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Illinois Buck Down - In Season Scouting Pays Off

by Mike Willand 26. October 2011 16:58
Mike Willand

Friday, October 21st was greeted with mixed emotions as I hiked along the edge of a standing cornfield on my way into a stand I had never hunted before. The late afternoon sit was shaping up to be a mild one, as temperatures held steady around 62 degrees while winds gently blew south by southwest. As I stepped over a bent cornstalk I thought - was the decision to hunt this property the right one?

This was, yet again, all new property to me. It was first picked up by Bowhunting.Com founder, Todd Graf, a little over 3 months ago in hopes of securing more land around home. Totaling 100 acres, two large cornfields make up its majority while several smaller woodlots dot most of its borders. The property is as pretty a whitetail paradise as you’ll ever witness, but the dilemma is the area in which it belongs. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources have been removing deer for years in this region of my home state in order to combat the spread of CWD, and this land simply lacked good numbers of deer or deer sign. It was hard to justify tonight’s sit.

Thanks to the good people at the Hunting Lease Network, Todd, Justin, and I were able to pick up this great midwestern lease.

As frustrating as these thoughts were, I continued to my evening perch. My decision to hunt this ground was not based on the possible sighting of just any deer. Rather it was decided on a possible encounter with one particular animal that I believed I was hunting – a shooter buck.

Last weekend I had scouted the entire property with my trusty Lone Wolf treestand armed on my back. The winds that day howled from the northwest, at times gusting to over 25 miles an hour. It was the perfect day for a scouting mission. On the entire piece I only cut two separate deer tracks, five random rubs, and three deer beds that I considered of the male variety. It was these three deer beds I concentrated my efforts on the most. Each bed was large, often separated by as much as forty yards. One of them was even situated near a decent sized rub, further confirming my suspicion that they indeed belonged to a buck. I hung a stand following much deliberation on the south side of the beds and went home to get a few hours of sleep before the following morning’s sit.

Deer sign was minimal throughout much of the property except this rub, which was situated near a good sized bed.

That morning I returned into stand hoping to encounter the buck that called the beds his own. I was deceived by the weatherman however, as much of my three hour sit was greeted under a steady, hard rain. Nothing moved all morning and I got nothing but wet. I second guessed myself and tore down the stand as quickly as I set it up, returning home empty handed.

Today is a new day, I thought, as I climbed into stand. The wind was southerly, and I still believed a buck was bedding nearby. Only this time I was north of the buck’s bedroom. My hope for the night was that the buck would show as late into the evening as possible, entering the cornfield to my left after crossing a fence-jump that sat forty yards away.

Unfortunately, I was in for a long and very uncomfortable sit. The tree that Justin and I had chosen to perch this Lone Wolf into weeks before the season began was now barren of any leaves. What’s worse, the tree was about as thin as a flag pole and the stand seemed extremely close to the ground. Surely a buck would see every move I made as he inspected the landscape before hopping the fence.  So I made the executive decision to stand for the entire agonizing time frame leading up to sunset, which was still nearly four hours away!

The evening was calm for the most part. I would slowly move my head, and head alone, left to right again and again, scanning the two sides I expected deer to move from. I wasn’t worried so much of what went on behind me since the wind would surely take care of any of those animals before they got close enough for an opportunity. With lazy eyes I admired squirrels and birds as they busily readied themselves for the approaching winter.

At five after six, the sounds of the woods were starting to hush. The squirrels had just about all gone to bed and the birds seemed to have disappeared entirely. For a few moments, the woods I had been glaring at since 2:45 were finally quiet. My ears perked up.

The silence was broken quickly when I heard a small twig snap, and nearly immediately I knew what it was. The next step was so distinct that I reached over to my camera, turned it on, and opened my camera’s iris as large as possible - anticipating a deer to show. My first glimpse through the thick underbrush was very brief, but I knew in an instant what it was.  I reached behind me to grab my bow in anticipation for the next few moments of my life.

The buck disappeared for about a minute into some thicker underbrush, actually passing the low fence crossing I had predicted he would jump. My first thought was he was going to bypass me completely, cut the corner of the field and head toward some apple trees that sat in the far distance. But a distinct thud quickened my heart pace as I knew he had jumped the fence!

He appeared almost out of nowhere, conjuring himself from the thick green underbrush that sat just thirty yards away! With my right hand I situated the camera to capture everything on film, with my left I prepared for what certainly looked like a shot opportunity.

It was clear by his body language that the buck had no idea I was in his presence. Easing his way toward me, I remember thinking how that long painful sit was about to pay off, and the decision to stand was probably the most perfect one I could have made.

I drew back the string of my Mathews z7 Xtreme once the buck vanished behind a limb that protruded from the naked tree I was sitting in. I eased my feet across the floor of my stand, careful not to make a squeak. My twenty yard pin settled just behind the buck’s shoulders. I took one deep breath and released my NAP Nitron tipped arrow.

The buck’s initial reaction to the placement of my shot was promising, a solid mule kick that’s often symbolic of a properly placed arrow. However, he was now standing thirty yards behind me, acting as if he had not been shot at all! Realizing I could not get the camera positioned to view the buck again, I quietly took the time to grab another arrow, nock it, and draw again. Now at thirty yards, I set my pin on him again and released!

This time the buck took off in a dead run, disappearing out of view. Elated, I turned to the camera and whispered my emotions so as not to potentially spook the buck even further away. My interview was short, quiet, and to the point. Following it, I made the decision to find the first arrow and back out of the situation entirely. I was confident in the first shot, but from experience I did not like the reaction following it. I grabbed the red painted arrow of the first shot and walked back the way I came in, all the way around the property, so as to not spook the wounded buck.

