By Jill J. Easton
Sometimes bad events bring good results. It happened that way for Jake Landon in 2008 when he shot one of the biggest deer taken in Illinois that season.
The dire news came in September, only a month before the archery opener. Jake and his dad found out that the ground they’d hunted for 20 years had been leased by an outfitter. Finding a place to hunt in Illinois so close to bow season was going to be tough.
After frantic calls that activated the old buddy network, Jake’s dad ran into an old ’coon hunting friend who had 100 acres of timberland not too far from their home.
Jake quickly scouted the property and hung several stands in strategic locations. During the October bow season, he saw lots of sign and several good deer. None of the bucks, however, were worth the price of a mount.
The November rut brought more whitetails out of hiding.
“On Nov. 7, my birthday, I saw this deer for the first time,” Jake said. “It was chasing a doe down an old logging road, but it never came into range. It was an impressive irregular-racked buck I figured would go at least 150. I hunted every day after that, but I never saw it again during bow season.”
When the firearms season arrived, Jake was ready. He’d even bought a new shotgun and was very confident of its accuracy. The night before opening day, he decided to hunt where he’d seen the 150-incher.
“As I walked to my stand before sunup the next morning, I made a scent trail using a drag saturated with Tink’s #69,” Jake said. “About 7:30, a nice 8-pointer showed. I decided to take it if given the opportunity.”
When the buck crossed the scent trail, it immediately put nose to the ground and followed the smell into range. Jake raised his gun and squeezed the trigger.
“All I did was blow dirt in his face. I totally missed,” he said. “I was disgusted with myself, almost sick to my stomach. I didn’t understand what had happened.”
About 9:00, Jake joined his dad, who had been hunting nearby, and the two went home for lunch.
“While there, I decided to shoot on paper to see if the miss was the shotgun’s fault,” Jake said. “When I unsleeved the gun, I noticed the rear sight was catching on the case. It knocked the sight in the down position. I flipped it up and immediately put one in the bull’s-eye.”
Jake wasn’t able to hunt that evening, but he was back in the same stand the following morning after laying down another scent line. It was colder that day, and the lack of action made the time pass slowly.
“Finally, I heard something approaching near the logging road,” Jake said. “There was crashing in the brush, and out stepped the huge Irregular I’d seen on my birthday. It was so cold, I could see the breath rolling out of its nostrils. When I got a good look at it, my own breathing nearly stopped.”
The buck slowly made its way toward the scent trail, nose to the ground. It stopped in a clearing about 50 yards from Jake, who took full advantage.
“After I shot, the buck stood there in a daze and coughed a few times, so I shot again,” Jake said. “Then it just slowly rolled over backwards, and its rack held its head off the ground.”
Jake’s nerves were doing their own back flip.
“I was shaking so badly after I shot the second time, my brain fogged,” Jake said. “I was dropping shells while trying to load them; they were falling like hickory nuts to the bottom of the tree. I also tried to dial my family, but I couldn’t put the numbers in for nearly 15 minutes.
“I basically vibrated down the tree, thanking God and T.K., the property owner, for letting me be in the right place to shoot such an amazing deer.”
After a few minutes, Jake floated over to retrieve his prize. The 16-point rack was even larger than he’d thought.
“When my father came, we high-fived more times than I’ve done my entire life,” Jake said. “To make the day even more memorable, my dad shot a fine 8-pointer the same morning.”
Today, Jake has a different way of looking at problems that come into his life. Now he realizes that amazing opportunity sometimes comes from making the best of what is available.
Hunter: Jake Landon
Official Score: 204
Composite Score: 222 4/8
– Photos Courtesy of Jake Landon
This article was published in the November 2010 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.