By Bob Kizer
Bob Kizer isn't accustomed to being the star of his group's annual photo shoots in Illinois. But 2007 was his turn, and this incredible 15-pointer was his prop.
Photo Courtesy of Bob Kizer
The first three years my buddies, Mike Pesava and Craig Wilcox, and I hunted western Illinois, the trigger most likely to be touched by my finger was on top of a camera. I heard far more shutters click than bowstrings hum.
Mike and Craig, however, almost always punched their tags.
My time came during the fourth year, on Nov. 7, 2007, to be exact. I couldn't forget that date if I tried.
We arrived at camp on a Sunday morning, excited about the next day's hunt. We stowed our gear in the cabin as soon as possible, so we could get to the woods and hang stands. We decided to hunt a spot Mike and Craig hunted the first year, the place where Mike had shot a wall-worthy 8-pointer.
We headed for the stands bright and early the next morning. The air was cool, but not brisk. The day started off slowly, but the action picked up for me late that morning. I saw a couple of does and a nice 8-pointer. The buck was a little too far for a bow shot.
Craig and Mike had no action on Monday, but Craig enjoyed practicing his turkey-calling skills.
The second morning also was a bust. We all decided to pull our stands and to head deeper into a ravine, which, to my surprise, was actually a dried-up riverbed. My eyes lit up when I realized it was a textbook funnel for deer, and that's where I wanted to be.
Craig and I walked the riverbed and saw lots of deer tracks and scrapes. We then came upon an area that stole our breaths. The scenery was so beautiful that we took a break and photographed each other posing by a downed tree.
The whole area was awesome. Bright yellow leaves carpeted the ground. I had to hunt there, if not for a deer, then maybe just for peace of mind.
Craig eventually found a suitable tree for his stand. I kept gravitating to the river's edge. Something about that spot where we took the photos was drawing me back there.
I wound up placing my stand next to the log where we shot the photos, and I hunted there for the rest of the day with no action. Later, when Craig, Mike and I were hiking out of the woods, we told each other where we'd placed our stands. Craig joked, "Don't pick it because it's pretty!"
We got into our stands before sunrise on day three. It was cool enough to see your breath, somewhere between 17 and 20 degrees. The sun was rising, and the turkeys were on the move. I turned my back to the river while watching the turkeys on the hillside.
Bob Kizer was in love with bowhunting Illinois long before he arrowed this buck. As far as he's concerned, the "pearly gates" open to Cass County. Photo Courtesy of Bob Kizer
About 8:00, I heard something shuffling to my left and behind my tree. I leaned back, poked my head around the tree and got the surprise of my life.
Walking down the dry riverbed came the biggest buck I had ever seen. It startled me so much I almost fell out of my stand. Thank God for safety harnesses!
After calming down, I realized I was in a bad position. I had to turn completely around in my stand. I took one more glance at the monster and saw an opportunity. When the deer passed behind a section of bank, I spun around - clipping my release to the string as I turned.
I was afraid to look at the deer, as if such an affront would cinch its seeing me. But when I looked back, it was still moseying forward as if it had no care in the world.
Sizing up the rack one last time, I couldn't believe what was coming my way. I thought, "My God, this rascal is going to walk right in front of me."
I knew where the buck needed to be for me to have a shot. But the animal had other ideas. It stopped about 15 yards in front of me. Instead of continuing to walk the river bottom, it slowed at a water hole, jumped up on the bank and let its gaze find mine.
At that point, the buck was maybe 8 yards from me. It looked at me for what seemed like forever, and I could see my opportunity vanishing. Even more disheartening, the buck jumped back into the riverbed and trotted in the opposite direction.
As I gripped my bow, I felt as if someone had kicked me in the guts.
Nevertheless, I drew, found my pin and hoped the deer would stop. When it did, at 42 yards, I loosed the arrow and watched it hit farther back than I'd aimed. All the while fearing that I had gut-shot it, I watched the deer run for 50 or 60 yards before losing sight of it. I was in no hurry to give chase.
In fact, I wound up helping Mike track and field-dress an 8-pointer that he'd shot. After that, we met Craig and began tracking my deer. Craig was in the lead, I was behind him with bow in hand, and Mike brought up the rear.
The trail was spotty, at first, but it got better. At about 50 yards from the point of impact, Craig slowed. I was behind him when he glanced back at me with a look on his face I cannot explain. Never saying a word, he motioned for me to join him.
As I eased up to him, Craig grabbed my coat and pulled me to him while pointing. "There's your deer," he said. "Look at the size of that ... (Well, we'll just leave that word out)." When I looked down and saw the monster lying there, we began hugging, high-fiving each other and yelling like we had just won the lottery.
I was so overwhelmed, my knees began to buckle. I had to sit down.
I counted nine points on one side and asked how many more there were. We then slid down the bank and counted all 15 points. My nerves were shot. We spent about an hour taking photos, which had a calming effect. Even so, Craig offered to handle the field-dressing because he was worried I might cut myself.
Hunter: Bob Kizer
Official Score: 176 3/8"
Composite Score: 193 4/8"
-- Reprinted from the September 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine