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October Bowhunting Success | A Buck Named Hitch

by Justin Zarr 31. October 2011 16:14
Justin Zarr

This particular tale begins in the spring of 2011.  After one of my most successful bowhunting seasons to date, I decided it was time to move on from the lease I had come to call home the past three seasons.  The days of chasing Dope Ear and Schafer were over, and it was time to find some new ground.  Preferably something closer than the 250 mile drive I had been making almost every weekend during the fall.  So with mixed emotions I let the landowner now that we would be moving on, and the search for a new hunting spot began.

Through some hard work, and some much needed luck, my good friend and hunting partner Mike Willand found just such a spot.  Located in far Northwestern Illinois, this small slice of heaven hugs the bluffs of the mighty Mississippi River and looked to be very promising.  After a brief conversation, confirming that we both agreed that this was our new spot, we signed the paperwork and began preparations for the fall.

Our first trip to the new farm was on a hot summer day in Mid-July.  This was the first time I had ever stepped foot on this farm in person.  Those of you who are big on pre-season scouting know how nearly impossible it can be to scout effectively during the summer months.  The foliage is thick, the bugs are horrible, the temperatures are hot and the humidity is suffocating.  In light of this, Mike and I did the majority of our scouting and planning of stand locations before ever heading to the woods.  Aerial photos and topographic maps are without question your best friend when it comes to scouting new ground.

Having a general idea where we wanted to hang our Lone Wolf stands before heading into the field helped tremendously and allowed us to hang several sets on our first trip that July day, and finish up the remaining sets during a return trip in August.  The 2nd set we hung was located nearly in the center of the farm along what we figured would be a good travel corridor during the rut. 


The dog days of summer may not be the optimal time to hang stands, but sometimes you don't have much of a choice.  One of the keys to being successful is being prepared, not just in hunting but in all aspects of life.  Here Mike is making his way down the field edge to hang one of our Lone Wolf stands in preparation for fall.

Located on the side of a ridge we had a corn field to the North of us and a creek to the South.  To most people this stand doesn’t appear to be anything special, and probably wouldn’t be a spot many people would put a stand.  However, the topography doesn’t lie.  If a deer wanted to move from the big timber to our West through our woods to check does in the bedding area to our East, he would most likely come through this spot.

While hanging stands that warm July day we also set out a trail camera on a fence crossing, hoping to get an inventory of the resident deer herd.   On our return trip in August we checked the camera and much to our liking we had captured several pictures of what appeared to be a nice buck.  The date on the first image was 7-27-11, which was Mike’s 4 year wedding anniversary.  This prompted us to name the buck in the photos “Hitch”.


Our first photo of Hitch, taken in late July.  The forked brow tine on his left side is a dead giveaway.

Fast forward to October 1st, our first day in stand on this farm.  Opening Morning was relatively uneventful as we only saw one small buck and a doe.  During the middle of the day while killing time before our evening hunt we checked our trail camera again, this time on a different fence crossing, and once again captured several photos of Hitch – this time out of velvet.


The next, and last, photo captured of Hitch on this farm.  This photo was taken in late September and we never got another photo of him on this farm.  Although we weren't getting pictures of him, we were confident he was still around.

Over the next several weeks we only hunted this farm a total of 3 days.  While we knew the farm was holding some good deer, we didn’t want to ruin our hunting before things were getting good.  At just over 100 acres it’s easy to put too much pressure on the deer early and decrease your chances of shooting a good buck.  We’ve made that mistake in the past and didn’t want to make it again.  So we bit our tongues and we waited.

The weekend of October 29th it was time to get serious.  Instead of leaving home at 2:30 am like we had done previously, we drove out on Friday night and got a hotel room.  Some extra sleep and a shower were in order now that the bigger bucks were likely on their feet during daylight hours. 

