posted on September 29, 2013 13:48
By Mike Handley
Back in 2001, the year I first went to Pike County, Ill., and shot my first buck and doe with a bow (I was a late bloomer in archery), the area was 20 years beyond its peak.
I still remember the 1980s, when newspapers all over the country published stories about the monstrous whitetails being harvested in Pike County. The glowing reports made it seem as if giant deer were to be found behind every sparse bush.
In no time at all, every inch of ground - with or without bushes - was snatched up by outfitters eager to capitalize off the big deer and free publicity.
Unless they had land to lease, the locals hated it. Still do, I suspect.
Giant deer aren't as numerous as they were during west-central Illinois' heyday. But the food is still there. Ditto for the genetics. And the land certainly hasn't disappeared, though it might have changed hands a few dozen times.
It's extremely rare for hunters to tag world-class bucks while hunting with an outfitter. Deer simply won't tolerate the extra pressure.
If there is an exception, however, it's to be found in Pike County. When the corn is harvested, whitetails concentrate in the only cover left to them.
Matt Moore of Mississippi might never have seen those early newspaper articles. He might not know why some locals grimace whenever they see an out-of-state license plate. And he's probably unaware that the area probably has more outfitters per capita than any other place in North America.
It's all immaterial to him.
He and his father have hunted with the same outfitter for four years, and they couldn't be happier.
Matt has taken three great bucks there, his most recent a 193 5/8-inch (composite) Typical - a mainframe 5x5 with a couple of extras.
He climbed into his stand before daylight on Nov. 30 and saw the buck running right down the middle of a plowed up cornfield, heading straight for him. It stopped out at 100 yards, which is when Matt fired a slug into its chest.
A second shot anchored it.
"When I picked up his rack, everyone in Pike County heard me holler," Matt told Jill Easton, who's writing his story for RACK magazine.
I can certainly see why.