wise decision. After returning to his stand Saturday morning, he spotted the group of deer about 10 minutes after dawn. The deer were again in a hayfield, working toward the grassy waterway where they had bedded one day earlier.
Once he saw where they were headed, Damery decided to take matters into his own hands.
“He crawled 200 yards on his belly to get to it,” Willmore said.
Damery crawled along some willows and a hedgerow until he finally head antlers ripping through willows near him. But when Damery looked up hoping to see his monster, he instead saw an 8-pointer that had been lingering near the big buck. Damery quickly scrambled into a patch of weeds between him and the big buck, which was following a doe nearby. Eventually he saw the big buck broadside at 50-75 yards.
Damery sat up and fired his Remington 870 12-gauge pump shotgun. But the buck bolted at him. Damery said he short-stroked the pump action and jammed the empty shell back into the chamber. Then he stood to clear the empty shell, allowing the big buck to run within 20 yards. Damery took another shot at 50 yards, missed, and then shot again at 80 yards and hit the buck. Afterwards he learned his first shot had also been true.
From there went out calls, including one to local scorer Willmore.
“They called me and said a guy had scored it and they gave me a total. I asked, ‘Is that gross or net?’ ” Willmore recalled. “He said it was a net typical of 202. That’s when I dropped the phone. It’s a gorgeous rack and the points are not all jumbled up. They’re stacked on the main beam just like they are supposed to be.”
For Damery, the buck was his second trophy in four years of hunting. He also killed a Pope & Young class 10-pointer in 1992.
“I wasn’t even going to have it mounted and my father and brother-in-law told me, ‘You better, because you’ll probably never have another deer that big,’ ” Damery recalled.
Obviously, brother-in-law was wrong.
Here’s a story taken from the Aug. 4, 1994 Decatur Herald & Review
Video, magazines feature Blue Mound hunter
BY JEFF LAMPE
Mindy Damery still laughs when she recalls the day a Federal Express delivery man came to her house outside Blue Mound and asked, “Is this package for THE Brian Damery?” She laughs because to her “THE Brian Damery” is the same man she married a few years back. The same man who tried to bring his old brown chair into a living room of matched white furniture after they were married.
But in the world of whitetail deer hunting, Brian Damery is much more than a husband or a fertilizer plant manager. Having killed one of the world’s largest whitetail bucks, the Blue Mound native has become a celebrity.
In the past month, Brian Damery and his monster Macon County buck have graced the cover of North American Whitetail magazine, Illinois Game & Fish magazine and the latest edition of the Bass Pro Shops catalog.
What’s more, Brian is featured on Bill Jordan’s new Monster Bucks II video and is scheduled to appear on Jordan’s Realtree Outdoors show that is broadcast on TNN.
“I went out and bought probably 50 bucks worth of magazines for friends and family. And I’ll probably have a couple framed,” Brian said. “But there wasn’t too much fuss, I knew it was coming.”
The torrent of media attention would have been unleashed sooner if not for Milo Hanson of Saskatchewan, Canada, who killed what is expected to be the new Boone and Crockett world record.
By comparison, the Damery Deer is expected to rank ninth on the all-time Boone and Crockett ranks after being panel-scored in 1995 -assuming no new record racks are harvested in the interim.
Ironically, both Brian and Hanson will appear at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo., Aug. 25-28 for the store’s Hunting Classic sale.
“I’ll have my deer down there and old Milo will have his down there and I’m kind of anxious to get them side by side,” Brian said.
But life with a world-record class buck is not all fun and games.
“It gets to be kind of hassle just worrying about the darn thing,” Brian said.
There is also the matter of paying to insure the deer. Then too there are the rumors.
Mindy recalled how that same FedEx deliveryman told her he’d heard the deer was going to be sold to a museum for $250,000.
“If I would have been offered the amounts some people allege I would not be here now,” Brian said, matter-of-factly. “I’d be in Aruba or something. And we wouldn’t live in the house we live in now.”
While Brian isn’t saying what he’s been offered for the mount, local sources put the going price for the Damery Deer at about $40,000.
Still Brian offers no insight into what amount would prompt him to sell, or even whether he’s received any viable offers of late.
But he does have definite plans for the upcoming deer hunting seasons.
“I’m going to go out and get his brother this year,” he said.
RICHARD PAULI BUCK IS AN AMAZING 267 PLUS ILLINOIS BUCK.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was written Nov. 11, 2001 by Jeff Lampe of the Peoria Journal Star.
The precise date Richard Pauli forgets. But details from opening day of the 1983 shotgun deer season are firmly committed to memory.
Pauli remembers the wind direction on the first day of that season. He can provide a play-by-play of his hunt that would make Vin Scully proud.
Most of all, Pauli remembers the deer. The 25-point buck he shot that day still ranks as the No. 1 non-typical in Illinois and is still known to some as the Barnyard Buck, a name penned by former Journal Star scribe Jack Ehresman.
‘’Jack called it that because the first time I saw (the deer) that morning he was right outside the gate,’’ Pauli said.
The pre-dawn meeting ended a few minutes later when the buck wandered off. Though slightly unnerved, Pauli wasn’t convinced the deer was gone for good.
He had seen the buck several times on his rural Dunlap farm while tending cattle and bowhunting. That a shot never materialized until gun season is something Pauli regrets.
‘’I wanted to take that deer with a bow,’’ he said. ‘’The only reason I took him with a gun was because they sold the farm next door and it was full of hunters. And he was headed in that direction.’’
To put himself in position Pauli had crossed the farm and climbed high into an oak tree. Just as the deer moved into range, though, a piece of bark fell and hit the buck.
‘’I thought for sure he’d take off, but it didn’t bother him at all,’’ Pauli said.
Ten minutes later the buck stepped into a clearing and Pauli was part of deer-hunting history. In addition to ranking No. 1 among Illinois non-typicals, Pauli’s buck is No. 17 in North America according to the Boone & Crockett club.
Sporting an extra beam on its left side, the deer’s uneven rack included seven points on one side and 18 on the other. Other record book measurements include a score of 267 3/8 inches, a right beam with a circumference of 6 5/8 inches and a left beam of 28 2/8 inches.
But Pauli, who refused several offers to buy the mount, was not concerned about record recognition then or now.
‘’I just knew he was a nice deer. There weren’t as many people making a big deal about it back then,’’ he said. ‘’I think any more they put too much money into deer hunting. It’s too commercial.’’
That hasn’t soured Pauli on hunting, though. This Friday he plans to be in the timber, as he has nearly every season since 1957. The chance he’ll encounter another Barnyard Buck is remote, but perhaps not non-existent.
‘’A few years ago there was one just like it around here,’’ Pauli said. ‘’It had the nickname of Pauli Jr. I haven’t heard much about that one lately, but I don’t think it’s gone.’’
NOTE: This story was written by Jack Ehresman, former Peoria Journal Star outdoor writer.
It was the opening day of the 1983 Illinois firearm deer season, and Richard Pauli, hunting from a big oak tree on his property near rural Dunlap, suddenly found himself looking down at the most massive buck he had ever seen. But at that precise moment, he could do nothing about it.
“When I looked down he was standing right exaclty underneath me about 15 feet away. All I could see was his ears and his antlers. I had laid my gun on limbs to my right and was trying to figure out how I could get to it without making any noise ‘cause he was awfully close,” said Pauli. “I moved a little bit, and when I did, my feet knocked a piece of bark off the tree, and it hit him. I thought all I’d see was his tail up and he’d be gone, but he didn’t move. He soon disappeared under a big limb, and I couldn’t see him anymore, so I just didn’t move.”
A few minutes later, what must have seemed like an eternity to Pauli, the world-class buck again appeared in the hunter’s range of vision about 20 yards away. By this time Pauli held his shotgun.
“He was moving crossways with the wind like he always did and was moving away from me. He turned just a little to his left to look. Then he turned to his right. When he did this, he exposed his neck to me. That’s my favorite shot,” Pauli said with a smile.
The rest is history, and Pauli wound up with a 27-point buck that has been scored 260 7/8 inches by official Boone and Crockett measurer John Kube of Petersburg (later scored a 25-pointer at 267 3/8 inches), forest game biologist with the Illinois Department of Conservation.
Though it has not been officially entered as this story goes to press, the animal will go down as the largest non-typical deer ever recorded in the state. It currently stands No. 8 nationally through the last (eight) recording period of Boone and Crockett through 1981.