Our plan for this morning was somewhat different than the previous 3 trips to the farm.  Instead of circling around the edge of the property and coming in from the West, we were going to sneak straight up the middle and approach the stand from the East.  You see, earlier in October during our morning walk into the stand we had spooked what sounded like a big deer in the standing corn field.  Upon closer inspection of the area we found several big scrapes, some rubs and a definite “smell” of buck.  Whoever it was, that deer had been marking his territory when we so rudely interrupted him.  Not wanting to make the same mistake again, we altered our entry route accordingly.

Upon entering the woods on Saturday morning we once again encountered the distinct smell of buck.  Many of you likely know what I’m talking about.  The musky smell of rutting whitetail buck is unmistakable and running into that during late October likely means you’re in a buck’s core area.  Also during our trip into the stand, which was our first to this stand for the year, we found several big beds that reinforced our theory that we were in a buck’s bedroom.

As the sun rose on the chilly 29 degree morning, the daylight revealed several rubs and a scrape all within 30 yards of our stand location.  Although we had hung this stand in preparation for a good travel route, it appears that we ended up in a buck bedding area.  In late October in Northern Illinois there are certainly worse places to be!

The first hour of our morning was relatively uneventful until a small button buck made an appearance.   Showing up almost directly downwind of us the young buck was nervous, but unsure of just what he was smelling.  This is until he busted us up in the tree, trying to have a little fun at his expense.  I supposed that’s what we get for screwing around.


Our first visitor of the day, a young button buck.  Anytime you start seeing yearlings out on your own you know the rut is getting close. 

Roughly 45 minutes later, shortly before 9 am, I heard footsteps on the ridge to our West and shortly after I spotted a deer moving through the brush.  I told Mike we had a deer on the opposite ridge working our way, and we both stood up.  As the deer moved out from behind a tree the glimmer of white antlers could be seen and my heart rate quickened.  I put up my Vortex binoculars to size the buck up, to which Mike responded “Put away your binoculars and grab your bow, it’s a shooter!”

Of course I didn’t listen to him as I wanted to make 100% sure this buck was a shooter before I switched my brain into kill mode.  I’ve made the mistake before of not taking time to confirm the buck’s age and rack size and buck fever has gotten the best of me.  However, that wasn’t a problem this time.  As soon as my glass hit his rack I said to Mike “It’s Hitch”.   I immediately put down the binos and reached for my Mathews.


A shot of Hitch as he approached our stand location.  Here at roughly 35 yards I have no good shot opportunities.

Over the course of the next several minutes Hitch crossed the ridge and made his way in front of our stand.  He crossed broadside at just over 30 yards, but I had no shot.  The problem with hunting these hilly areas is that often times you can’t get high enough up in the trees to trim long shooting lanes, which was the case here.  Most of my shots were within 20 yards so he was going to have to close the distance before I could get an arrow headed his direction.

After passing in front of the stand Hitch took an abrupt left and began heading away from us.  Immediately, a small feeling of defeat began to set in.  He had come so close, but was now headed in the wrong direction.  While part of me immediately wanted to reach for my grunt call in an attempt to turn him around, the veteran deer hunter in me knew better.  The buck was still within 40 yards and grunting too soon would sure do nothing but send him in the opposite direction even faster.  My plan was to let him get out to 80 yards or so before hitting the call.  But before that could happen, a little bit of luck headed my way.  Hitch decided to turn around and come back towards us.

As the buck approached our stand and got to within 20 yards he had two trails to pick from.  Both crossed well within shooting range, but one went into an open area that would make for great video and the other behind a small tree holding on dearly to its leaves.  At this point my luck had started to run out, as he picked the trail shrouded by fall foliage.

When Hitch stepped into the open at just 18 yards I grunted to stop him, settled the pin on his shoulder, and sent an NAP Hellrazor tipped arrow his way.  The arrow slammed into the brute’s shoulder and he tore off up the hill, stopping just 50 yards away.  After just 20 seconds the mighty warrior staggered, and despite his best efforts, fell over as Mike continued to roll footage.  Nearly 3 months to the day after showing up on our trail camera, Hitch was dead.

