A whitetail like this would give any hunter the Elvis leg.
Joe Bryan of Rayville, Louisiana, made a lasting first impression on the hunters with whom he shared an Illinois deer camp in 2014.
During the initial get-acquainted lunch at Buck Creek Farms, he told them his mother-in-law had booked his hunt as a gift for his 20th wedding anniversary.
"One of the guys said, 'We've got to rethink this mother-in-law thing,'" Joe said. “We all had a laugh when he said that.”
Yes, many guys think of their mother-in-law as Godzilla. But in Joe’s case, his led him to Godzilla, a buck nicknamed by the locals in that part of Illinois. Joe, 54, was accompanied by Shane Lester, his preacher, and Dan Stansburg, his nephew.
The trio arrived in western Illinois on a Saturday. The outfitter has land in Pike and Calhoun counties. Joe said he felt immediately optimistic.
“Sunday morning, I saw 20 deer, including three 10-pointers,” he said. “One was a nice buck, chasing a doe, really harassing her. But I didn’t think it was big enough.”
The outfitter has a 130-inch minimum on bucks and imposes a $1,000 fine for deer that fall below the mark. After Joe decided the buck didn’t make the grade, the nice 5x5’s chase suddenly brought it into range.
“I could see split brow tines, the spread, and what seemed like decent mass,” Joe said. “But for only a second before it was gone.
“I didn’t see a lot of deer after that, on Monday and Tuesday,” he continued. “I was irritated with myself, thinking I might have missed my chance.”
On Wednesday morning, Nov. 5, the outfitter moved him to an area nicknamed The Doe Hole. Joe didn’t see any deer during that sit, but he heard a buck grunting, as well as a sound he describes as “not a snort-wheeze, but a longer, more drawn-out wheeze.”
During lunch, the guides asked him if he wanted to move, but he opted to return.
Joe was back on his stand by 1:30 and started seeing deer by 3:00.
“One area to watch was like a long tunnel formed by the trees. When I looked down there, I saw a buck — very high and wide — about 80 yards away,” Joe said. “As I grabbed my bow, it started coming toward me.”
When the buck turned its head at one point, Joe saw a nearly 8-inch kicker and began trembling.
“I was trying to get my brain right,” he smiled.
Joe had ranged several spots, but the distraction of the buck drawing closer made remembering the yardages difficult.
“I was really shaking, trying very hard not to look at the antlers,” he said. “When the buck was within 25 yards, it stopped under a tree and began stomping its foot.”
Joe was convinced the deer was going to see him vibrating in the tree. It definitely knew something wasn’t right.
“When it turned very slowly, like it had decided to just sneak out of there, I drew my bow,” he said. “I was coaching myself: Twenty … 20 … 20 … 20 … top pin.”
The buck bolted after the shot. Joe saw the fletching, just where it needed to be, as the animal fled. After resting a bit to gather his wits, Joe sent a text to camp: “I think I killed a monster.”
“Stay on the stand,” was the reply.
About 40 minutes later, a doe approached from the same trail the buck had taken. Joe shot her, too, and she ran off in the same direction.
Joe again texted the camp, and again came the response: “Stay on stand.”
For the next two hours, Joe traded texts with the guides and other hunters. Everyone wanted him to describe the rack, but Joe’s adrenalin level was too high for him to focus on details. At one point, he texted “I think I’m gonna puke.”
His guide picked him up at dark.
“After supper, which I didn’t enjoy at all, we went back to the stand and started tracking,” he said.
Both the buck and doe had gone up the same short draw, their blood trails intertwining. Everybody was silent, following one of the guides, who was out front trailing, head down. Suddenly, he said loudly, “Everybody stop. What a deer!”
The buck’s last move had been to jump a small ditch. It had landed on the opposite side, front legs extended, and apparently just slid to the ground. Its head was resting on its legs.
The doe was a short distance away.
The guide knew it was a buck that had been photographed by the neighbors’ trail cameras. They’d nicknamed it Godzilla.
“He’s different, every way you look,” Joe said. “And not just the rack. He had a lot of differences. He weighed 270 pounds, even though his teeth were about gone.”
Godzilla also had a gelatinous pouch on his left shoulder. Only after seeing it on the dead deer did Joe recall noticing it during their encounter.
“I remembered that as he walked toward me, I could see that sack shaking on his side, and he had a limp,” he said. “But I was shaking so much, I didn’t ponder that. I just tried to stay focused on making the shot.”
Later at camp, with the buck hanging up, it was obvious that one of his front legs was much shorter than the other. The hunters weren’t able to determine the cause. They could only guess that the buck might have been injured in a collision with a vehicle.
Later, they had a scoring party at camp.
“I remember the guide’s wife counting 14 points on one side (there were actually 16),” Joe said. “I think that’s when it really hit me. I’d never shot anything with 14 points total. I was stunned.
“Before that night, they’d been teasing me in camp. I was the oldest hunter, and I had the oldest bow,” Joe said. “My bow is 11 years old, and that’s the first deer I shot with it.”
Editor’s Note: For more information about Joe Bryan’s outfitter, visit www.buckcreekfarms.com.
Hunter: Joe Bryan
BTR Score: 190 7/8
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This article was published in the February 2016 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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