By Hubert Parker
-- It was the day after Thanksgiving when my friend Danny (Bubba) Glenn and I left for our much-anticipated whitetail bowhunting trip to Illinois.
It was the week before the second gun season and the rut was still going strong. We were excited as we drove the nine hours to Shawneetown, Ill. When we arrived, we met up with our good friend Billy George who shares the 65-acre lease with my brother Dale.
The first day and a half of hunting was slow. We saw only does and smaller bucks. The temperatures were in the 60s during the day, and had the rut shut down or so it seemed.
On the second morning, I was perched high in an oak tree in a thin strip of woods overlooking a cultivated bean field on my left side, a cultivated corn field to my back and a small weed field and woodlot on the right.
Shortly after daylight, I saw a spike step of the woodlot 80 yards away. He traveled across the weed field to the strip of woods I was in. I pulled out my trusty doe-in-heat bleat can and called the young buck right to me. He passed within 10 yards of my tree looking for the doe.
An hour later, I spotted another spike coming from the same woodlot, crossing the same field on same path as the other spike had taking. Using the doe-in-heat bleat can again, I called this buck to within a few yards of my tree.
I didn’t see anything else the rest of the morning, but I did begin putting the pieces of the hunting puzzle together. Both deer came from the same woodlot on the same path. I thought to myself, “I need to check this out.” So when I left the stand, I did just that.
Beyond the strip of woods, I found a well-used deer trail and numerous rubs on small oak trees and scrub brush in the weed field. Where the two bucks had come out of the woodlot, I found an intersection of two trails. Farther down the strip of woods were even more rubs.
It was perfect: a well-used intersecting trail with a long rub line. I knew I had to hang a stand there. When I met up with my hunting buddies later, I told them I’d found the perfect hunting spot.
The rain began pouring, but that didn’t stop us. We went to remove a homemade lock-on stand from a tree in a different area and put it in the spot I’d found. Despite being soaking wet, we hung the stand and trimmed shooting lanes with high expectations.
As excited as I was to have found the spot and set it up, I was even more elated to let my guest Bubba Glenn hunt out of it first. He’d seen fewer deer than we had on our first couple of days, so I felt like he should be the first to hunt it.
And, he did. As a matter of fact, he hunted the stand on three occasions. Each time, deer were all around him, although most were does and yearlings with a few spikes. He could have easily filled his doe tag, but opted to hold out for a buck. Each time he watched deer filter into the woodlot close to another lock-on (called the Scott Stand in memory of Scott Worley who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2005), about 150 yards away at the opposite corner.
After the rain stopped, the temperature dropped. The overnight low would be in the lower 30s.
On our fourth morning, we awoke to a beautiful frost on the ground. This is where the story gets fun. Bubba, Billy and I were standing around the truck discussing where we would hunt that morning. Billy was heading to another lock-on we’d hung earlier in the week, and Bubba decided not to go to the perfect spot, but to the Scott Stand, since that’s where he saw most of the deer heading.
Billy asked me, “Where are you going, Hubert?” I told him I was thinking of hiking farther down the levy to hunt from a lock-on my brother had hung earlier in the year. I asked him what he thought. He shook his head no. I asked, “Where do you think I should go?”
He said, “You need to be in that lock-on we hung in the rain.”
“Do you think so?” I asked.
With a voice as serious as could be, he said, “I know so.” So, off I went to the perfect spot.
As the sun broke through the clouds, I noticed the wind was blowing from my location straight into Bubba’s stand. Keep in mind we were only about 150 yards apart and could see each other in our stands. I didn’t want to mess up his hunt with my scent blowing into his hunting area. I thought I should ease out of my tree, slip back out of the woods and move to where I was originally going to hunt.
As I contemplated the move for several minutes, knowing it would be soon be full daylight, I noticed the wind had changed. It was now blowing from Bubba’s stand to mine. I waited to see if it would change back, but it didn’t. I told myself, at least I won’t mess up Bubba’s hunt, and decided to stay in place.
About 20 minutes after daylight, I saw a deer walking across the middle of the cut bean field about 300 yards out moving toward a large wooded area. Through my binoculars, I saw that it was a buck, but couldn’t tell what size.
I tried to call to him several times, and he finally heard my grunt call. He stopped and looked my direction then walked some more.
I hit the doe-in-heat bleat can. Again he looked my direction, but nothing more. I tipped the can several more times without success. I decided to try the rattle bag. Wow! When I hit it, the buck shot out of there into the next county.
I was shocked. I thought Illinois bucks were supposed to come running to the sound of antlers crashing together.