The post-shot celebration was much as you would expect.  Mike and I were in somewhat of a state of disbelief as to what just happened.  You see, things just never seem to work out like this for us.  We hunt harder than most people we know, put more time into our stand setups and preparation, and yet rarely do our plans seem to go, well, as planned.  In this case, our plan was thought out and executed to perfection.  In just the 7th sit on a brand new farm the #1 target on our Hit List was down.  What a way to end October!


My initial reaction after the shot.  I can't believe I just shot Hitch!

Once the shock wore off and text messages were sent out we climbed down to retrieve our trophy.  Despite seeing him fall we still followed the blood trail, which was incredible.  Both deer I’ve shot with the Hellrazor this season have left great trails, which is a testament to both good shot placement as well as razor sharp broadheads.  You don’t need a 2 inch cut to put a deer down quickly provided you hit them in the right place.  My shot on Hitch was about 3 inches further forward than I would have liked, however my arrow penetrated completely through the big-bodied whitetail thanks to the ultra tough Hellrazor broadhead.  I know a lot of guys like big cutting diameters, but I'll take a small, accurate, tough-as-nails broadhead any day no matter how big the cutting diameter.


There are few better feelings for a bow hunter than the first time you wrap your hands around the antlers of a buck you just shot.

Guessing Hitch at 225+ lbs on the hoof we enlisted the help of our friend and other hunting partner Mr. Kenny Tekampe to help us drag the brute out.  Luckily we only had about a 60 yard drag to the field edge, where we were able to drive the truck and pick him up.  After a photo and video session for this week’s episode of Bowhunt or Die we loaded him up and headed to the deer processor.

I didn’t have a chance to put a tape to him, but I would guess he scores somewhere around 145 inches, which makes him my best buck to date.  I’ve yet to enter any of my qualifying bucks into the P&Y record book, but I just may with this one.  He is a great example of what the Midwest has to offer when it comes to high quality whitetails.


My best buck to date, and first buck shot with my Mathews z7 Xtreme.  If my luck continues it won't be the last either.

One thing I want to point out before I end this Blog is that this buck wasn’t a result of just my efforts alone.  It was a team effort that required of hard work, planning, and sacrifice by my friend, hunting partner, cameraman and partner in crime Mike Willand.  Mike and I dedicate nearly ½ of our season each year to film each other, which is not only a lot of work but a huge sacrifice.  For those of you who have never done it, imagine sitting in a tree on a cold November morning with your bow in the truck and a camera in your hand.  

So a big Thank You goes out to Mike for all of his help.   From finding this farm for us to hunt, to battling with me about treestand locations to filming one of the most memorable hunts of my life, you’re a great friend and not a half bad cameraman.  Hopefully I can repay the favor before the season is over!

Be sure to check out our online show, Bowhunt or Die, this Friday as the full video of this hunt will be featured in this week’s episode.  And if you missed last week’s show, but sure to check it out as it features Mike’s hunt for a great suburban whitetail from earlier this October.


The end of a successful hunt is always bittersweet.  The thrill of the hunt is mixed with the disappointment of knowing this particular adventure has come to an end.  However, knowing that the season is young and the peak of the rut is still ahead of us gives me hope that there are more exciting hunts to come before the 2011 season is over.

Bowhunt or Die! Episode 5 Recap

by Cody Altizer 8. November 2010 08:43
Cody Altizer

 The fifth episode of Bowhunt or Die was our best episode so far this season, hands down.  Halloween Weekend was good to the Bowhunting.com team as 4 bucks hit the ground totaling over 540 inches of bone.  Episode 5 is full of big buck action from Central Illinois and Wisconsin so read on and let’s recap Halloween Weekend on Bowhunt or Die!

Click this link to watch the footage from Episode 5 of Bowhunt or Die!