I would not return to the property until nearly midnight with my good friend and hunting partner Justin Zarr readily at my side. We walked over to the area the buck stood during my second shot and quickly located blood. The trail was easy to follow with the use of Justin’s new best friend and flashlight, the Cyclops Flare Spotlight. At 193 lumens and 100% LED, this flashlight has become my most wanted piece of equipment going into November this year. I’ve been on two track-jobs so far this year while Justin has been using this light, and I’ve completely fallen in love with it.

Thanks to Justin I've now been on two tracking-jobs with the Cyclops Flare Spotlight and have decided I must own it going into November.

Justin and I caught up to the buck just over 150 yards from where I had placed the second shot. Lying just a few feet away from a shallow pond, it was clear by his sopping hide that he had tried to cool off just a short time following our engagement. Studying the shot further, I realized that I had shot a bit further back than initially intended, prompting the buck’s unusual reaction. Although I had caught one lung and devastated the liver, my decision to back out was absolutely the correct one. In fact, had it not been for that second arrow, I would not have returned until the following morning.

Elated once more I grabbed the antlers of my prize, smiling from ear to ear. The hunt that began on a last week on a windy Friday following work, ended on a calm night seven days later.

My first buck of 2011 and all on film!

NAP Broadheads: Designed to Kill

by Cody Altizer 10. February 2011 03:59
Cody Altizer

  This past weekend I put myself in a painful, near life changing predicament while cleaning my room.  Yes, I know.  Cleaning one’s room sounds far from dangerous or problematic, but I managed to disprove that notion.  However the situation, which I will describe in detail momentarily, did provoke some blog worthy thoughts that I believe could benefit many hunters, and perhaps reduce the risk of you losing a wounded deer this fall.

While I was cleaning out some old desk drawers, I found an old, out-of-date Epipen that caught my eye.  As a seasonal allergy sufferer, I’ve always carried an Epipen in case of allergic reaction, but it 6 years of doing so, I’ve never needed one.  For some reason, however, my curiosity peaked when I found this one and I felt the need to see how it worked.  After unscrewing the cap and giving the device a thorough inspection, I inadvertently applied some pressure to the “wrong end” of the pen and into my thumb pierced a two inch long needle and a 6 year old dose of Epinephrine.  I immediately jumped up, screamed a few explicit words and found that the needle was stuck in my finger.  After a deep breath, I tried to pull it out, because after all, the needle of an Epipen is supposed to automatically retract after injection.  After another deep breath, I tugged a little harder, and even gave the pen a little jerk to free my thumb.  Nothing.  Numbing with pain I went to show my mom who, like all mothers do, screamed with horror and decided that we had to rush to the Emergency Room as quickly as possible.

Now, I’ve had enough broken bones and stitches in my life that I have developed a rather admirable tolerance for pain, if I do say so myself.  My primary concern was to just get the needle out of my thumb as quickly and painlessly as possible, and I figured all would be fine.  I didn’t particularly enjoy looking down at my thumb and having a needle stuck out of it.  However, on the way to the ER my hand and thumb in particular, had turned a sickly pale white.  So I casually and half-jokingly asked my mom, “Are they going to have to cut off my thumb?”  She shook her head no and that thought never crossed my mind again, until aboutan hour later.

My broadhead of choice, the Thunderhead Edge by NAP!

The Emergency Room doctor managed to pull the needle out of my thumb without much problem and I was relieved and ready to go home.  It turns out that the needle went in my thumb, hit the bone and bent to a 90 degree angle, which is why I couldn’t pull it out myself.  But a larger problem ensued.  It turns out Epinephrine is safe to inject anywhere in the body except fingers, toes and the tip of the nose.  Well, last I checked my thumb was a finger.  Epinephrine cuts out the flow of oxygenated blood and prevents healthy circulation, which is why my hand went white almost immediately.  After the doctor told me there was a legitimate chance I could lose my thumb, I realized this was more serious than I thought.  He then reassured me that as long as I got a shot of anecdote within 12 hours, I would be fine, but that too was extremely painful.

The decision was an easy one and as I laid in the Emergency Room bed waiting for the shot, by bowhunter brain kicked into gear.  I began to wonder how a deer must feel when they get shot by an arrow that doesn’t penetrate well requiring them to run through the timber with an arrow stuck in their side.  I can now attest that it must be extremely painful and uncomfortable.  But bad shots happen to everyone, right?  Once the arrow is released there isn’t a whole lot we can do is there?  Yes, of course there is.

Bad shots, just like my accident (although my accident was the result of sheer stupidity and curiosity), do and will happen to every bowhunter at some point in their career.  There are two variables that we can control before the shot.  

 

Is this an ethical shot?  I vote no!  Even though this buck was just 15 yards away when I snapped the photo, he is quartering too much for an ethical shot.

First, it is critical to know the importance of good shot placement.  This means a thorough understanding of a whitetail’s anatomy and thus which shots will result in quick, clean kills.  Broadside or slightly quartering away shots are ideal on whitetails.  They reveal the entire chest cavity which will allow a well-placed arrow to pass through the lungs and/ or heart.  Quartering to shots are ill-advised simply because the window in which an arrow can pierce the vitals is much smaller.  Too often a hunter takes a shot on an animal that is quartering to them too strongly and the arrow hits the shoulder blade, penetration is minimal and the animal is never recovered.  While it may seem like a weak analogy, let’s compare the shot on a whitetail to my thumb injury.  Obviously, the needle wasn’t well placed.  Epipens are actually to be injected in the thigh, where the Epinephrine is safe to do its job and where pain will be the least.  An Epipen injection in the thigh is synonymous with a double lung or heart shot deer.   A broadhead that passes through a whitetail’s lungs almost always results in the animal expiring in less than 15-20 seconds and the animal is almost always recovered.  An Epipen injection in the thumb is synonymous to shooting a whitetail in the paunch, brisket or shoulder blade.  Penetration will be minimal and the animal is likely to suffer a painful death, or never be recovered by the hunter.