I sat back down and settled my nerves. It was about 40 minutes later while I was sitting there with my bow across my lap enjoying the beauty of the morning and occasionally looking around that I looked to my left down the edge of the thin strip of woods I was in along the weed field. It was amazing. All I saw was a head full of antlers coming through the low-overhanging limbs. It looked huge!
The buck was only 35 yards from me, walking down a trail that would bring him to within 12 yards of my stand.
I began to panic. Do I stand up or stay seated for the shot? The buck was just 25-30 yards away. Would he would he see me if I stood up?
I decided to stay seated. I looked and saw only one opening for a shot. I realized I had to grunt him to a stop in that one and only spot.
I drew back on my Parker Ultralite 31 compound bow and watched the buck through my peep sight with my 20-yard pin on his vitals. When I saw his head pass through the small opening, I grunted softly. I remembered from watching a Primos hunting video once that a loud grunt at close range would spook a deer and make him run.
The buck stopped immediately and looked my direction. I quickly settled the pin right behind the shoulder and squeezed the trigger on my release.
It was so close, I didn’t see where the arrow hit. The buck trotted into the weed field about 40 yards with his tail up and looking around as if he was spooked by something.
I began bleating with my mouth to get him to stop. He trotted another 30 yards doing the same thing, acting as if nothing was wrong. I then hit panic mode. Did I miss? I watched him casually walk toward the end of the weed field. That’s when I heard Bubba start grunting with his grunt tube. He tried a snort-wheeze, and the buck stopped, looked over in his direction then walked on out of the field through a 10-yard-wide strip of woods into the cut corn field.
I lost sight of him, but could hear Bubba grunting, snort-wheezing and rattling. I was in disbelief. I’d just missed the biggest deer of my life.
I replayed the shot over and over in my mind. I even drew my bow back two or three times to mimic the shot. This time, I saw more branches than I’d seen while making the shot. Had I hit a limb I didn’t see? I was a nervous wreck.
As I watched in the place I last saw the deer, I caught another glimpse of him. He was heading right back into the weed field toward Bubba. I thought, “Well I had my chance, I’ll just sit here and see what happens. How am I going to tell all my hunting buddies that I missed a monster at 12 yards?”
I sat there for what seemed like 20 minutes listening to Bubba grunt, snort-wheeze and rattle. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I had to call him on his cell phone. I asked, “Do you see the buck? I just shot at it and I think I missed.” He said he saw it go down in the corn field, and when it went into the weed field, it went down again. He assured me I hit it. He suggested I get down, look for my arrow and check for blood on it.
I got down and found my arrow sticking in the ground. It was covered in blood. What a relief! The 100-grain Thunderhead had passed right through the buck.
I called Bubba back and told him it was a good hit. We both eased out of the woods to give the deer plenty of time to expire.
We sat back against two trees and relived the moment by telling what each experienced. I made the shot at 7:40 p.m. and it was now 9 p.m. We went to where Bubba last saw the deer go down, and there he was!
Words can’t express the feeling of seeing that beautiful, heavy-antlered, big-bodied 11-point.
We must have taken 40 photos with my digital camera. That was, of course, between jumping and giving each other high-fives.
It was one of the best hunts of my life. But the story doesn’t end there. It gets better.
Bubba stayed with the deer, and when I got back to the truck, Billy was waiting for us. I told him we had just dragged the biggest doe we had ever had to drag.
He said I wasn’t going to believe what he had on video. He was so excited. As we drove to where we could load up the “doe” I watched the video he had taken from his morning hunt. Believe it or not, he had video footage of the big buck I had just taken. But I didn’t let him know it. I kept him believing I had shot a doe.
The buck had come out about 35 yards behind Billy in a thicket of limbs and branches to where Billy couldn’t get a shot. All he could do was get video of it.
It was amazing watching my buck on video. Billy said the buck was headed my way, and I should have seen it. I wanted to spill the truth so bad, but I kept it in until we pulled up to where the buck was. He couldn’t believe it. The buck he had videotaped only 35 yards from his stand was on the ground.
It was a hunt all three of us will remember for a long time. Billy was nice enough to let me have the video to take home with my buck.
The 11-pointer weighed 220 pounds and scored 152 6/8 P&Y.
I’d like to thank Bubba Glenn for making the trip with me. I’d also like to say a special thanks to my brother Dale Parker for allowing me to hunt his lease and capturing a hunting memory that will be cherished forever. And, lastly thanks to Billy George for convincing me to hunt in that perfect spot.
The very next day Billy harvested a beautiful 11 point with his homemade long bow at 17 yards while he played the wind and stalked it bedded down with a doe. The buck scored 163 2/8 P&Y.