 Josh Fletcher got things started off for us with an exciting hunt in Wisconsin.  Josh was in the tree October 28th for the first day of what was a planned two week vacation to bowhunt the rut.  Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending how you look at it) Josh filled his buck tag on his first trip out.  Josh had a nice buck chasing a doe right underneath his stand and, just as he was recapping what he saw with an interview, he hears the crunching of leaves, spots a shooter buck, quickly turns the camera around and prepares for the shot.  With the buck in frame, Josh releases an arrow tipped with the NAP Bloodrunner towards the giant Wisconsin buck.  All in a matter of seconds, Josh had successfully filmed himself shooting the biggest buck of his life!  To top it off, the big bodied whitetail died within just 40 yards of his truck making for an easy drag.  Well done, Josh!

Josh Fletcher posing happily with the biggest buck of his life, a monster Wisconsin 12 pointer.


 We then climb up the tree with Richie Music on a suburban hunt in Northern Illinois.  Despite the annoyances of hunting suburbia, Richie was determined and optimistic about seeing deer and shooting a good buck.  Richie didn’t have to wait long, because around 4 o’clock a monster Illinois 11 pointer walked right into Richie’s shooting lane.  Richie quietly drew his bow, released and let his NAP Bloodunner do its job.  A perfect double lung shot resulted in a dead deer, a happy bowhunter and the biggest buck of Richie’s life on the ground.  Richie’s reaction after he shot the buck is what deer hunting is all about.  Just watching Richie’s excitement and enthusiasm is enough to make me get back in the woods right now!  Kudos to Richie for self-filming the biggest buck harvest of his life with bow and arrow, good job Richie!

The monster 11 pointer just before Richie's arrow strikes true.  The bright red streak you see above and to the right of the buck's rack is Richie's arrow.

 

Richie with the biggest buck of his life.  A mainframe 10 with a split left G2, long main beams and a super wide spread make Richie's buck a buck of a lifetime.


 Bowhunt or Die then makes the trip south to Central Illinois and Pike County as I continue my quest for not only my first Illinois buck, but my first buck with a bow period.  After filming Justin Zarr for three days, I set out on my own and my first afternoon out I had some action.  About 5:45 I catch movement out of my left eye and see a shooter buck making his towards me.  I immediately take a deep breath, grab my bow, situate the camera and stand up to get ready for the shot.  The buck cooperates beautifully and walks right in an opening just 20 yards from my stand and when he stops, I shoot.  My arrow hit its mark as I watched my Thunderhead Edge pass quickly through the buck’s heart.  I was pumped!  I was able to film myself shooting my first Illinois buck as well as my first buck with a bow.  There is no better feeling!

My first buck with a bow, my first Illinois buck and my biggest buck to date.  I was able to self-film myself harvesting this buck and am extremely proud of him!


 The big buck action continues as we follow Justin Zarr on the same piece of property as he looks for a big buck.  If you have watched the previous episodes of Bowhunt or Die, you’ve watched Justin pass on several nice bucks looking for a mature, Illinois whitetail.  Justin hunted hard for two straight days and despite numerous encounters with younger bucks and a couple close calls with two shooters, Justin headed into Halloween morning without a deer.  Justin is living proof, however, that persistence pays because Halloween morning Justin’s patience was rewarded.  An old, battle tested buck made the mistake of stopping in Justin’s shooting lane and Justin made a perfect shot on him.  Justin’s NAP Nitron made a quick, clean kill on a bruiser Illinois buck.  Justin’s buck actually had three tines broken off which adds character to his rack and proves this old buck was a warrior!  Congrats Justin!

Justin's reaction right after he shot his buck.  This is what bowhunting is all about!

Justin proudly poses with his Halloween buck.  The buck had three broken tines, but he was still a great trophy nonetheless.