The largest non-typical Illinois buck on record (at that time) was taken by bow hunter Bob Chestnut of Collision in 1981. It scored 245 5/8 points and sported 31 antler points.
Kube spent more than three hours measuring the deer with assistance from Pekin taxidermist, Drew Just, who mounted the head.
“It was the toughest I’ve ever scored. The toughest part was determining the number of times considered typical and non-typical. The unusual aspect of it is that the rack appears to have a third beam coming out of it,” said Kube who had to decide which growth turned into the odd point.
Forrest (Frosty) Loomis, chief deer biologist in the state, later also scored the antlers without having any knowledge of how it had measured. His total was slightly less.
“At the time I never realized how big he was. Even after I had checked it in I really wasn’t excited as everybody else was. It took a couple of days before it hit me,” said Pauli who had been hunting the big buck for three years.
Though the soft-spoken sportsman admits bagging a deer of such proportions is 99 percent luck, he is no neophyte hunter. Only twice since modern whitetail hunting was reintroduced to the state in 1957 has he failed to take home venison. Once his name was not drawn for a permit and two years ago illness in the family kept him out of a tree.
In 1968 he harvested a buck that dressed out at 263 pounds, much heavier than his backyard buck of last year which field dressed at 197.
“I don’t go deer hunting to get a deer. I go because I enjoy it,” he said. Pauli also spends many hours glassing his 105 acres and adjacent property with binoculars, keeping close tabs on deer and other wildlife activity.
“We have three old does here that are as big as cows. I’d bet they weigh more than the big buck did. I’m almost sure he was related to one of these three does. I know one is probably 17 years old, another about 15 and the other somewhere pretty close,” said Pauli who added the does have been protected because adjacent land owners, like himself, run cattle and allow no hunting.
Ironically, one of North America’s most recognized big-game animals, the Mel Johnson typical buck that scored 204 4/8 in 1965, was taken on property of Pauli’s aunt which is located about five miles from where his big non-typical was taken last November. So it would be an understatement to say good genetics exist in the deer herd in this area of Peoria County.
Pauli had been aware a big whitetail had been occasionaly passing through his property. “‘I knew it was him because of his footprints. I had seen him twice from a distance while bow hunting and got a closer look one night when I went out with the cattle,” said Pauli. “But I never did get a real good look at his antlers and never knew how big he really was.”
But in observing the big buck, he noticed it developed an unusual habit of going crossways with the wind. This gave Pauli a hunch and caused him to change his hunting plans the last minute on opening morning last year.
While bowhunting he was able to catch only a quick glimpse of the trophy buck.
“In 1981 I was in a deep washout when I heard something about 15 feet behind me. I was in a position where I couldn’t turn around, and there was no way I could shoot left handed. All I could see was his tail. He just walked to the top of the hill and then came out in plain sight,” he recalled.
“Then another time in the same creek bed I noticed a maple tree was down. I was gonna’ be smart and cross over on it. He bolted from the brush and was gone. It scared me more than it scared him, and it was the only time I caught him bedded down.”
The best glimpse Pauli caught of the big deer, before looking down on him from the big oak, came about a month before the shotgun season arrived last fall.
He and his wife, Donna, had been to a relative’s house for supper that night. It was dark when they arrived home, and they drove out to the pasture to drive their cattle to another field before retiring for the night.
“She drove the car down to the pond so we could use the headlights to see and the beams hit him. He was drinking at the pond. He turned around and looked at us. He looked up, turned his head around over his shoulder and just walked off. He never did break stride or change his pace. He acted like he was king of the hill,” Pauli said.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill just to see a deer like that. In the headlights he looked like that big deer Hartford Insurance uses in its advertising.”
Since bow season had already started, Pauli went after the big animal. He had taken an 8-pointer with a bow two years earlier. Despite his searching, he never saw the buck again until the opening day of the firearms season.
It was dark that morning when he took off for his hunting spot which he had picked out on the north side of his farm. But plans changed soon after stepping through the gate in the field located about 30 yards behind his home.
“I was about half asleep, but I sensed there was something else in the field with me. I looked up and this big buck was in the same field. He had been crossing my path 20 to 25 yards ahead of me. We saw each other about the same time and just looked at each other for awhile,” Pauli said.