The second variable we can control is what broadhead we shoot and how sharp they are.  A strong, sharp broadhead that cuts through the air like a dart increases shooting confidence and also results in bigger blood trails and thus quicker recoveries.   I started using New Archery Products (NAP) broadheads during the 2010 season and they really opened my eyes to what a quality broadhead is capable of.  I harvested two whitetails this past season with the Thunderhead Edge, a hard hitting broadhead with serrated blades for maximum sharpness and devastation to blood vessels and arteries.  Both shots were pass throughs and the deer expired in less than 10 seconds in both instances.  I also filmed Todd Graf harvesting an adult doe with the Spitfire Maxx, an expandable broadhead that buried itself nearly 6 inches in the ground after the shot.  In mid-October I filmed Jeremy Enders’ harvest a doe with the NAP Nitron that quickly passed through his first ever whitetail and buried itself 6 inches in the ground.  That doe made it less than 40 yards before tipping over.  Finally, I didn’t film Justin Zarr’s Halloween morning buck, but accompanied him on the massive blood trail his Nitron tipped arrow left that lead to an easy recovery.

 

While this yearling buck was certainly no shooter at the time, he did present an opportunity for a perfect quartering away shot.  By aiming at the opposite side front leg, an arrow would easily pass through both lungs and result in a quick recovery,

Granted the above examples were the result of well-placed shots, the damage done by NAP broadheads was undeniable.  Unlike cheap, dull poorly made broadheads, NAP broadheads strike quickly and cleanly and blast through hide, flesh and bone.  The needle of the Epipen that nearly cost me my thumb was not the most durable made product.  Then again, it’s not designed to tear through flesh and bone, but I think a parallel can be drawn here.  When you shoot a whitetail, do you want your broadhead to bend, brake or deflect when striking bone or rib cage, or do you want it to blast through like an NAP broadhead?  Like the decision to keep or lose a thumb, I think the answer is an easy one.

 

Bowhunt or Die! Episode 8 Recap

by Cody Altizer 7. December 2010 03:34
Cody Altizer

 After taking a week off to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, Bowhunt or Die! returned for Episode 8 of its inaugural season.  While our team spent Thanksgiving being thankful for friends, family and good food, the whitetails across the country were thankful our hunters weren’t out hunting them!  With the type of season our team has had this far who could blame them?  Still, Episode 8 chronicles 4 more exciting hunts in Illinois and Wisconsin and 2 more bucks and 2 does were harvested.  Let’s take a look at how things went down!

To watch the footage of Episode 8 of Bowhunt or Die! follow this link!


 Justin Zarr kicks Episode 8 off on his lease in West Central Illinois.  Justin spent three days on his lease in Pike and Brown Counties hunting those famed whitetails hard, but wasn’t able to get it done.  Despite his rough luck down south Justin kept at it the following Monday on his hunting property in Lake County, Illinois.  If you have followed Bowhunt or Die! this season, you know how much time and effort Justin has put into this piece of property hoping to harvest a nice whitetail.  Finally, his patience was rewarded when a buck Justin has over 50 trail camera pictures made an appearance.  It looked like this buck, better known as Little Mac, was going to cross a creek and present a 10 yard chip shot; however, when he crossed the creek Justin attempted to stop him with his mouth call.  The results were not what any hunter would expect as the buck apparently was alarmed by the call and took off in the opposite direction!  After going back across the creek he stopped and gave Justin a small window of opportunity and Justin capitalized on it big time!  He put a Nitron tipped arrow right behind Little Mac’s shoulder and the buck was dead within seconds!  Just like that Justin had accomplished his biggest goal of the 2010 season, harvesting a buck in Lake County, Illinois.  Click here to read about the sentimental value this particular buck holds to Justin by reading his own recap of this hunt.  Way to go, Justin!

Justin's immediate reaction after the shot was priceless.  When you work as hard for a buck as Justin did for Little Mac, emotions can quickly run high after a successful shot.

Here is Justin after he recovered his buck, Little Mac.  Congrats again to Justin for working extremely hard for this buck and making it happen.


 We then head to Wisconsin with John Hermann as he attempts to harvest a couple does.  If you remember, John got his 2010 season off to an incredible start by harvesting a giant 150” 8 pointer in early October.  Unfortunately, that was the only buck John could harvest in Wisconsin (I am sure he is not complaining) and he was limited to shooting does the rest of the year.  He set out a goal to harvest two does off a certain piece of property and was able to accomplish that goal in one weekend.  John was also able to get some great footage of a mature buck over the course of the weekend as well.  While he wasn’t able to shoot that big buck, simply being able to watch him interact with the other deer was enjoyable I am sure.  Congrats on a productive weekend, John!

John Hermann had a successful weekend hunt in Northern Wisconsin as he achieved his goal of harvesting a couple does.  Nice work, John!


 While John Hermann was having excellent luck in Wisconsin, Bowhunt or Die! front man Todd Graf was not.  Todd has worked extremely hard in Wisconsin this year hoping to harvest a nice buck and was presented with a shot opportunity on a mid-November hunt, but unfortunately he missed.  The particular tree Todd was hunting out of is a perfect tree for killing big bucks, but it makes for difficult shot angles and Todd just wasn’t able to pull it off.  To make matters worse, the same buck strolled back by later that day at 39 yards, but Todd just wasn’t comfortable with the shot.  Despite his tough luck, Todd deserves a lot of credit for passing up on shot at redemption by passing on a shot he wasn’t 100% comfortable with. 

