Rack Magazine

Peepless in Illinois

Peepless in Illinois

By Mike Handley

Seeing Isn’t Always Aiming.

As soon as the bowstring’s kisser button hit the corner of Jon Wolf’s mouth, he almost panicked. The 63-year-old hunter from Galva, Ill., was staring at a buck wearing what looked more like an upturned rotary hoe than antlers. But he wasn’t seeing it through a peep sight.

The device was there, right beside his nose, but it wasn’t encircling the pin Jon had pointed at the dandy whitetail just 15 yards from his ladder stand.

It took only a split-second for the befuddled bowhunter to compensate, to flick his wrist and bring things in line, but he doesn’t remember doing so. One minute, he was rattled; the next, he was holding a limp bow and watching the deer careening away through the strip of trees and into the adjacent field.

He knew he’d somehow hit it.

Jon is a retired equine professor for a community college. Although he was savvy enough to shift into autopilot, is proficient enough to put an arrow where it needs to be put, and smart enough to recognize a good stand site when he sees it, he’d rather give luck credit for his accomplishments afield.

“I’m not a good bowhunter,” he says. “I have a cheap bow. I don’t do extreme stuff outside of carrying a grunt call.”

But he does use a trail camera.

In early October 2011, Jon retrieved a photo of a monstrous 16-pointer from a trail camera.

A couple of weeks later while bowhunting, two deer ran past his homemade metal ladder stand. He was sitting — as he almost always does because of his fear of heights — and had to move his leg so he could turn. And when he did, he saw the buck from the trail cam photo staring at him.

He tried to draw his bow, was maybe two-thirds into it, but he had to stop and relax his draw. When the buck bounded away, Jon beat himself up pretty badly. He was convinced he should’ve been able to draw and shoot it.

“Because of that experience, I had my bow, which was set up with a 55-pound draw, let down to 50 (pounds),” he said.

He never saw the big one again that year, but he wound up with a very respectable 161-incher.

Although there weren’t any trail cam photos of the buck in 2012, Jon’s hopes were still high. He hadn’t heard of anyone seeing or shooting a big buck in the vicinity.

On the mild afternoon of Oct. 31 (he didn’t hunt that morning), he went to the ladder stand in a place he calls Squirrel City. It’s a narrow funnel between feeding and bedding areas, and the stand has paid off handsomely in recent years.

“It’s a killer tree,” said Jon, who began hunting the Henry County property two years before erecting the stand in 1998. “This is the 14th buck taken from it,” the largest a 206-incher felled during the 2000 shotgun season.

“Where I am sitting in the timber, the funnel is 50 yards wide,” he added. “My stand faces east, which makes it a better evening sit. The main deer trail is 15 yards in front of me, and 5 yards past that is the field’s edge.”

He said the deer almost never pass through the funnel to the rear of his setup.

Jon Wolf“About 100 yards south of me is a 65-acre woodlot where the deer bed. It’s a sanctuary,” he said. “The owners let only their son bowhunt there on a very limited basis. North of me, the timber gradually widens to about 125 yards. It is really thick with multiflora rose bushes.

“My wife and I go in only to look for sheds or to follow a blood trail, if necessary. We try to stay out of there,” he said.

Jon was in his stand by 4:30 on Halloween. An hour later, a big 8-pointer came in from the south, following the main trail. Jon allowed it to keep going, though he regretted his decision while watching the animal walking away from him.

Twenty minutes later, all regrets vanished. Another and much larger buck was approaching from the north, the wind at its back. Jon knew it would likely pass within 15 yards, on the same trail the 8-pointer had used, so he waited and drew when he could.

That’s where this story began.

After the buck disappeared, Jon got down, walked back to his truck and called his wife, Jane. The two of them returned later and found the exceptional animal.

Jane, also a hunter, was the first to recognize the deer as being the 16-pointer their trail camera had photographed in 2011, the same buck that caught Jon mid-draw that year and then vanished for the remainder of the season.

“You’re going to mount this one,” she informed him.

Mitchell Hulsey, a local high school student, was driving down the road just after dusk and saw Jon’s truck lights illuminating the field. Figuring Jon had shot a buck, he pulled over and called him. He wound up lending a hand in loading the beefy animal, which field-dressed at a whopping 247 pounds.

Jon, still humble, says he has his friend Jeff Shreck to thank for changing his mindset. Jeff had advised Jon to revise his tactics; to wait for late October, not the first, to climb a tree.

“Instead of going out when the season opens and shooting the first doe I see, Jeff suggested I wait ’til the end of the month and shoot a buck,” he said. “He was right.”

Hunter: Jon Wolf
BTR Score: 216 3/8
Compound Bow

– Photos Courtesy of Jon Wolf

This article was published in the October 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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