The 2009 season was my second back in the saddle following an eight-year hiatus from bowhunting. Not only was I eager to make up for lost time, but I was also determined to take my game to the next level. My biggest priority was to acquire hunting rights to more property with world-class whitetail potential.
One of the hotspots I had in mind belongs to a longtime family friend. It’s just a little three-acre parcel of land surrounded by hundreds more of big buck sanctuary. I knew the area held great potential through my conversations with other hunters and my trips afield to scout, hunt for sheds and film deer. I’d also harvested a dandy 150-incher a mile north of there in 2008.
After gaining access from the landowner, Grego, and speaking to his neighbors about bowhunting their properties, I became determined to decoy a buck into my lap, stick it and film the shot.
Anybody who knows me knows there is not much I do that is basic. I started preparing the land with fertilizer in May, spreading 12-12-12 over the entire back portion of the property. Half the three acres is planted in clover and a few fruit trees. The rest is choked by weeds and saplings.
After a few days of rain, which was plentiful in ’09, I reseeded the clover field because it had been more than five years since it was planted. Knowing deer like a variety, I also added everything else available in food plot seeds.
It had rained so much that a lot of farmers were unable to get corn planted in time and seeded the fields in beans instead. By mid-June, I was ecstatic to see the fields surrounding my spot being planted in corn.
The first week of August, I erected my elevated ground blind in the southwest corner of the property, up against a small tree just big enough to break up the blind’s outline.
First, I constructed the foundation with some scaffolding borrowed from my good friend, Sod Sears. After I laid the inch-thick floor, I covered it with 6-mil polyethylene for an added scent barrier. Next, I placed the ground blind my good friend Brian Smith loaned me on the platform and fastened it. After placing the inch-thick rubber mat on the floor inside the blind for more sound and scent barrier and tying branches to the scaffolding around the blind, it was more palace than ground blind.
The finishing touch was to weed-whack a path between the cornfield and clover that passed within 20 yards of my 6-foot-tall hideout.
The first October evening I sat in my palace, a buck surprised me. It approached from behind, downwind, to within 100 yards, saw the 3-D archery target I’d leaned against an apple tree, and then blew as if to let me know it was not fooled. It wore an impressive chocolate-colored rack.
That buck caught me totally off guard. I didn’t expect one to come from that direction. It was nice to see that my 3-D target was noticeable, but I was bummed. It came and went before I could train my camera on it.
As opening week progressed, I saw a few does and a couple more bucks. And on Oct. 7, I saw the mainframe 9-pointer with a sticker on the left P-2& that I’d videoed back in July, when the rack was covered in velvet. This buck was definitely book material, but I was holding out for a real jaw-dropper.
I filmed that deer for few minutes and tried to lure it from the cornfield. I grunted a few times, and the buck came to within 13 yards of my blind before turning and disappearing into the rows.
The second week of the season was even more exciting.
Oct. 8 was a great day to hunt deer. That seemed to be the consensus of the four coyotes that chased a small buck through the property to the north of my blind. One of the ’yotes was even fooled by the 3-D target. It ran to within 5 feet of the mannequin before slamming on the brakes.
Seeing a deer leaning against a tree and paying no mind whatsoever to the threat of becoming doggy dinner was just too much for the coyote and his companions.
On Oct. 9, I saw a big beautiful mainframe 12-pointer with stickers on its P-2s. I quickly grabbed my video camera and captured a few minutes of footage as it ate corn, stalks and all.
The buck came within 13 yards at 5:01 p.m. and fed for about seven minutes before heading south. I rattled antlers in an attempt to lure it back where I could film the shot, but it took the deer about 20 minutes to come investigate. It came right back down the same path to within 10 yards, but it wouldn’t step out of the corn.
An hour later, I saw a 130-inch 8-pointer in the same slough about 55 yards away. It was too dark to get good video.
To say I was excited would be a gross understatement. Driving home that evening, I called all my hunting buddies and told them I’d just seen a real hawg, the jaw dropper I wanted so badly. I told them HawgNSonsTV had done it again and to watch for my video. I could hardly wait to get my video edited and published to my YouTube channel.
I hunted every remaining day in October, most of the time staying in my blind or stand all day. I saw plenty of big deer and passed on several book bucks, none of which could compare to the big 14-pointer.
November started out just like you would expect in this part of the country. This is the month every deer hunter waits for in Illinois, and the month I get to my ambush site before dawn and stay until after dark. I saw a couple of book bucks the first few days, but still nothing like that big beautiful 14-pointer.
Nov. 4 was a day I will remember for the rest of my life.
I rattled the antlers at dawn and, by 6:30, a mainframe 10-point buck with three stickers came out of the cornfield. When I finally saw it, it was standing and looking at me a mere 20 yards away. The buck had a corn stalk hanging from its antlers, and I thought it was a massive drop tine.
Turns out, it was the big chocolate-antlered buck I’d seen the first day from my blind. Once again, that buck caught me totally off guard. Although I was a bit shaken by its surprise appearance, I quickly grabbed my bow and drew. As it seemed to look me straight in the eyes, I waited for it to expose a high-percentage target.
That chance never came. Within seconds, it was barreling away from me.
It was a quiet afternoon until I decided to try another rattling sequence at 4:20. Within five minutes, the big 14-pointer appeared at the edge of the cornfield. It was sniffing the dominant buck lure I’d set our while circling the area.
The deer was also looking at the decoy, every hair on its back at attention. It circled my blind and began walking the cut trail. As soon as that majestic monster stepped into my shooting lane, I released an arrow.
After my arrow hit the sweet spot behind the deer’s shoulder, the buck bolted and disappeared about 100 yards to the east, where the corn, the weed field I was set up in and the landowner’s garden all came together. As I sat there in total disbelief, trying to compose myself, I couldn’t help but think of how surreal the chain of events had been.
My next concern was the video of the harvest. Trying to self-film your hunts from a treestand is challenging, but doing it from a blind, where you never really know where the deer are going to show up, is taking it to the next level.
Although the footage from my hunt isn’t as good as I'd hoped, I was delighted to see that I did capture the kill shot to enjoy for years to come.
As I walked through the weed field to where the buck disappeared, I could see that awesome rack jutting up in the corn.
It was a magical hunt.
Hunter: Trent Schneider
This article was published in the September 2010 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
Official Score: 164 5/8
Composite Score: 182 1/8