A shot of the buck Todd missed on his quest for a Wisconsin bruiser.  Don't you just hate it when they look back at you out range as if to say, "You can't shoot me now!"  Don't worry about it Todd, we all miss and I am sure you will get one during the late season!


 If you remember Episode 5, staff member Josh Fletcher harvested a giant Wisconsin buck on the first day of his planned two week vacation.  Since he quickly tagged out, he offered to run the camera for his brother Clint, hoping to film him harvesting a nice buck.  At very first light on the morning of November 13th, a nice buck came in and Clint was fortunate enough to harvest him.  I personally know how much fun it is to be able to hunt and film with your brother, so I am sure Josh and Clint had a great time in the tree together.  Good jobs guys!

Staff member Josh Fletcher took time out of his vacation to film his brother, Clint, harvesting this nice buck.  There is no time better spent than sharing a hunt with your brother and congratulations to Clint for harvesting a nice buck!


 Another exciting and successful episode has come and gone for the Bowhunting.com team.  Wow, it’s hard to believe that we are already one week into December!  Time sure does fly in the deer woods.  The late season is officially upon us which means snow and super cold temperatures which can make for incredibly fun hunts.  Stay tuned to Bowhunt or Die! to see how the team performs during December.

The NAP Nitron | Little Broadhead, Big Results

by Justin Zarr 29. November 2010 15:00
Justin Zarr

As I move into my 30's and close in on my 2nd decade of chasing whitetails with a bow I can't help but notice the vast amount of trends that we see in the archery and hunting industries.  Every year there's a barage of great new innovations that are sure to make us more effective bowhunters.  However the more I hunt the more I find myself relying on the tried and true products and technologies that have two distinct qualities; durability and dependability.

One segment of bowhunting that has seen remarkable advancements in technologies over the years is broadheads.  In today's marketplace they come in all shapes, sizes and colors.  Each one taughting it's ability to blast through  hide, bust through bone and create holes roughly the size of a small planet.  With a seemingly endless supply of celebrity endorsements, TV commercials and print ads you'd think some of these heads would darn near jump out of your quiver and kill your quarry all by themselves!

The Nitron from New Archery Products is a broadhead that many bowhunters may not be familiar with.  There's no fancy ad campaigns pushing it, no TV celebrities with their smiling face on the package, and no lame catch-phrases being coined in it's honor.  This is a product that has silently snuck under the radar despite it's impeccable qualites that make it, in my opinion, one of the finest broadheads ever produced.

Made from 100% stainless steel from the tip to the ferrule to the blades the Nitron is both durable as well as dependable.  I have personally shot this head through the shoulder of several whitetails with devastating results.  Complete penetration through the entire animal and a broadhead that looked virtually brand new when I picked it up afterwards.

Like all NAP broadheads the Nitron features surgical steel Diamize blades which makes them the sharpest in the industry.  The Diamize process is exclusive to all NAP broadheads which is part of their recipe for success.  When it comes to putting down animals in a hurry, having sharp blades is a must.  The sharper the blades the better the penetration and better blood trails since the coagulants in the animals's blood cannot adhere to the slick edges left by sharp blades.  Sharper blades mean quicker kills - period.

Possibly the finest feature of this broadhead is it's accuracy.  I've shot my fair share of broadheads before, both fixed blade and mechanicals, and have yet to find one as accurate as the Nitron.  This "mini" broadhead, with it's 1 1/16" cutting diameter flies like a dart.  While the current trend may be "massive wound channels" and holes big enough to stick your fist in, I'll take a well placed arrow that's going to deliver both entrance and exit holes any day.  Throwing an axe through an animal sounds great, but doesn't mean much if you don't hit where you need to.

While many bowhunters shy away from the Nitron's small size, I assure you this only works to your advantage.  The small profile of this broadhead not only reduces drag and wind planing to make it more accurate, it also reduces friction as it passes through the animal which increases penetration.  Just two weeks ago I took down a 200 plus pound whitetail with this broadhead which you will see on this week's episode of Bowhunt or Die!  From the time my arrow struck the buck it took a mere 13 seconds for the animal to expire.  Proving yet again that there simply is no substitute for accuracy, durabilty and sharpness.  Don't let the size fool you, this broadhead is a stone cold killer.

Since 2006 I've been fortunate enough to harvest 14 whitetails and 1 antelope with the NAP Nitron.  Every shot has produced both entry and exit wounds. Nearly half of those animals have fallen within sight of my stand and those that didn't generally made it just out of sight before expiring.  I have replaced the blades and shot multiple animals with the same head without a problem.  Dependable, durable, and accurate - that's the Nitron.  For my money, it doesn't get much better than this.

If you're in the market for a new broadhead I encourge you to try out the Nitron.  You may just be surprised that such a small head can deliver such big results.  You can purchase them right here in the Bowhunting.com store.  Click here for the 100 grain Nitron and click here for the 125 grain Nitron.  Don't let the "crossbow" title confuse you, a broadhead is a broadhead no matter what arrow you screw it on the end of.

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!

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!

Bowhunt or Die! Episode 3 Recap

by Cody Altizer 25. October 2010 09:49
Cody Altizer

Episode 3 of “Bowhunt or Die!” was easily our best one yet!  Over 300 inches of antler hit the ground during this past week’s episode, and that’s just from two bucks!  If you are looking for blood pumping, monster buck hunts, and a couple doe harvests along the way, then look no further than Episode 3 of “Bowhunt or Die!”


