Anyman's Land yields Illinois' No. 9 Typical.
By Jay Maxwell
Photo courtesy of Jay Maxwell
On Nov. 12, 2009, the anticipation was increasing as I made my last sales call of the day. Five o'clock was nearing fast, and all I could think about was loading the truck for my second trip of the year to the Land of Lincoln!
My longtime best friend, Jordan Dozier, and his brother-in-law, Mark Milliken, were meeting me at my house at 7:30 p.m. The goal was to drive all night to our old house place on public land in Illinois.
Three weeks earlier, my dad, another one of my best friends, Kevin Watkins, and I spent a very long six days hunting private land in Adams County with South Fork Outfitters owned by good friend Tad Peter.
Hopes of sticking a beast with my buddy Tad proved to be a rough task.
With more than 95 percent of the corn still standing, deer movement was scarce. We were on our own as far as guiding was concerned, but one of Tad's best guides, Jeremy Nesselrodt, had already hung some stands around the farm to get us started.
We had traveled here a month earlier to learn the farm with Jeremy and to hang a few cameras. To make a long story short, Kevin managed to find a funnel leading out of a cornfield. It paid off on the third day, when he shot the heart out of a 159-inch 13-pointer. That gave the rest of us hope for the week, but the trip ended without another opportunity.
I can't say I will never go back to Illinois during the month of October, but the chances will be slim. Nevertheless, I thank Tad for a great trip!
After Jordan, Mark and I got through Nashville during the early-morning hours, we were sleepless as the night grew colder. Temperatures were around 30 degrees.
We pulled through the main gate around 4:15 a.m., wide-eyed and ready to roll. It didn't take us long to realize we weren't the only guys arriving early.
We followed a faint dust trail down the long dirt road for two miles. Jordan and Mark knew it would be a long hike in, as they had already scouted there a few weeks earlier.
They'd also hung a couple of permanent stands in some jam-up spots before their trip was rained out, so they were fired up about returning to their honey holes. Mark had seen a shooter during the downpour.
As we pulled into our parking spot next to an old house and a large bean field, the temperature was steadily dropping into the 20s. With our chattering teeth, it was all we could do to get layered up outside the truck, and set out on our long walk.
While riding up, I had picked out a big CRP field to watch, at least at first, since I was going there blind. After sitting for almost two hours with no deer in sight, I couldn't stand it anymore. I had to go find fresh sign to get on for the afternoon hunt.
I knew scouting could take a while, so I needed an early start. Not long after getting down, I saw two guys walking out of an area I wanted to investigate. That's when I began thinking about where I could go to get away from the pressured areas.
The main gate kept popping into my head as I walked back to the truck. After meeting up with Jordan and Mark and reviewing our aerial map, I decided to gamble the afternoon and hunt near the property's entrance. The boys dropped me off around 2:30 for another long hike with my 40 pounds of gear.
I hunt with tree climbers and a fixed-position model so I can go up almost any tree. After looking at the map, I had a long narrow CRP field in mind. It led to a standing bean field. The land there is very hilly, which makes packing gear difficult.
I walked through a thicket, down an open hardwood ridge, crossed a creek and started up the other side. I had to stop every 30 yards to catch my breath and to avoid breaking too much of a sweat.
I eventually reached the lower end of the CRP field several hundred yards later and began scouting for the highest point, which would be better for calling. The field was cleaner than I'd imagined, but I'd worked hard to get there and was determined to hunt it.
The field crested about halfway down, where it took on the look of an old house place. There were four or five huge oaks, and one of them supported an old ladder stand someone had abandoned. A deer trail led straight down the center of the field to within 15 yards of it.
Since the trees were so big, I decided to test and then climb the old ladder and lock my stand above it. After struggling for nearly 20 minutes, I finally had everything situated. It was an odd setup, but I knew it could be good. I was only about 18 feet high, but I could see 150 yards to my right and left.
The field was only about 50 or 60 yards wide and dropped sharply off both sides into deep hardwood creek bottoms. This was the ideal calling setup, in my mind. The northwest wind was perfect, too, blowing in my face.
Ten minutes into the hunt, I picked up my Primos Buck Roar and made a few aggressive grunts in each direction. They echoed down the field and through the hardwoods, sounding like a lovesick lip-curler.
I then shoved the call in my pocket and grabbed my rattling bag. I smashed and ground those together and followed up with more grunting.
Soon afterward, I looked to my left and saw a shooter buck at 120 yards and coming, head down and on the main trail. I stood and grabbed my bow with my left hand to be ready. The big boy stopped at 100 yards and stared hard for what seemed liked forever. I grabbed the Buck Roar from my pocket, hit it four or five times, and the deer started walking again.
After covering another 20 yards, it turned slightly to angle downwind.
That's when I hit the grunt again several times. The deer stopped briefly, and then broke into a dead run!
By the time it was within 60 yards, I used the roar one last time to seal the deal and keep it on track. The next time I saw it, it was at 45 yards, walking through tall grass.
I drew my bow right before the buck stopped at 40, settled my top pin high on the left shoulder and touched the release. When broadhead touched heart, the deer leapt forward and plowed into the ravine. I heard nothing afterward.
I hung my bow on its hanger, knowing I'd just smoked an absolute monster ... and on public land! That's when the uncontrollable shaking started, and I experienced the biggest rush I've ever felt while hunting.
"Thank you, God," is about all I could mutter as I sat down and began digging for my cell phone to call Jordan. I was too excited to remember much of that conversation, but he got the idea.
I gave the deer a very long and grueling 15 minutes before getting down for a peek.
I started tracking slowly until I noticed the blood trail was painted on every leaf and limb. I slid the rest of the way downhill, stopping five feet past the deer's nose.
"Woohoo!" I yelled before thanking God.
Two hours later, Jordan, Mark and I were tackling each other and exchanging high-fives!
• Hunter: Jay Maxwell
• Official Score: 175 6/8
• Composite: 192 4/8
• Compound Bow
-- Reprinted from the August 2010 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.