My uncle moved to Champagne, IL when I was in early high school. He lived there several years and came back with a 180’ 16-point Illinois giant along with several other Pope and Young caliber deer. After seeing those, I knew that I had to one-day hunt in Illinois. It became a dream and some sort of legendary place like it is for many people watching the hunting channels.
My dream came true shortly after graduating college when I finally saved up a few bucks and leased a 100-acre farm in south-eastern Illinois. I signed the lease in March of 2017 and my preparation began for the hunt of a lifetime. From March to September, I would get home from work and shoot my bow up to 60 yards and in every possible situation/angle that I could think of. If I was going to get the opportunity at a true Illinois giant, I was not going to miss the shot. This practice will come in handy a little bit later.
By October, we had stands hung and a small inventory of shooters (which blew my mind in comparison to the deer back in VA). Being nine hours away, these deer were far from patterned, but we knew that they were there. I had a few early season hunts with no success, but knew the real action would come the first week of November when we returned.
We arrived on a Tuesday night and had until Sunday morning to close the deal. The first day of hunting showed little action with only a few small deer making their way by the stand. Day two, the woods came to life. From the time that I hung my bow in the stand until dark, bucks were running does under me. There was a few hot does on the property and the next several hunts would blow my mind. Bucks ran all day long. I had a few shooters that I was able to lay my eyes on, but was unable to seal the deal.
Morning three, I was so excited I could hardly sleep. A few warm cups of coffee and I was up in the stand ready for another day of nonstop action. At daybreak, a small eight chased a doe in circles for a good 20 minutes. This was awesome to watch, but I was looking for his daddy. About an hour or so later, I catch some movement about 70-80 yards in front of me. I throw up the trusty binoculars and spot a doe. Then, I hear some grunting that sounds like it is coming from three different directions. About five minutes of picking through the brush, I am amazed as I see three different mature bucks that I would love to send an arrow through. Buck fever hits, I start shaking. After a short stint of panic, I collect myself and start ranging trees that I think they could walk by. The doe starts walking and closes the distance to 55 yards and the other bucks watch the biggest follow suite on her tail. I hear a sea of grunting and a few snort wheezes. I hope every hunter gets the opportunity to hear that in the woods. It was something that I could check off my hunting bucket list.
I see a break in the trees and I know that this is my only chance, I need to connect on this shot. The buck starts moving again and I draw back and settle in on my only opening. He hits the spot and I slowly squeeze my release. Thwack!, I hit him. It looks like I hit a little back, but I am almost positive it is a fatal hit. My mind starts racing as the buck takes off about 10 yards and stops. I can see blood coming out. What happens next leaves me at a loss for words. The doe turns and trots down a trail at an angle towards me. The buck follows her. After being hit! Crazy right? I load another arrow into the bow and he walks to another opening broadside at 45 yards. I double lung him. He runs into some brush and I hear a loud crash. At this point, I am almost in tears! My dream has come true. A 145” 10-point is down, and I am pumped! The first shot turned out to be a liver hit and although fatal, would have been a long and nervous track job. Thank the Lord for a determined old buck.
My mind was blown, and I gained a whole new understanding of the rut. This 5-year-old buck was pouring blood and literally stayed on the doe’s trail. He could care less what was happening around him to the point that I could load another arrow from my quiver hanging behind me. Everyone knows that the rut brings out the big boys, but I hope this post shows you truly how important it is to be in the stand during the rut and how determined an old trophy buck can be.