  Staff member John Hermann got things started off with a thrilling bowhunt for a giant Wisconsin 8 pointer.  John had been hunting this particular buck for the first four weeks of the season and despite several close encounters, wasn’t able to close to the deal.  However, on October 12th during his fifth encounter with this giant buck, the bruiser 8 pointer finally made a mistake and John was able to put a lethal shot on him.  The big bodied Wisconsin buck went less than 100 yards before dying and the chess match between John Hermann and “The West Gate 8” was over, advantage Johnny Hermann!  John’s dedication and discipline was put the test, but he stayed persistent and was rewarded with a genuine once in a lifetime buck.

John Hermann and the fallen "West Gate 8."  John was finally able to outsmart this 6 year old, Wisconsin brute and came away with a once in a lifetime trophy.

  “Bowhunt or Die!” then makes the trip south to West Central Illinois to the big buck capitals of the world, Pike and Brown County.  Justin Zarr and Jeremy Enders, along with Bowhunting.com cameraman/video editor Brian McAllister and myself, made the 5 hour trip south and were excited to lay down some exciting bowhunts on film.  It didn’t take long for things to heat up as Justin was forced to make the brutal decision of “to shoot or not to shoot?”  A 3 year old 8 pointer made his way by Justin’s stand at 22 yards, but Justin elected to pass.  It was a tough decision for Justin, but one he felt better about making after reviewing the footage.  Less than an hour later a mature doe made her way by the stand Jeremy and I were in and Jeremy made a perfect double lung shot on her using the NAP Nitron.  This was Jeremy’s first deer and it was truly exciting to share that moment with him and capture it all on film.  A big congrats to Jeremy on a perfect shot on your first deer!   Less than an hour later Justin followed suit by making a perfect 27 yards shot on a doe himself, also with the NAP Nitron.  The unique thing about these two hunts is that Justin and Brian were no more than 120 yards from Jeremy and I across an open CRP field, so we were literally watching each other’s hunts unfold!  Talk about an exciting morning!

Jeremy just as he was about to harvest his first deer ever.

Justin before he came to full draw on his doe.  Just seconds later, he made a perfect double lung shot on her at 27 yards.

Pictured above is the buck Justin chose to pass on.  Hunting is purely a personal sport and you should only shoot a buck that makes you happy.  I think Justin is happy with his decision to pass on this buck!

  We certainly saved our best hunt for last for Episode 3, as we followed Todd Graf on a hunt for a Northern Illinois bruiser.  Last week, Todd had a nice encounter with a beautiful mid 150s white racked monster, but the buck was just too far away for a shot.  This week, Todd was presented with another opportunity at this buck, and this time the buck made the mistake of walking in front of the big buck killer that is Todd Graf.  Todd made a perfect shot and his NAP Spitfire Maxx made a quick, clean kill and the buck fell over dead within 40 yards.  The excitement and thrill on Todd’s face was priceless; I’m not sure if there is anyone else who gets the shakes like Todd Graf does when he arrows a big buck.  Watching Todd get excited about hunting big bucks is contagious, and hopefully it gets you ready to get out there and harvest a monster buck yourself!

Words cannot fully describe Todd's buck harvest, so I feel it best to simply enjoy the following series of photos.


  Without a doubt, Episode 3 of “Bowhunt or Die!” will be tough to top, but our dedicated Pro Staffers are out there every day putting their gear to the test, trying to lay down the best possible footage to share with everyone.  It’s late October which means two things: Episode 3 should have you pumped up and ready to rock and roll for the rut and you should make every concerted effort to get in the woods during the next two weeks.  Good luck to all the hunters out there, stay safe and check back every Friday for the latest episode of “Bowhunt or Die!”

Illinois Bowhunting Success - Two Does Down

by Justin Zarr 19. October 2010 14:44
Justin Zarr

My bowhunting season started off pretty slowly with only 3 trips to the field over the first 12 days of October.  Last week however, things definitely started picking up.  A mid-week trip to Northwest Illinois with Todd resulted in a close encounter with a few does, and then a weekend trip to West Central Illinois ended with a couple passed bucks and a doe for the freezer.  With November looming just around the corner the best is yet to come.

Last Wednesday Todd Graf and I headed out to try and lay down some footage for our new weekly video production here on Bowhunting.com called "Bowhunt or Die".  If you haven't seen the first two episodes, click here to watch them!  We will be posting new episodes every Friday morning throughout the season so be sure to check back often for new action from week to week.

After a rather uneventful morning with me behind the camera Todd and I hung a new treestand and then got ready for the afternoon hunt.  I was up to bat that evening with Todd taking over camera duties, but unfortunately a rather undesirable wind direction spoiled our chances at a few does that come to eat in one of Todd's food plots.  Even though we didn't score on any whitetails, getting back in the stand after a 10 day layoff got me back in that familiar October mindset and ready to get back at it.

With a packed truck in the parking lot Friday evening couldn't come fast enough. After work I hit the road with my buddy Jeremy Enders, fellow Bowhunting.com staff member Cody Altizer and Bowhunting.com's cameraman/editor Brian McAlister.  After a 5 hour drive and 4 hours of sleep we were up and headed to our stands for the first time this season.

Over the course of the next few hours we saw a combined total of about 25 deer including 5 bucks who spent most of their time sparring with one another, making scrapes, and harassing the local doe population.  I certainly wasn't expecting that type of behavior for Mid-October but it was a great way to start things off!

One buck in particular tested my resolve to hold out for a bigger buck this fall as he walked directly in front of me at 22 yards, stood still, and then looked in the other direction.  Although this buck has great G2's and brow tines he's just not the caliber of animal I'm after so I let him walk.  Trust me, it was a tough decision!


