By Lisa L. Price
Even without the 11 burr and sticker points, this buck's 4x4 frame packs enough inches to shatter a veteran archer's nerves. And Greg had been hunting with a bow for only three seasons. It's a wonder he didn't send a broadhead into his own boot! Photo Courtesy of Greg Holthaus
It had been two years since their last encounter, and, suddenly, only 20 feet separated Greg Holthaus, up a tree in a climbing stand, and the Illinois slammer that had haunted his dreams after back-to-back misses in 2004.
"Here it came, walking right for me, but it was leery and cagey," Greg said.
"With the buck coming straight on like that, I never had a chance to draw."
Greg held his bow and quiver in front of his face, hoping the buck would continue walking and pass under his stand, possibly offering a quartering-away shot. The skyline was behind him, and the tree he'd climbed was slightly smaller than the width of his body.
"The deer came directly under my tree, stopped and looked up at me," Greg said. "I was shaking horribly, and it seemed like 10 minutes passed."
Greg uses a strap to hold his climbing stand pieces together as he walks, and he'd accidentally left the strap at the base of the tree. The buck lowered its nose, audibly sniffing the strap, and Greg gulped at that view of the rack.
And then his dream buck took off running, a view much more familiar to the wide-eyed bowhunter.
Back during Illinois' 2004 shotgun season, both Greg and his wife, Paula, missed it. She shot first. He tried after jumping it later. Both times, the untouched whitetail fled the scene.
"We take a drive almost every evening to look at the deer, and we're in the woods all the time. But we seldom saw that buck," Greg said. "And no one else ever saw it."
In that part of the state, dominated by the highly pressured Shawnee National Forest, bucks that score more than 130 inches are rare sights during daylight hours. The Holthauses' last sighting of Mr. Untouchable, easily identified because of its 15- and 16-inch-long P-2s, had been after the close of the season in 2005.
Greg Holthaus of Gorham, Ill., arrowed this incredible specimen in Jackson County during Illinois' 2006 bow season. He and his wife had known of the buck's existence for three years. They both missed it in '04.
Photo Courtesy of Greg Holthaus
Until it stood under Greg's tree.
"It was barely bow season and still hot, but a cold front was on its way. I'd seen a corn picker working in the area that day," he said.
"I took a trip there and found a couple of scrapes and a heavily traveled path in an extremely dense thicket," Greg said. "I called my wife around 2 p.m. and told her I suspected the buck was somewhere in there."
This time, Greg chose a climbing tree in a different spot, smack dab in the jungle.
"I remember thinking that nobody in his right mind would hunt there," he grinned.
About 45 minutes before dark, Greg heard a deer moving within the thicket. But then he heard nothing else during the next half-hour. His little tree was right beside the beaten path, which is where the big buck appeared out of nowhere, standing about 50 yards away.
"Every few steps, it would stop and look right at me," he said. "It took the deer about three minutes, and I had about three heart attacks before it stopped right under my tree."
And smelled the straps.
"It obviously decided something was wrong," he said. "When it started running, I drew - I don't even know why - but when I drew, the buck caught the movement and stopped."
The buck partially turned, and Greg saw one small opening.
"With no time to think about it, I took the shot, and the arrow went right where I wanted," he said. "I just had that split second. It was purely an instinctive shot.
"I looked later, and I never could find that opening again," he added.
Greg thought he heard the buck crash, but he waited until it was completely dark. It took 20 minutes for him to find half his arrow and the beginnings of a good blood trail. He called his wife, and she wanted to be in on the tracking.
By chance, his friend, longtime bowhunter Darryl Waldron, called and was soon on his way to Greg's house, where they waited another hour.
"They were as excited as I was, and it was hard to wait," Greg said. "I told them, 'This thing is a freak. You're not going to believe it!'
"When we were working out the trail, I got to a point where I could smell the deer," Greg said. "I shone my light on a hillside and saw something like a rack behind a stump about 25 yards uphill. It was indeed antlers.
"The buck was everything I thought it was, and more," he said. "Paula and Darryl just gawked. I'll never forget the look on their faces. They were speechless."
Hunter: Greg Holthaus
Official Score: 176 5/8"
Composite Score: 195 4/8"
-- Reprinted from the August 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.