 Episode 5 was packed full of exciting buck action, and the hunts shared were similar and unique in several ways.  Josh, Richie, and I all shot the biggest bucks of our lives.  We were all able to successfully self-film the buck harvests featured in Episode 5 and we all relied on NAP broadheads to harvest our bucks.  Combine this with the fact that Josh shot his buck on October 28th, Richie on the 29th, mine on the 30th and Justin’s on the 31st and it all adds up to make for a pretty cool show!  While it may seem as if Episode 5 will be impossible to top, I would put nothing past the Bowhunting.com Pro Staff with the rut now in full swing.  Tune in this Friday for a new episode of Bowhunt or Die to find out!

Illinois Buck Down! Living the Bowhunter's Dream

by Cody Altizer 1. November 2010 16:21
Cody Altizer

    I’ve always said, “Everyone should get to live a dream come true.”  It’s a simple saying, but I truly believe that at some point, everyone in life should get to live out the dreams they had has a kid, regardless of how wild or seemingly unattainable they might be.  Fortunately for me, I have been living a literal dream come true for the past month and a half and that dream got even sweeter this past weekend.  So, when I received official word that I would be heading South with Justin Zarr to his lease in Pike County, IL to hunt and film for three days, I had an undeniable feeling that something good was going to happen.

 

The view from my stand Saturday October 30th.  Central Illinois is some of the prettiest country I have ever seen and just being there was a blessing in itself.

    One of the perks of being a Bowhunting.com Pro Staff member is I get to hunt with some genuinely cool guys on some awesome whitetail hunting grounds.  The current downside of this opportunity is that I am the “low man on the totem pole” and have to work my way to obtain hunting privileges.  This means I am cameraman first, hunter second.  So, the deal was I was to film Justin for three hunts, and then I had three hunts to myself.  I was cool with this as wildlife cinematography is a growing passion of mine and I was anxious to hunt alongside Justin for three days.  Nevertheless, I would be lying if I told I wasn’t out-of-my-mind excited to have the opportunity to hunt Pike County for three consecutive hunts Halloween Weekend. 

This doe got a pass from me at 20 yards.  A text from my dad kept me optimistic that a buck was going to make his way by my stand.

    While filming Justin I tried to learn as much as I could about the property and the deer’s patterns as I could so I could really get the most out of my three hunts.  When Saturday afternoon rolled around and my duties as cameraman were complete, I was prepared to harvest not only my first Illinois buck, but my first bow buck period.  Justin’s lease is a real unique piece of property as it is essentially one huge bedding area with approximately 65% of it being a huge CRP field.  However, when filming Justin we saw the majority of the 3+ year old bucks in the remaining timber and I knew that’s where I wanted to concentrate the most of my efforts.  Being late October, the mature bucks were on their feet more than usual, but weren’t really willing to venture out in the wide open CRP just yet.  So I opted to hunt the fringe of the CRP field Saturday night and was prepared to sit in a tree all day Sunday in the timber if need be.
    Now, I know I dedicated nearly an entire paragraph to trying to pin down a mature buck, but I must make a confession.  I was just looking for my first bow buck period!  I have passed on several bucks with my bow back home in Virginia as I wanted my first bow buck to be in the 120” range and figured the same rule should apply in Illinois. 

A shot of my buck just seconds before I released the arrow.  Be sure to watch Bowhunt or Die this Friday to see the footage of my hunt.

    As I got settled in my stand Saturday afternoon I was a little bummed about the weather.  Temperatures were in the middle 60s and the wind was blowing just enough to irritate me so I didn’t start the hunt off on a very positive note.  However, I reread a text my dad sent me Friday morning when Justin and I were seeing great buck activity from the same stand.  He told me, “I’ve got a feeling Mr. Big is going to come by you this weekend! Relax, steady, release!  Mr. Big is yours!”  Without even knowing it, my Dad had lifted my spirits some 700+ miles away.  I was ready for the hunt. 

My 2010 Pike County, IL bowhunt.  You would be hard pressed to find a happier hunter than the one sitting behind that buck October 30th. 