Here's a still frame from this week's upcoming episode of Bowhunt or Die.  "Rudy" was testing the air for estrous a mere 22 yards in front of my stand while the camera rolled and I tried to refrain from shooting him!


A trailcam pic of Rudy from mid September.  You can really see his great bows in this photo here.  A tough buck to pass!

Before the morning was over both Jeremy and myself were fortunate enough to harvest does, both of which were captured on video.  This was Jeremy's first archery harvest and it was really great to be a part of it.  A big congratulations to him on a perfect shot!  Both Jeremy and myself are shooting NAP Nitron broadheads, which took down these does within 60 yards of where they were shot.  I know huge cutting diameter is all the "rage" right now, but there's no replacement for accuracy and you will not find a more accurate head than the Nitron, guaranteed.  Look for both of these hunts, as well as footage of Rudy, in this week's episode of Bowhunt or Die!


Jeremy and I with our October does, shot 1 hour and 300 yards apart.

A big thanks to Brian and Cody for filming us this past weekend.  Without these guys we wouldn't be able to bring you these exciting bowhunts, so they deserve just as much credit as we do!

With a full moon coming and rain in the forecast for this weekend I'm not sure how much deer movement I'll see, but you can't kill them on the couch so you can bet you'll find me in the woods somewhere!

Antelope Down! Bowhunting Success in Wyoming

by Justin Zarr 7. September 2010 14:19
Justin Zarr

A few months back Todd and I decided we should go on a bowhunting trip this year.  Most of our bowhunting time is spent chasing whitetails in Illinois or Wisconsin and we figured it would be good to get out and experience something new.  After all, life is short and if you don't do it now who knows if you'll ever be able to.  So with that said, we settled on an antelope hunt with our friends Scott & Angie Denny at Table Mountain Outfitters.

The next few weeks we got our flights booked, rental car reserved, and tags ordered.  All that was left to do was wait for August to come and make sure our bowhunting gear was ready to go.  When August 26th finally showed up we were Wyoming-bound.

After a full body scan at O'Hare we boarded our plane and headed for Salt Lake City.  Unfortunately a mechanical failure with our connecting flight to Casper caused a 12 hour delay in our trip, but we managed to pass the time by working out at the local Hyatt hotel, watching a movie on Pay Per View, and of course getting in a nice relaxing nap.  We finally flew out of Utah at 10 pm and landed in Casper, Wyoming at around 11:30.

Our good friend and Bowhunting.com Pro Staff member Dustin Decroo was nice enough to pick us up from the airport and drive us up to camp.  Being a Wyoming resident Dustin had already filled his antelope tag earlier that week and volunteered to run the video camera for me during my hunt.

Six a.m. came all too quickly the next morning, and after a cup of coffee and making sure our bows were sighted in we headed into town to get our archery licenses.  By 9:15 our guide, Mr. Scuba Steve, was dropping us off in our blind which was located roughly in the middle of nowhere.  So Dustin and I packed our gear into the blind, got set up, and began our wait.


The terrain in Wyoming in quite different than Illinois!  Beautiful country though, I love it.

Within 2 hours we had our first visitors of the day as a group of 3 mule deer does paid us a visit.  This was my first hunt out of ground blind and with these deer at eye level a mere 15 yards away I thought for sure we would get busted.  But low and behold they never knew we were there, even as I snapped photos with my Nikon DSLR.  Eventually they moved off into the vast expanse of sage brush and cactus.


Our view from the ground blind.  Exciting, I know!


Dustin ready for some action with our new Sony HDR-AX2000 that we picked up from Campbell Cameras.


Our first visitors of the day.


Yours truly, watching for goats to show up.

Awhile later another mule deer doe approached with a fawn in toe, also looking for some a drink of water.  Around this time Dustin spotted a group of 5 antelope bucks on the horizon about 1,000 yards behind the blind.  Over the course of the next hour the bucks made their way slowly toward us as we munched on some cookies, drank some Ginger Ale and relaxed with our boots off.

Eventually the 5 antelope made their way directly into the water hole and started drinking.  The biggest of the bucks, an easy P&Y contender, offered up a perfect broadside shot but I couldn't take it as another buck came in and stood shoulder to shoulder with him.  I was afraid a pass through shot would take out both bucks, so after being at full draw from a minute or so I had to let down.

A few seconds later the biggest buck moved off the water hole and I came to full draw again.  Unfortunately the buck turned quartering into me just as I settled my pin on him and once again I couldn't take the shot.  At this point I started getting nervous that they were going to leave, so I told Dustin to swing the camera onto the 2nd biggest buck who was still drinking. 

When Dustin confirmed that he was on the buck I touched off my release and sent an NAP Nitron tipped Gold Tip straight through the buck's vitals.  He ran a mere 30 yards before tipping over on film - he never knew what hit him!

After a brief celebration in the blind Dustin and I put our boots back on and set out to recover my goat.  I picked up my arrow, which had passed cleanly through the buck, and headed over to where he fell.


My first-ever antelope - taken a mere 3 hours into our hunt.

For my first antelope ever, he's a great buck.  Certainly not the monster that many people hope for, but plenty big for this goat hunter!  To say I was excited was an understatement.  Less than 3 hours into my Wyoming antelope hunt and I was already tagged out.  I'll take that any day of the week!

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO OF OUR ENTIRE WYOMING ANTELOPE HUNT - NOW IN HD!


Dustin and I with our trophy.  A big thanks to my cameraman for coming out and spending some time in the blind with me.  We'll have to do it again soon!


First kill for the Bowhunting.com Edition Quikfletch.  "James Westfall" did his job well.

