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Lemons to Lemonade

By Russell Humphries

Hunter: Russell Humphries
Russell Humphries of Brandon, Miss., thought his November 2006 hunt in Illinois was going to be a bust, thanks to an unexpected change in land ownership. But Plan B put him across a soybean field from and within earshot of the buck of his dreams. Photo Courtesy of: Russell  Humphries

My trip to Illinois last year got off to a rough start.

A couple of weeks before my brother, Derek, and I left, I studied topo maps to get a feel for the property we'd be hunting - land that our outfitter had leased.

When we arrived, our host took us to the tract, and Derek and I spent two hours scouting and hanging stands for the afternoon hunt.

On our way back to the vehicle, we saw another truck barreling down the dirt road toward us. When it came to an abrupt stop, out jumped a little loud-mouthed guy from Pennsylvania, mad as a pit bull because we were on HIS property!

Turns out, he had bought the place the afternoon before we got there.

Duly and overly chastised, my brother and I went back and retrieved our stands. The outfitter wound up taking us to a place we'd never hunted, although I'd seen a dandy buck chasing a doe in the middle of the road about a half-mile from there the previous year.

Derek and I flipped a coin to determine which side of the road we'd hunt. He won and chose west, leaving me the eastern side, which had a good mix of hardwoods, soybeans and wide fingers extending deep into the fields. I gathered my stand, bow and walked down the edge of the field until I reached a finger separating two fields.

I noticed some large rubs and a scrape with a licking branch so high that I could barely reach it. I decided to go downwind from there to climb an oak on the hillside overlooking a creek in the finger.

Ten minutes later, two does rocketed past my tree at 10 yards, but nothing was in pursuit. With the occasional doe coming by during the next hour, it was kind of a slow afternoon.

About an hour and a half into the hunt, I saw a few does come into the soybean field to eat.

While I glassed the rest of the field, a huge buck slipped within their midst. As soon as I saw it, I dug out my cell phone and called Derek to tell him that a 140-inch 10-pointer was in the field behind me. I purposely underestimated so I wouldn't look dumb if it wasn't the giant I thought it was.

Since the does weren't responding to the buck's advances, I decided to do a little rattling.

As soon as I hit the rattle bag, the buck jerked up its head and glared in my direction. Next thing I knew, it was running full tilt straight for me. When it stopped at the edge of the woods, trying to locate the other bucks, I pulled out my grunt call to coax it closer.

It worked, and the buck soon was within 18 yards, though hidden behind a large oak. All I could see of that massive rack was the right side, which was impressive enough for me not to look anymore.

I laid my face on the string, and when the deer stepped in the clear, I let the arrow rip. Because of the sharp quartering angle, I aimed at its neck.

When I saw the buck run off, I knew it wasn't going far. I called my brother immediately to tell him that I'd just shot the biggest deer of my life at 12 yards.

Read More Stories From RACK MagazineHe did not believe me until he got to see it. Even then, Derek's reaction was strained. He could not fully enjoy the moment with me because he had come down with a case of food poisoning from the chicken restaurant in town. I just wish that he could have enjoyed the moment and trip as much as I did.

My deer weighed 325 pounds. It took four grown men to heave it into the truck's bed.

Hunter: Russell Humphries
Official Score: 161 7/8"
Composite Score: 179 6/8"
Compound Bow

-- Reprinted from the December 2007 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine

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