Is he the biggest buck roaming the timber and fields of Central Illinois?  Absolutely not.  Am I uncontrollably proud of this buck?  You bet!

    The evening slowly passed with pleasant activity.  I saw a small raccoon meander his way by the stand around 4 and around 5:30 a doe and her two fawns crossed in front of me at 20 yards.  Then, at 5:40, I heard a snort-wheeze to my North and stood up to further investigate the noise.  Mere seconds later I see a buck making his way between the two fingers in which I was hunting and immediately peg him as a shooter.  With both eyes locked onto the buck I stood up, grabbed my bow, got my camera situated and prepared myself for the shot.  It was all coming together perfectly.  He slowly made his way down the opening and I drew my bow as soon as he was behind a big branch that was sticking off the tree my stand was in.  I took a deep breath and thought to myself, “This is actually going to happen!”  He stopped on his own at 20 yards exactly and I placed my 20 yard pin directly behind his shoulder and touched the release.  I have never watched an arrow fly so perfectly.  I watched my Thunderhead Edge tipped arrow quickly strike the deer right behind the shoulder; a perfect heart shot!  He took off in a hurry but I knew he wasn’t going to make it far.  I wasn’t able to see where he fell but knew he was laying 70 yards from the point of impact in the CRP grass.  I had done it, buck down in Illinois!

I'm extremely thankful that Justin let me come down and hunt his property with him and taking such beautiful harvest pictures of me and my buck.

    This buck is by no means a monster but he’s the most proud I have ever been of a deer and will look great hanging on my wall.  He’s my first Illinois buck, my first bow buck and my biggest buck to date!  I hate to sound like a broken record, but harvesting this buck was a dream come true.  Most guys my age back home would kill to have the opportunity to hunt Pike County Illinois and I am extremely blessed to have been given the opportunity to do so.  A BIG thanks goes out to Justin Zarr for letting me come down and hunt with him, I’m really grateful.  
    Unfortunately, this means I am nearly tagged out in Illinois.  As a non-resident I was only issued one buck when I bought my permit and gladly used it this past weekend.  Factor in the doe I shot opening weekend and I am done.  I did, however, buy an extra doe for the late season, but it looks like my November hunting time will be spend behind the camera.  But who I am to complain?  It’s not everday you get to live a dream come true.

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!

Full Moon Makes for Slow Bowhunting

by Justin Zarr 25. October 2010 05:36
Justin Zarr

This past weekend I decided to stay close to home and try to connect with one of the suburban bucks I've got on my trail cameras.  Unfortunately warm temps combined with a full moon and some on and off rain made for one slow weekend!  In three sits for a combined total of about 10 hours on stand I saw exactly ZERO whitetails, which now makes me 0 for 5 on my suburban hunts.  The only wildlife I managed to see was a lone coyote, a few squirrels, and a lonely raccoon who decided to take a nap ontop of my bow sling which I left at the bottom of my tree. 

Although it is a little discouraging not seeing any deer from stand, I know it's only a matter of time before one of the bucks I'm after shows up.  I'm not necessarily concerned with seeing a lot of deer, I want to see the right deer!  Having trail cam photos like this certainly does help keep me on my toes though.


This is a new buck that just showed up on my camera earlier this month.  He' s not a monster, but he's definitely a shooter for me.  Since he's sporting the same crab claw on his left side like two bucks I've chased in years previous (Mr. Buck and Mr. Buck Jr.) he has earned the name Mr. Buck the 3rd aka MB3.


A side profile of MB3 shows off his crab claw a little better.  Over the past 8 or 9 years we've gotten photos of probably 6 or 7 bucks with this exact same characteristic, all 9 pointers with virtually identical racks.  No matter how old they get their frame never gets much bigger than this.  They put on some mass and maybe spring a few kickers but by and large they don't get much bigger than 135 to 140 inches no matter how old they are.