Once our guide came to pick us up and we headed back to camp Dustin and I took the opportunity to ride around the area and glass for other animals.  We saw and incredible amount of game including TONS of mule deer, antelope and even a few nice whitetails down in the river bottoms.  Wyoming truly is a hunter's paradise, and Table Mountain Outfitters certainly has an abundance of trophy animals.  During our time in camp we got to hang out with Vicki Cianciarulo from Archer's Choice Media, Brenda Potts, and Joel Maxfield from Mathews who all tagged out on nice antelope as well.  What a blast!


Some WY scenery.

This was a great way to start off our season and I'm really looking forward to October when I can get out and start chasing whitetails.  For now, my antelope high will carry me through the next month!  A big, big THANK YOU to Todd Graf for allowing me to tag along on this trip and to Scott and Angie Denny with Table Mountain Outfitters.  These guys put on some of the best hunts in Wyoming, and I wouldn't hesitate to go back hunting with them.

Gear used on this trip:
(Click the red links to buy any of these products from the Bowhunting.com store)

NAP Nitron Broadheads - fly like darts and tough as nails.  A very underrated broadhead in my opinion.  I've been shooting them since 2006 and they've never let me down.  Just be careful with the blades, they're scary sharp!

Gold Tip Velocity Pro 400 Arrows - lightweight, fast, and strong.  My first animal harvested with these new shafts and they worked great.  All washed up and ready for the next animal!

NAP Apache rest - you may have read my review of this rest earlier.  It's pretty much bulletproof and deadly accurate.  A great hunting arrow rest.

Bowhunting.com Edition Quikfletch - by far the coolest rendition of the popular Quikfletch products.

Axcel Armortech Sight - much like the NAP rest this thing is pretty well bulletproof and very reliable.  I can't say enough good things about this particular sight.  I'm shooting the 4 pin .019 "HS" (high speed) model.

ScentBlocker S3 Silverback Loose Fit Shirt - a super comfortable base layer that is breathable and kept me cool despite the 90 degree temps.  I'll definitely be wearing this as a base layer come October.

 

Bowhunting Success in Illinois - The Creek Buck

by Justin Zarr 29. October 2009 07:56
Justin Zarr

Three years ago when my hunting partner Mike Willand and I started filming our hunts we made one of the hardest decisions of our hunting careers.  Without fulltime cameramen to follow us around we would each be giving up roughly 1/2 of our time in the tree with a bow in our hands to pick up the camera and film.  Even after nearly three full seasons of this routine, and several good bucks on the ground, it's still a struggle to head into the woods with nothing but a bunch of camera gear in our packs.

After eating tag soup for the first time in several years last season, going into this fall I was more determined than ever to put my tag on a buck.  With all of the money we spend on leases, traveling, and gear, combined with our time away from home coming up emptyhanded just wasn't an option.  Even my wife said she'd kill me if I didn't come home with a buck one of these weekends!

So heading into the weekend of October 24th I was pretty anxious to get a buck on the ground.  Mike and I made the 5 hour drive South once again, and I was up first.  Our morning hunt was a complete debacle.  After a failed attempt to access our hunting land from a new direction we finally got our bearings and made our way up the giant hill just in time to get in our stands as the sun came up.  As we cooled down in stand and waited, all we saw was a lone doe and a small 1 1/2 year old buck out looking for some friends.  Pretty uneventful.

That afternoon, after crossing the still-flooded creek in our new inflatable boat the "S.S. Booner", Mike and I hung a new set overlooking a CRP field where we saw a lot of bucks last year.  It was a rather warm afternoon so after hanging and trimming out our set we climbed in and started to relax with several hours before sunset still ahead of us.


The view upstream from our departure point to journey across the flooded "creek".

After just a few short minutes Mike spotted a doe feeding on the hillside above us.  Thinking nothing of it we watched the doe for a bit as we whispered back and forth to one another about what a great view we had.  As the doe made her way down the hill towards us, she unexpectedly started running in our direction.  I was keeping a watchful eye on her as she approached when out of the corner of my eye a buck appeared, running down the hill after her.  I quickly whispered to Mike there was a buck coming down the hill.

At this point I put up my Vortex Viper binoculars and checked him out.  I could see he was a decent 8 point with pretty good beams, but not much mass or tine length.  I quickly tried to determine whether I would shoot him or not given the opportunity when he disappeared behind the finger of woods where our stands were at.  We both thought he was going to circle downwind of the doe, who was now 40 yards in front of our stand.  If this happened we figured the game would be over for the day.

Several minutes later the buck reappeared on our side of the finger, looking for the doe who had now bedded down in front of us.  As the buck looked around I again sized him up and quickly determined if given the shot I would take him.  Although his rack wasn't huge, his body and head size lead me to believe at the time that he was a 3 year old deer.  After that moment, I didn't give another thought to anything other than putting him on the ground.

The buck made his way along the edge of our finger and directly toward our stand, offering me zero shot opportunities.  With the camera rolling behind me I kept praying for the buck to turn and offer me the shot I needed, but he just kept coming.  At just under 8 yards from the base of our tree he stopped to sniff a few of the branches Mike had just trimmed.  Right about now I was getting nervous that he was going to smell the scent we just left behind and bail out before I could get a shot.  So, uncharacteristicly, I decided that if he turned his head and allowed me to draw I was taking the shot.  For some reason the little voice inside my head telling me to wait for a better angle just wasn't with me on this particular occassion.

When the buck turned his head to look out into the CRP I came to full draw and put my pin on his vitals.  After confirming that Mike was on him I let the arrow go and and it hit with a resounding thud.  The buck let out a moan as he mule-kicked, plowed into the bush in front of him, and took off across the CRP.  In my mind, he was a dead deer walking and wasn't going far.  I watched him disappear into the next finger about 100 yards away and never come out, then the celebration began!


