Meet Lenny Thoele, Illinois’ Newest State Park Advocate.
While a lot of Illinois hunters are closed-mouthed about the public ground close to their farms, Lenny Thoele would probably draw you a map to the state park about a mile from his 170 acres in Macon County.
The park doesn’t welcome deer hunters until Nov. 1, but it’s a whitetail wonderland just waiting for the mid-season green light. In fact, Lenny might just erect a billboard to that effect.
The more, the merrier.
More hunters there also means more deer will seek shelter on his place, which offers the biggest block of woods and, now, CRP for miles. Most all the adjoining tracts are cropland.
Lenny discovered the farm while doing business in that end of the county. The 43-year-old from Montrose owns a concrete construction company. He and some buddies originally threw in to acquire the 150 acres, but now it and another 20 acres are all his.
He doesn’t mind the hour-and-a-half drive to hunt it, although doing so in 2009 seemed like a big waste of time.
Because of unusually wet conditions, the crops were harvested late that year. Corn was standing until the week between the second shotgun and muzzleloader seasons. Finding a deer was like searching for Waldo.
Statewide, the 2009 firearms harvest of 99,419 deer was the lowest in a decade. It was particularly bad during the first three-day hunt.
But all the decent bucks that evaded detection in 2009 were even bigger in 2010, a year Lenny won’t soon forget.
He thinks he saw the deer at the center of this story three days before he shot it. He was bowhunting the Tuesday prior to the state’s first shotgun season when an enormous buck gave him maybe 10 seconds to drool, and then it disappeared. Lenny sent a text message to his buddy, saying “A picket fence just walked by me.”
He also saw a 150-ish 8-pointer that day, and he arrowed a 150-inch 5x5.
Friday morning, he carried his shotgun to another ladder stand about 200 yards from where he was bowhunting Tuesday. A 100-yard-wide bean field separated him from an S-shaped, 13-acre block of timber that serves as a doe magnet.
“It’s so thick, you can barely crawl through it,” he said. “I just don’t bother going in there unless I’m looking for sheds in the springtime.”
Tuesday might’ve been a great day to be in the woods, but Friday was even better.
“I saw seven bucks the first hour,” Lenny said. “All were looking for does. Five went inside that block, and two others came out of it.
“It was one of those magical, once-in-every-five-years mornings,” he added.
The day’s eighth buck appeared at 8:00. It entered the field 200 yards to Lenny’s left, crossed it and went into the strip of thick woods. When it re-emerged, it started back the way it had come.
The breeze was blowing out of the south, which was in Lenny’s favor, so he knew the deer wasn’t going to wind him. When the buck was halfway across the field, Lenny realized it wasn’t going to get any closer. He was just about ready to ease down his stand and try cutting the distance, when the animal turned and strolled to within 60 yards.
“The whole time, I’m thinking: This just doesn’t happen. It doesn’t. But I was also chanting, ‘Come on, baby, come on ...,’” he added.
When Lenny pulled the Remington 870’s trigger, the buck mule-kicked and took off running. About the time Lenny fired a second time, the buck’s head hit the dirt, and its forward motion caused it to somersault, white tail over tea kettle. The second 12-gauge slug never even touched it.
Lenny immediately texted his buddies, telling them he’d shot a 170-class whitetail. When he reached the downed animal, he revised the score upward to the 180s. It wasn’t until he rough-scored it with a tape, however, that he realized he’d taken a 200-incher.
The following day, he took his daughter, Tiffani, to the same spot. They saw six bucks chasing does, including a 180-class specimen. On Sunday, she filled her tag with an 8-pointer.
“It was a very good year,” he beamed.
Hunter: Lenny Thoele
BTR Official Score: 187 1/8
BTR Composite Score: 207 6/8
— Photos Courtesy of Lenny Thoele This article was published in the September 2012 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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