By Mike Handley
While a lot of deer hunters find sleep difficult on the eve of opening day, Bob Richardson made no effort to get out of bed when the alarm clock sounded. He might've remained there, too, had his wife, Melody, not rousted him.
"Your alarm went off," she mumbled.
"Yes, I know," he said, eyes still shut.
"Aren't you going hunting?"
"There's probably no point."
It wasn't that the 55-year-old preacher needed the sleep. He was just weary of climbing into his favorite ladder stand and seeing nothing.
That hadn't been the case during the early days in 2010, but during the 14 days leading up to Illinois' first shotgun season, he'd seen not a hair. He was thinking about all those wasted hours when his wife's voice again drifted over the bedcovers.
"So there was a point to buying all those deer tags and equipment?"
He got up out of bed.
Bob's favorite ladder stand was on 65 acres managed by a friend, who'd invited him to hunt. Daylight was breaking by the time he reached the farm, so rather than walk to the ladder, he decided to remain on the ground and watch a mown swath of CRP.
About 6:45, a doe and a huge buck ran across it at 200 yards, heading for the adjacent cornfield. Not content to wait and hope they'd come back, Bob snuck close enough to see into the field.
When he eased up like a cheetah in tall grass, he saw a doe, a tall-racked 8-pointer and a couple of small bucks. There was no sign of the mature stud he'd seen chasing a doe, at first. But then he saw a deer's back just beyond the field's crown, and when it lifted its head, Bob's eyes grew big as boiled eggs.
After running the other bucks out of the field, the big one corralled the doe, and for the next 35 minutes, it mounted her at least 12 to 14 times, while Bob crouched in the grass 185 yards away, cell phone to his ear, binoculars to his eyes, and single-shot 20 gauge laying beside him.
While watching them copulate repeatedly, he was alternately on the phone with his grown son, Justin, and friend, as much to keep calm as to make certain he could shoot out into the field.
When the deer left, Bob eased around to watch the low spot into which they'd disappeared. But then he went back and prayed they'd come back onto the field.
When the doe reappeared, Bob was on the phone with his friend. He asked one last time, "Can I shoot this field?"
"He told me, 'YES, I told you that you could,' and then I dropped the phone," Bob said. "When I looked up, the buck was only 50 yards away and staring at me."
That it didn't immediately flee is why it's not going to see its eighth year or taunt any more Union County drivers who travel the highway it regularly crossed.
Bob couldn't have been more thrilled. He was practically speaking in tongues when he saw the rack up close, though he had no clue it would score as well as it did. The rack (spread included) is just 7 inches shy of the 200 mark. Its official BTR score is 176 7/8 inches.
The full story will appear this fall in RACK magazine.