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Hunting in Toontown

Hunter: Adam Silvers

Illinois' New No. 3

By Mike Handley

Adam Silvers was a toddler when "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" opened in theaters in 1988. His grandparents might've been children when Disney's "Song of the South" hit the silver screen in '46.

Both flicks showed real live actors interacting with cartoon characters.

Adam had his own brush with animation while bowhunting in Illinois last November, when he found himself staring at a deer that would've put Bambi's father to shame.

"The rack was so much bigger than anything I'd ever seen. It almost looked like a cartoon deer," he said. "It just didn't look real."

That was the high point of the 23-year-old's 2008 hunting vacation. And it came just a few minutes after the low point. In fact, it's a wonder Adam even hung around long enough for bad to turn into good.

Fueled by high hopes, Adam had opted to skip lunch and climb into his stand three hours earlier than usual for an afternoon hunt. The only thing he saw in that span was his friend, Mike Ballew, walking to his own stand around 2 p.m.

Mike text-messaged Adam half an hour later to say he'd already seen three bucks. "Man, they're rutting like crazy," his message said, though Adam had seen no evidence of it.

Mike's second message arrived an hour later: "I just missed a 160-inch 10-pointer!"

Adam felt like he was on a different planet, a cold and deerless one.

"I was almost to the point of leaving," he admitted. "There I'd been, hunting almost all day, and I hadn't seen anything. My buddy Mike goes in for lunch, comes back at 2:00, and he sees at least four bucks chasing does.

"I thought, 'This is crazy. I've been here twice as long ... I'm freezing TO DEATH ... Why am I doing this?'" Adam added. "It was unbelievably cold. The wind had been solid all day. It was blowing at least 15-25 miles per hour. That's the coldest I've ever been while deer hunting.

"Plus, the farmer's kids had been playing outside the house since 1:00," he grumbled.

Mike was the reason Adam traveled to Henderson County, Ill., last year. Upon his friend's suggestion, he'd booked the 10-day bowhunt with an outfitter. They'd arrived on a Thursday morning, hung stands that afternoon and spent the night in an old farmhouse, which was their home away from home.

The next morning, Adam was in his stand overlooking a draw. He passed up a 16-yard shot at a 145-inch 9-pointer that would've been 20 inches bigger than anything he'd ever shot back in North Carolina. In fact, the biggest he'd ever shot with his bow to that point was a 6-pointer.

"People gave me all kinds of heck over that," he said. "But it was the first morning. The outfitter had told us not to shoot anything less than 130 inches. Besides, I was paying dearly for that hunt, and I wanted something worth bragging about.

"Another guy actually shot that buck the following Monday. That's how I know how big it was," he added.

Hunter: Adam SilversAfter hunting in a different stand Saturday morning, Nov. 8, Adam met up with Mike to help him hang another. It was bitterly cold, sleeting and snowing, but Adam was eager to return to the woods rather than go back to the farmhouse. So he got Mike to drop him off around 11:00 with plans to hunt the rest of the day.

From his perch, he could see almost the entire length of the creek bottom - maybe as far as 1,000 yards.

At 2 p.m., he saw Mike returning to the woods. He couldn't actually see his stand, but he saw him walking to it. The subsequent text messages taunted him.

At 4:00, when he could stand no more of being the odd man out, Adam rattled. Thirty minutes after that, a 7-pointer came in and bedded down practically underneath him. He noticed that the buck was breathing hard and had several patches of hair missing, as if it had just been in a fight.

"It was so close, I could hear it breathing," he said.

About 4:45, Adam spotted another buck about 800 yards down the creek bottom. It was coming his way on a dead run. He doesn't know if the 7-pointer knew what was coming, but it rose and began ambling off while the other much larger one was closing the distance.

A long 15 minutes after Adam first spotted it, the cartoon buck stopped on the other side of the creek at 50 yards, and Adam grunted. A second later, it plowed into the creek in a giant spray of water and crossed to Adam's side. It shook itself as soon as it climbed the bank, and then it came to within 27 yards.

When Adam drew his bow, his safety strap got in the way. He was forced to adjust, but still didn't get a great anchor before taking the shot.

"The arrow hit farther back than I was aiming," Adam said. "The deer just walked away, crossed the creek and disappeared.

"When I'm bowhunting back home, just seeing a doe is enough to give me the shakes," he added. "But for some reason, I wasn't nervous at all. Only afterward, when the deer was going away, did I go all to pieces."

Subscribe Today!He sat down, pulled out his cell phone and sent Mike a text message with stuttering thumbs. "Every bit of 150" was his answer to Mike's "How big?"

They didn't start tracking Adam's deer until after dark. The trail was sparse, at first, and it almost disappeared entirely in a knee-high hay field. But just when Adam was very near ready to throw in the towel, Mike found a spot of blood. And then they discovered where the buck had crashed into an oak, driving the arrow in farther before snapping it off entirely. The trail was easy to follow after that.

"It was like the faucet had been turned on," Adam said.

It required three guys to drag the deer out of the woods. It had traveled about 175 yards after the shot.

Turns out, "150" was an understatement.

Zippity Doo Dah ... Cue up the bluebirds!

Hunter: Adam Silvers
Official Score: 164 6/8"
Composite Score: 183 6/8"
Compound Bow

-- Reprinted from the September 2009 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.