“I just stood there and relaxed. He walked off, and I thought that was the end of the day for him and that he would go bed down somewhere for the day.”
After the big buck disappeared, Pauli stood 10 to 15 minutes before moving. He began heading for the place he had planned to hunt.
“But the more I walked the more I thought. He went southeast, and he had a bad habit of always going crossways with the wind. So I figured he would go straight west. I was playing a hunch. I thought if I saw him it would be in a most unlikely spot, because I always saw him when I never expected.”
Pauli changed his hunting plans. “I wanted to get in the biggest tree in the direction I thought he might go, and the only one I could think of was on a high hill in the middle of nowhere, and old pasture surrounded by timber. And that’s where I went.”
Pauli experienced difficulty climbing the tree but finally managed to find a comfortable limb and settled down.
“About five after seven I heard a shot to the west of me. I thought things must be moving. I had been facing the southeast where I thought he might come from, so I turned around to see if anything was coming from the direction the shot came from. ‘Nothin’,” he said.
“I just sat there and relaxed and set my gun up over two limbs. I never keep it in my hands. I figure if the shot is not good enough where I can take my time, I don’t want it anyway.”
Another shot came from the west. Pauli turned again, but there was no movement. So he settled down again.
“About 10 to 12 minutes later I heard a sound behind me. A deer’s got a peculiar walk and sounds kinda’ like a person. I knew something was back there, but I didn’t know what. I didn’t want to turn around. So I just sat there. About 15 minutes later I looked down and there he was,” Pauli said.
He uses a Browning “Sweet 16” with a polychoke and slug setting during the Illinois firearms season, since it is illegal to use rifles. “I fired one shot and as soon as he went down he got the second one. Then I sat down and had my usual cup of coffee. I don’t get out of a tree after dropping a deer for at least 10 to 15 minutes,” he continued.
“I was still sittin’ up in the tree when my cousin came walking up. He heard my shootin’. I didn’t know he was out that morning. He told me he was coming the next day, but he took off work a day early. He had gotten a buck — a six pointer — and he says, ‘What’d you do, miss?’ I said yeah .. .he’s laying right there on the ground. He couldn’t believe the size when he saw it.”
Pauli dressed out his big buck, then helped his cousin with his. He got the tractor and hauled both of them from the field. It was all over by about 10 a.m. that opening day.
Pauli observes sign closely, but in chatting with him for several hours you soon realize that patience is his trump card as a deer hunter. He also is an excellent shot.
“I can sit in a tree all day long. I don’t even get down for lunch. I take no breaks, and it can be tough, especially when it’s cold. I’ve spent a lot of hours sitting with a shotgun. I take a thermos of coffee, a few candy bars, and some old-fashioned crackers, and I’m good for the day,” he said, adding that he can put three slugs inside a two-inch circle at 100 yards with his shotgun.
He never uses bottled scent when hunting but departs early before legal shooting time begins so his scent is not fresh when shooting time arrives.
“I check for rubs and scrapes but never as a rule get close to one to hunt. I try to find a trail that leads to them. This big buck didn’t rub trees, he annihilated them. I like to hunt just inside the timber. I noticed bucks will come to the edge of a clearing and just stand there. Sometimes for quite a long time,” Pauli said.
“I always climb in a tree. I prefer cedar if I can find one. If it’s raining or snowing I can stay dry. I also think it helps mask scent and it provides good visibility. I can move around. If I find a good cedar, I usually can take a few small branches and make a seat to sit on.”
Pauli feels deer movements compare with activities of cattle on the range. “I mean cattle that are left in the fields, not those which are fed daily at a regular time. I feel deer and cattle move at the same time. In full moon or almost full moon, cattle will feed in the brightest part of night,” he said.
“And if the barometer is low and the humidity is high, cattle will pick a high spot and stay out of the low areas. If it’s up they may go to low spots It’s just the opposite. If it’s windy they like to pick the side of the hill away from wind, but as close to the top as they can get so they get sun and not the wind.”
Did any other person mention they had seen the big buck that now hangs on Pauli’s wall?
“A fellow called my wife the day the picture was in the local paper and wanted to come