Check out this little guy that was hanging out with MB3.  He has what looks like an old injury on his right side and some sort of growth/abscess on his left side.  It looks like a possible arrow injury from last season, but it's hard to be 100% sure.


Here's a close up.  Sure looks like an arrow hole to me.


Another interesting photo, this buck appears to have a busted antler on his right side that's hanging down over the side of his face.  Not sure if it grew like that or if he broke it in a fight.


And what trail cam photo montage would be complete without a photo of my #1 target buck "Little Mac" as he walked by my stand about 20 minutes before I arrived on Saturday morning.  Sooner or later this guy is going to make a mistake and when he does I hope I'm ready!

With the full moon now past us and a cold front set to move through the Midwest later this week primetime is right around the corner!  If you can be in the woods this Thursday or Friday after the front moves through I have a feeling you'll see a lot of buck movement.  Calling should work well as the bucks are getting pretty aggressive before the does start to pop.  So whatever you've gotta do to get in the woods, do it this weekend!

 

Big Buck Down in Illinois! October Bowhunting Success

by Todd Graf 21. October 2010 13:26
Todd Graf

As we head into the last 10 days of October I know bowhunters across the US are gearing up for the rut, and from what I've seen so far it looks like it's going to be a good one!  I know that bucks around here are really starting to work the scrapes pretty hard so if you find a good scrape line now is the time to hunt it, or at the very least set up a trail camera over it.  If you're looking for any last minute bowhunting products from scents to trail cameras make sure to look in the online bowhunting store right here on Bowhunting.com.  We have over 14,000 products most of which ship out the same or next day!

Here in Illinois things have been going very well for me.  As you've seen in our bowhunting videos I've had several great encounters with some super nice bucks.  One thing that I've noticed, along with a lot of the bowhunters I talk to, is that there's an incredible amount of acorns this year.  I'm sure the great spring we had helped contribute to this.  If you have a good acorn source it seems like the deer are really hitting them hard so that may be another spot to catch a nice buck before the rut really hits.


Acorns are a great food source for Mid to late October hunts.

Across most of the Midwest we've had a really dry stretch of weather which means a lot of water has dried up, making water sources another good option.  If we don't get a lot of rain before November being close to water may really benefit a lot of bowhunters.  Once the bucks start running hard they're going to need water and if you've got a good source you just may catch a nice buck while he's heading in for a drink!


Water holes are another great spot for October and November hunts.  Especially during dry weather.

Doing as much bowhunting as I do means climbing up and down a LOT of trees, which makes treestand safety one of my top priorities.  I truly hope that everyone out there is wearing their safety harness and if you can afford it I would strongly recommend a life line type product as well.  Being attached to the tree from the ground to the top makes the world of difference when it comes to safety and my confidence while climbing in and out of my stands.

Over the past couple of weeks I've been able to share some really fun hunts with a few of my friends as well.  I think it's important to remember to have fun while you're out in the woods and there's no better way to do that than spending it with good friends or family.


Dr. Ali Shaibani on one of his first bowhunts ever.  He hasn't gotten a deer yet, but it's only a matter of time now!


Justin relaxing in a Summit climber during and evening hunt over a soybean plot.

Of course once the fun is over it's time to get back to hunting!  Last Friday I was fortunate enough to close the deal on the white racked giant that you saw in Bowhunt or Die: Episode 2.  You'll have to watch this week's episode, which will be posted tomorrow, for the details but rest assured it was a great hunt!  Once again I was able to prove that you can film yourself harvesting a trophy animal if you work hard at it.


See the full video of me harvesting this buck on tomorrow's episode of Bowhunt or Die.


When self-filming it's important to make sure you have all of your camera pieces before you leave the office!  This is my improvised mount after our video editor forgot to put the mount back on my camera.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for the latest episode of Bowhunt or Die!  We've got our best episode yet with two doe kills and two 150 inch bucks hitting the ground.  You don't want to miss it!




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