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Eclipse Eight

Eclipse Eight

It takes a GIANT 8-pointer to score more than 160 inches!

By Thad Townsend

The day was unlike any other hunting day; it was the first morning for my brother, Chad, and I to be bowhunting the woods and cornfields of Illinois. Being from the small town of Rose Bud, Ark., and having hunted creek bottom and hill deer around home, we had no idea what was in store.

Since we were unfamiliar with the area, we decided to spend the morning scouting for big sign and locating the does’ feeding grounds. It was Nov. 8 and the rut was in full swing. When it seemed as if we weren’t going to find any sign, trails or even a good funnel, the sign found us.

We ran into a small, grassy opening on a creek bottom bordered by white oak ridges with a rub line through the middle with rubs the size of our legs. This was definitely the kind of sign we’d hoped to find.

While easing through, we were met by a small 4-pointer checking the trails for a hot doe. Yep, things were looking better. We knew from all that we’d heard and read about the rut in Illinois that, if you can find where a hot doe has passed, you are probably going to see bucks and possibly a wallhanger. Keeping this in mind, we spread out to find some trees in which to hang our stands.

As we started out of the natural blind we’d been using for cover, we were met by a hot doe – according to the 130-inch 8-pointer right on her tracks. As we got into position for a shot, I thought, I have a 130-inch buck on the wall. Do I want take this beautiful buck or wait for a bigger one? I chose to pass.

I expected Chad to then take the shot, but the buck passed by without incident. To my surprise, Chad had been thinking the same as I had. Once the excitement of the big deer faded, we found some good trees to set up in and planned to hunt until dark.

The day went by fast because of the constant passing of deer, but the one I was waiting for hadn’t arrived. As I was sitting patiently in the stand, I recalled what my wife Pamela had told me about trying to get a big buck. “Don’t go to Illinois and shoot the first 8-pointer that walks by. You have waited too long for this hunt, so make the most of it.”

Several times, I wondered if I should have taken that 8-pointer. I recalled horror stories of hunters waiting and going for the big one only to come back empty-handed. But thinking about it, I had to admit Pamela was right.

As the afternoon activity began to slow down, I became worried that my chance already had passed when, suddenly, there was movement on the ridge above me. A deer was easing along the trail that led straight down the ridge in front of my stand. Remaining calm, I waited to see if the deer was going to turn down the trail, allowing me to see whether it was a shooter before dark. I figured if it was a buck I might be able to speed its descent by giving a soft grunt. But the deer stopped, staring down the ridge.

Eclipse EightI then thought my grunt had hurt more than it helped. As the deer stood above me, I had time to notice the moon, one quarter eclipsed. I thought this was an awesome moment to enjoy being out there, perched in a tree, and that the eclipse might be a sign of good luck.

The deer then turned straight down the trail, and, at once, I could tell it was a pretty nice buck. When it stopped halfway down the ridge behind an 18-inch diameter tree, both main beams stuck way out on either side of the tree. I knew then that “pretty nice” was out of the picture. Try “monster.”

The buck was completely in the pasturing stance all the way down the trail. With its head pointed straight down, every hair on its body standing up and giving the longest grunts I had ever heard, it was an awesome sight. I tried to keep it all together and concentrate on making the shot, praying that all the time and practice with my Mathews bow would pay off. Luck was with me! The buck came down the trail looking for his rival, giving me a 25-yard shot. I drew my bow, thinking, Pick a spot.

I guess the old buck must have been able to read my mind because it started trotting, making the shot difficult. Fortunately, because of lots of practice, this was little problem after the countless moving targets my brother and I had shot throughout the years. I took sight and found my spot, leading slightly, and released. I hit pay dirt. The buck ran about 30 yards and collapsed at the bottom of the ridge.

The Illinois woods lay dead calm and dark, leaving me with only a small patch of white to stare at, still wondering how big the deer really was. After sitting for at least 15 more minutes to settle my nerves, I got down to be sure the buck was dead. When my feet hit the ground, I slipped over to where Chad was set up. He was coming down to see if he’d heard right that I had arrowed a buck.

We were both excited and in awe of what had happened as we started toward the deer. When my flashlight beam shone on the buck, I realized I was definitely in trouble with my wife. Believe it or not, the buck was only an 8-pointer – the biggest 8-pointer I had ever seen! Hearing her say, “An 8-pointer?” made it even sweeter.

Subscribe Today!Even though the rack had a 24-inch inside spread, 14-inch P-2s, heavy mass, and more than 300 pounds connected to it, in her mind, it was still an 8-pointer. Finally, when the e-mailed pictures arrived on her computer, she realized that this 8-pointer was definitely okay to bring home.

What a time it was, but, oh, what a job we had ahead of us. We had to walk the 2 ½ miles from our hunting spot, dragging the several hundred-pound mature buck. My advice to all who get to hunt in Illinois is to be prepared: These are not your average 150-pound deer. Without the help of the fast-constructed deer cart we had brought, a good family friend and plenty of rest stops, I don’t know when we would have made it out of there.

During one of many breaks, as we were admiring the old buck, my brother looked up at the moon and said, “The eclipse eight.” That’s when we first realized the moon was completely eclipsed, and that’s how the old buck got his name. We experienced a great hunting moment together, not to mention a dream come true.

The buck’s official P&Y gross score was 165 3/8 inches (net 162 5/8). That, my friends, is an 8-pointer!

This article was published in the September 2004 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

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