CLICK ABOVE TO WATCH THE VIDEO OF THIS ENTIRE HUNT!

When Mike and I were done celebrating and finished our post-shot interviews we gathered our things and went down to retrieve my arrow.  With good sign at the point of impact, a blood-soaked arrow, and a great mule-kick reaction we were confident the buck was down.  So 30 minutes after the shot we took up the trail.

An hour later after not locating the buck, and losing the blood trail in the finger I saw him disappear into we elected to back out for the night.  Maybe my shot wasn't as good as we thought?  So with heavy hearts we headed back to the hotel to watch the footage.  After doing so, my fears were confirmed.  The deer was WAY too far quartering into me when I shot him.  Although for some reason in my mind as I replayed the scenario, it certainly didn't seem that way.  But the video didn't lie.  Not only was the angle bad, but my shot was a few inches lower than I wanted.  At that angle we suspected a single lung hit, with possibly some liver if we were lucky. 

The following morning Mike hunted out of a tree we call the Killing Stand, but as fate would have it we were skunked.  Not a single deer showed up all morning!  For some reason mornings have really given us fits this year.  So around 9 am we hung it up and went looking for my buck.

Four hours later, after grid searching every piece of ground in the general vicinity we last saw my buck we came up emptyhanded.  No blood, no sign, no deer.  It was as if he just disappeared.  At that point I sucked it up and we filmed an interview basically saying that my buck was lost, I took a bad shot, and that was it.  We were defeated.

As I made my way back to the truck with my head hung low and Mike out in front of me I was startled when Mike let out a loud shout.  "OH MY GOD!  THERE'S YOUR BUCK!  HE'S IN THE CREEK!!" he yelled as we both ran forward.  Rounding the corner I spotted my buck, dead in the creek not 80 yards from my truck.  It appears that he had gone into the creek several hundred yards upstream after being wounded and simply never made it out.  After dying he floated down river until he got hung up on some rocks.  We must have passed by him earlier that morning in the dark and never even knew it!


My 2009 "Creek" Buck.  Not the biggest deer in the woods, but I'll certainly take him.

To say we got extremely lucky is a huge understatement.  I should've known better than to take a bad shot at this deer, and in all reality should be paying for that misjudgement right now.  But it appears as though a little bit of luck was finally on my side this time.  And as they say, I'll take being lucky over being good any day!

After recovering my deer and reviewing the footage on a big screen I believe he is only a 2 1/2 year old buck.  The size of his head and beams threw me off in the heat of the moment.  After looking at the footage you can clearly see the buck's hindquarters are larger than his shoulders, which is a clear indication of a 2 1/2 year old deer.  However despite his age, I am extremely excited to have a buck on the ground in October and one heck of a great story to remember.  I'm glad Mike was there to share it with me, and I'm looking forward to many more hunts(although maybe not quite this exciting) in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Unfortunately our video editor is out sick this week so we're a little behind on the footage, but trust me when I say it will be worth the wait!  This is one story you won't want to miss!

Now it's time to get ready for the rut.  Bring on November!!!!


Mike and I with our hard-earned trophy.  Thanks for being there buddy, hopefully we'll get a few more on the ground before it's all said and done!

Monster Buck Harvest in IL.

by Todd Graf 29. October 2008 10:20
Todd Graf

After more than two decades of bowhunting and countless hours spent in pursuit of whitetail deer I finally scored on a true giant.  Words can’t even begin to explain the feeling that I still have right now, less than 24 hours after harvesting the biggest buck of my life.  Although we haven’t put an official tape to him yet, our rough numbers put him at just over 190”.   He truly is the buck of a lifetime!

 

This story began last year when I started getting pictures of a massive buck on my trail cameras.  Throughout most of the summer I got pictures  and trail camera videos of this buck as he grew into a giant that I was dedicated to chasing that fall.  But as so many mature bucks do every year, when October bow season finally rolled around he was nowhere to be found.  In fact, I never laid eyes on this buck even one time during the 2007 archery season here in Illinois.  After the season was over the buck showed up again on my trail cameras so I was able to confirm that he was still alive and set my sights on him once again for the following fall.

This spring as the bucks started showing their racks in June and July once again the buck showed up on my trail cameras, this time a little bit more consistently.  It appeared that he had moved his core area into the heart of my hunting spot and was living there for good.  Now I had to come up with a plan to finally harvest him.

When the 2008 bow season opened I did my best to hold off hunting this spot until the time was right, and last week I decided that it was.  With the pre-rut just starting these big bucks are up on their feet during daylight more often now, so I figured I might be able to catch up with him.  After several close encounters with this giant I was finally able to pinpoint his bedding area and on the evening of Ocotber 28th he presented me with a 10 yard shot as he walked along a trail from his core area headed towards a doe bedding area.

I made a perfect double lung shot and the brute only made it 150 yards before expiring.  My best friends Paul Mazur (Horseshoe), his son Brian, and Justin Zarr were there with me to share in the celebration as we recovered him a short while later.  I honestly can’t put into words the feelings that I have right now after so many years of dedication and hard work to finally pay off with the buck of a lifetime.  Thank you to everyone who supported me and encouraged me to keep chasing this giant, I might have given up if it wasn’t for you guys!


Here I really don't know what to say, I am holding the largest whitetail I ever harvested.

 
Here is a trail camera photo of him in the fall of 2007 - He just got done loosing his velvet.


This was the first photo I got of him in 2008, so I knew he made it through the hunting season and hard winter.

 
Here is another great shot of him just prior to the start of the hunting season.




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