By Don Mummert
Don Mummert of Clarksville, Tenn., fell in love with Illinois during his first hunt there 10 years ago. He returns so often, he is as much a fixture at the deer camp as any of the guides who work there. Photo Courtesy of Don Mummert
I met Buddy Edlin of Crooked Creek Whitetails 10 years ago on my first paid hunt. Buddy and his family have since been really good friends. And for the past seven or eight years, I have been the breakfast cook and sometimes help guide.
On Nov. 3, 2007, I arrived at camp about 8 p.m. When I walked through the door, it felt like I'd come home. It's amazing to be able to go around the table and know everyone's name.
For eight years, my place to hunt has been a piece of ground in Schuyler County. It's made up of a mere 12 acres of timber, but it's surrounded by cornfields.
The next morning, a Sunday, I set out around 7:00 to hang my stand in the same tree from which I've taken several good deer over the years. As I walked to it, I noticed a bunch of scrapes and antler-ravaged trees. I was pumped!
As soon as I hung my stand, I created a few mock scrapes within shooting distance of my tree. I saturated them with my own sweet recipe for monster bucks. I've never been a fan of store-bought deer lures. I like to make my own, and I call it Dr. D's. It has proven very effective for me.
I was awake by 3 a.m. Monday, preparing breakfast for the other hunters. After I got them on their way, it was my turn. You know, it's hard to get the smell of bacon out of your clothes. That's why I like Scent-Lok.
Monday was a great day. I saw lots of good bucks. They were going crazy over my mock scrapes. The racks on three of them would've measured between 130 and 150 inches, but I was looking for one much bigger.
On Tuesday, I told Alan, a friend from Mississippi who had already tagged out, that I really wanted to take a buck with a 20-inch spread.
Don might never have recovered his career-best whitetail if a lot of pals hadn't volunteered to help him search for it. He's also thankful the adjoining landowner allowed them access to where the wounded buck had sought refuge.
Photo Courtesy of Don Mummert
"I have a feeling this is going to be your year," he answered.
I hoped he was right.
I was back in my treestand by 7:30. A short while later, a nice 9-pointer passed through the area. At 8:15, I opened my snack bag to get some cookies and sip on my pop. For some reason, I looked to my left and immediately registered antlers. I grabbed my bow.
I had one hole I could shoot through about 31 yards. I watched the deer's chest come into the lane. It took two more steps, and I tried to stop it by bleating, but the tactic did not work. Although the buck never stopped walking, I released the arrow.
After the thwack, the buck kicked its heels - just like they're supposed to do, unless they fall right there - and took off running.
"Thank you, Lord. Thank you," I muttered.
I lowered my bow, got down and went to where the deer had been when I shot it. My arrow had passed through the buck and smacked into a log. Ten feet away, the blood trail began. I went back to my tree and waited another hour before following the sign.
I'd been pursuing the trail for about 75 yards when I looked up to see the buck hurtling away from me, and my heart sank. I'd pushed too hard, too soon - the very thing I caution other hunters against doing. I was sick, so I backed out of there and returned to camp.
As I got back to camp, my very good friend, Terry Strain of Michigan, was getting ready to go out for the afternoon. I told him what happened, and he looked at me and said, "Well, let's go try to find your deer!"
We got back to my honey hole about 1:00 and started following the blood trail. The buck plowed into and out of some hellish ravines, which didn't bode well for our efforts. Nor did the 800 yards we'd traveled to that point. But there still was blood to follow. When Terry and I reached a gravel road, we realized the monster had crossed onto another farm.
When we got back to camp, I told Buddy I'd shot a good buck and that the deer had ventured onto someone else's property. We contacted the landowner, and he gave us permission to go on his farm the next day.
The following morning, six of us - Terry; Alan; Alex from Florida; Barry from South Carolina; Donnie, one of the guides; and I - struck out to find my buck. It was around 7:30 when we started. The plan was to begin at the last drop, and we did ... until it petered out an hour later. That's when we all spit up to cover ground.
About 10:30, while heading back to my truck, I saw the other guys still combing the area. I waved them over, thanked them for helping, and said there probably was no use continuing; I'd evidently made a bad shot.
A clock tick later, however, I heard someone hooting like an owl giving birth. And then we all realized that Alex was still in the timber. He'd been the pregnant hooter, and he'd rediscovered the trail.
Down a ravine we all went, and then up again, only to lose the trail as the timber gave way to an 800-acre cornfield. Thirty minutes later, I found blood on a corn stalk about 75 yards in the field. Connecting the dots wasn't easy, but we eventually found ourselves back in the woods. It was time to split up again.
A half-hour later, some woohoos erupted.
"I think they found your deer," Terry grinned.
As soon as I put my hands on that monster, tears filled my eyes. I'd waited my whole life for a deer like that. And I'd almost botched it; almost given up trying to find it. I'd have never enjoyed that moment if my friends hadn't pitched in when I needed them.
Hunter: Don Mummert
Official Score: 220 7/8"
Composite Score: 241
-- Reprinted from the August 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine