The only 12-step program for bowhunters leads to a treestand.
By Mike Handley
Either the Apocalypse or a flood would have to hit Massachusetts to keep Everett Brown from packing his bags and leaving home in November. Even then, there's no guarantee that hell or high water would prevent him from driving to Illinois when the deer there are feeling their oats.
This past season was the fourth year for Everett and his bowhunting friend, Scott Forney, to drive 17 hours in order to stay in a motel and hunt a 200-acre farm for six and a half days. It's a long-anticipated vacation, a rut hunt in the Land of Giants, and an escape from the demands of job and family.
Without that trip, Everett would be limited to a dozen or fewer opportunities to cross over into Connecticut to indulge his passion for bowhunting; for the addict to get his fix.
"There's nothing like that in-close rush you get while in a treestand," says the 42-year-old. And the high verges on overdose when you're looking at - or trying not to look at - a breathtaking set of antlers.
Everett got his first taste of the big deer drug in 2007, when he arrowed a 10-pointer pushing the 170-inch (composite) mark. He thought he'd be better able to handle it the next time - if there was a next time. He had to wait only a year to test that theory.
The La Salle County property he and Scott hunt is owned by a relative of Scott's dad.
"The buck sign and deer we saw during our first visit hooked us," Everett said. "I saw at least five or six bucks in the 130- to 140-inch range, although I never got a shot at one. That's huge for someone who doesn't live there."
The first three years Everett and Scott made the trip, they'd leave home on Nov. 8 and begin hunting the 9th. In 2007, however, the rut came early and they missed the peak. That's why they decided to bump up the '08 trip by a couple of days.
Everett's favorite tree to scale sits in a bottomland funnel beside a picked cornfield. He hangs a fixed-position model there about 17 feet off the ground, within 10 yards of a creek crossing, pretty much every year. It's where he shot his best-ever buck in 2007.
In 2008, there was a savage rub within 30 yards of his perch, obviously made by a buck with an attitude.
Because he and Scott rarely see any deer before 9 a.m., they don't bother rising before dawn. They try to get to their stands by 8:30 and hunt all day, fueled by anticipation and the PB&Js they make inside the motel room.
"The activity in those woods usually explodes between 10 a.m. and noon," Everett said.
There was indeed a lot of deer movement the first couple of days, mostly does and young bucks that couldn't yet understand why every female wasn't delighted to be courted.
Nov. 11 was drizzly. Scott was hunting about 400 or 500 yards away, closer to a bedding area.
Everett saw a 21/2-year-old 8-pointer cross the creek at noon. He stood and grabbed his bow, but the deer spotted him and took off.
"I wasn't going to shoot it," Everett said. "It was only about a high-120s, and I wanted a 130 or better. But you never know what might come out next. That's the thing about that place. At any second, anything could walk out."
An hour later, Everett saw a couple of does on a hillside coming toward him. Before reaching him, they began acting spooky and did a 180.
The duo returned about 3:45, this time passing almost underneath his stand en route to the creek crossing 10 yards at his back.
"It's a major deer run," Everett explained.
Soon after the lead doe passed to his left - Everett was already on his feet and holding his bow - he saw a third doe approaching from the other side of the creek, and she was being dogged by a buck a mere five or six yards behind her.
The doe crossed. When her pursuer entered the creek and stopped at 10 yards, Everett released his arrow. The buck wheeled and sped away as if being chased by demon beagles.
"I knew it was big," he said. "I'd shot my 10-pointer from that same tree the previous year - one that I thought was my deer of a lifetime. And this buck was bigger."
Because the rain was intensifying, Everett thought better of waiting. He had to know if there was any blood before it washed away. Within 10 minutes, Everett was following sign.
He couldn't find his arrow, at first. But it didn't take long.
I got penetration, but it didn't pass through," he said. "Apparently, I shish ka-bobbed the buck, and the arrow just worked itself out."
Didn't matter, though. The deer won a free 17-hour ride back to Massachusetts.
• Hunter: Everett Brown
• Official Score: 169 1/8
• Composite: 188 5/8
• Compound Bow
-- Reprinted from the July 2010 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.