The Worts had two reasons to celebrate Nov. 10 in 2005
By Jill J. Easton
Nothing is more sacred than a wife's birthday. But for Kevin Wort of Rushville, Ill., dinner reservations do not have to interfere with a morning date in the deer woods.
His wife must've known that early on in their relationship, too, because Kevin has always been smitten with whitetails.
His passion for deer hunting took root in the early 1970s, when he shot his first buck on family property in Brown County, west of Springfield. He was a teenager then, hungry for his first deer and bragging rights. On that fateful day, he'd been in a stand for less than 30 minutes.
"The adrenaline rush and memory-etching moment of harvesting that first deer was amazing. That buck came in like it was on a string," Kevin said. "I had a smoothbore 870. I waited 'til the deer was at 30 yards and shot once, but nothing happened. I shot again, and it staggered up the hill and fell.
"It was one of those supreme moments in my life. I still have the leg tag with the date and time and the spent shotgun shell I used to take that deer," he added.
For those of you too young to remember, there weren't a lot of deer in the 1970s. In those days, seeing a hoofprint was enough to dominate conversation at the liars' tables in downtown cafés. Actually shooting one was countywide news.
Kevin was a hero around town for months.
Deer hunting, especially taking a big deer, left Kevin with a passion he never outgrew. He kept good relationships with his relatives who gave him free access to their land scattered around the rolling hills.
Fast forward 30 years. Kevin is still hunting the same country, this time on an uncle's property. Over the years, he's learned the travel routes and bedding areas on every bit of the land. He's also learned the odds of taking a bruiser whitetail increase exponentially hunting the pre-rut period of late October and early November.
This meant taking up archery. Since he's a conscientious hunter, he practiced with his bow until he could consistently hit a 2-pound coffee can at 50 yards.
Second Taste of Fame
It was Nov. 10, 2005, his wife's birthday, and the rut was starting.
Kevin was thinking that if he was going to harvest a deer, it would have to be soon, since reservations were already made for a big birthday dinner.
"I was in my best morning stand; it doesn't disappoint," explained Kevin. "It's a classic transitional area with bushy bedding spots bordered by open timber."
Earlier that morning, he spotted does moving through the timber. Many passed within bow range on their way to the beds; several spikes and forkies also nosed their way past the stand.
About 7:00, Kevin began rattling to see if there was any better business around and did a repeat 30 minutes later. He sat back to enjoy the show, but glassed the open timber from time to time. Just after 8:00, he detected movement and saw a buck at about 100 yards - too far for a bow shot. But knowing the territory and planning his location well paid off. The buck headed his way and closed the distance quickly.
"With that first good look, my knees nearly buckled with the adrenaline rush; I couldn't get my bow off the hook fast enough," Kevin said. "When your hand immediately reaches out for the bow as a reflex, there's no doubt it's a shooter."
The buck followed the path of the earlier does and young bucks, but at 30 yards, it began to veer north and offered only a high-risk quartering shot. Deer traveling that path often went north, jumped a fence and disappeared in the brush. Two years earlier, Kevin cleared a shooting lane along the escape route. If the buck continued on the path, Kevin knew he'd eventually get a 40-yard, probably broadside shot.
When the buck stepped into the shooting lane, Kevin released the arrow. Seconds later, he could see the arrow on the ground. He didn't know exactly where it struck the deer.
"I heard the hit, but the buck reacted so quickly, I didn't know if it was fatal," Kevin said. "The buck bolted into a nearby draw, and all was silent. Suddenly, it appeared on the opposite side of the gorge, headed north. As it neared the top of the ravine, it hesitated, staggered and fell, sliding back into the draw and out of sight."
There were tense moments as Kevin approached the deer. Were the antlers as big as they looked in those quick glimpses among the trees?
"As I approached the downed animal, there was no ground shrinkage," said Kevin. "He truly had the best rack of any whitetail I'd ever encountered in 30-plus years of hunting."
It wasn't until he inspected the buck that he discovered the shot had gone a little in front of the shoulder and completely passed through the deer, exiting behind the offside shoulder. He'd put the shot 8 inches forward and ended up with a near chest shot.
That night was the first time in more than 20 years of marriage that he fully enjoyed his wife's birthday dinner.
"For the first time, I was there with my wife in the moment," Kevin explained. "I wasn't dreaming about that once-in-a-lifetime buck out there passing my evening stand and me not in it."
• Hunter: KEVIN WORT
• Official Score: 176 5/8
• Composite: 195 1/8
• Compound Bow
-- Reprinted from the July 2010 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.