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.