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Halloween Buck Down in Illinois

by Justin Zarr 1. November 2010 11:40
Justin Zarr

Heading into this fall I was extremely optimistic about my chances of killing a nice buck. According to the moon phases the last weekend in October was going to be prime time for daylight movement so I requested an extra day off work so I could maximize my chances. All the way back in July I started hoping that Halloween weekend we would have good weather, and someone must've been looking out for me because it was just about perfect. After last week's wind storm blew threw the bottom dropped out and sent temps into the 20's for the first time this year. Thursday night I almost couldn't sleep I was so excited for the next morning.

4 am came pretty quick on Friday morning and after showering, dressing, and heading out the door I was in my stand with cameraman Cody Altizer by about 6. As the sun rose over the frost-covered field my anticipation was high. This was the absolute perfect morning to be in the whitetail woods. An hour after sunrise we started seeing deer and before it was all said and done I believe we counted somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 whitetails with 6 being bucks. Unfortunately none of them were shooters, but seeing the young guys chasing does around made for an enjoyable sit.


Glassing for bucks on a frosty October morning. Does it get much better than this?

Friday afternoon found Cody and I back up in the timber trying to catch a buck working a line of scrapes we had found. Over the course of the afternoon we saw 4 different bucks, 2 of which were shooters. A high 130/low 140 class 9 point got to within 40 yards but just wouldn't commit to our position. He was practically downwind of us so I didn't want to chance calling to him and blow him out of the area so we let him leave on his own. Later on a big 150 class ten point made his appearance about 100 yards into a field but ventured back into the timber just as quickly as he came out. The other two bucks both passed within shooting range, but neither was quite what I had in mind. The first was a fine young 9 point that came in hard to my rattling, and the 2nd was none other than "Rudy", the buck I had passed two weeks prior.


This big 9 came to within 40 yards but just wouldn't come far enough for a shot.


This young 9 point has been getting around a lot lately. Here he's coming into a rattling sequence I did. Sorry little guy, no fight here!


Rudy seems to be making the rounds as well. Here he walks through one of my shooting lanes at roughly 30 yards. Consider that the 2nd free pass I've given you!

On Saturday we had pretty strong South winds blow in some warmer temps which seemed to keep deer movement rather subdued. Cody and I did see two small bucks in the morning and a few does, but action was slow. That evening I hunted on my own and did see one shooter, but he was too far for a shot so I had to let him walk. After being pinned down in my stand for 30 minutes after dark the buck finally left my area and allowed me to sneak out for the night. I left my bow, my pack, and most of my camera gear in the tree because I planned to return the following morning.

Sunday morning brought our North winds back and cooled the temperatures back down into the 30's, so I knew deer would be up and moving. Starting just after sunrise I saw a total of 10 or 11 deer, 4 of which were bucks, most of whom were following does around the timber. I did some light rattling and had a couple young bucks respond but once again they just weren't the deer I was after.

Around 9:15 I was contemplating getting a delicious Pop-Tart out of my pack when I heard footsteps. I looked over my shoulder to see a nice buck stepping into and through my 20 yard shooting lane, all while my video camera was pointed behind the tree and my bow was on the hanger! So about as quick I could, not paying any attention to the buck who was obviously intent on going somewhere important, I turned the camera around, hit record, grabbed my bow and looked for an opening. As the buck stepped into my shooting lane at 25 yards I stopped him and let the Nitron fly. Much to my satisfaction my arrow flew true and impacted the big deer directly behind the shoulder. As he tore off down the hill at warp speed I knew he wasn't going to make it far.

At this point I was pretty much in shock. I had no idea how big he was, I only knew he was big enough to shoot! I couldn't believe that just happened, and that I had managed to pull it off and capture the shot on film. I was one happy bowhunter! After a few phone calls and bunch of text messages I packed up my gear and headed down to retrieve my arrow. I founded it buried in the dirt where the buck had once stood, covered with frothy red blood. If there was any doubt in my mind about the shot it was now gone. I knew he was down and couldn't have made it far, but unfortunately I wouldn't be able to recover him right away. We had to get Cody's buck that he shot the night before the butcher before they closed so I headed back to the truck with plans on returning later.


When your arrow looks like this, it's generally a good sign. Wes Mantooth really came through for me!

Once our errands were run and we grabbed a quick bite to eat in town Cody, Jeremy and myself headed back up to find my buck. The recovery was quick and easy just like I had anticipated, and we found my buck piled up a little over 100 yards away, just over a small rise where I couldn't see him fall. I was ecstatic to have made a perfect shot on a great warrior of a buck. With three busted tines there's to question he was a fighter, and I'm sure there's more than a couple young bucks who are probably glad he's gone!

Be sure to check back on Friday for this week's episode of Bowhunt or Die as you'll see this buck and THREE others who hit the ground this past weekend. It's going to be our best show yet!


A photo of this mighty warrior where he fell back in the timber.


Even with 3 busted points this buck still gross scores just shy of 130 inches. Had he not been all busted up he would probably have scored somewhere in the low to mid 140's.

This is now the 2nd buck I've been fortunate enough to shoot on Halloween morning. Although they were about 10 years apart, there's still something special about October 31st. There always has, and I have a feeling there always will be.

With another cold front moving through later this week I'll be back in a tree on Friday morning looking to fill my 2nd Illinois buck tag on a Lake County bruiser. These suburban bucks have been giving me the slip for far too long and it's time for a little payback. Good luck to everyone who still has tags. November is here and the game is officially on!




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