What hunter hasn’t spent hours dreaming of taking a truly world-class buck?
Most of us have a fire burning in our souls for a pure hunting experience. That is, for the joy of communing with nature and matching wits with any whitetail, large or small. But despite the passion for the hunt, I believe we all dream of taking an unbelievable buck.
On the morning of Nov. 14, 2005, Minnesota’s Pat Reeve realized that dream.
Pat is well known in the hunting world. His career began as a deer hunting guide in west central Wisconsin. Through the years, bull- headed determination and skill enabled Reeve to make his mark in both television and trophy hunting circles. This is evident by the 33 record book bucks he has taken in front of the camera. He was also behind the camera for some great harvests.
That said, the Illinois monster he harvested last fall was far from a hog-tied, gift-wrapped setup that many believe is so often the case with TV personalities.
In the spring of 2005, Sugar Creek Outfitters’ head guide, Chad John, and owner Don Barry were looking for exposure for their new operation. As is often the case, they decided that bringing in TV and print personalities was the swiftest route to gaining a reputation for great hunting.
Having always had good luck in Illinois, along with Schuyler County’s reputation for producing bruisers, Pat jumped at the offer of conducting some spring scouting on their four farms.
“I knew it had the potential of being great,” Pat said. “You always need to check it yourself, though. After finding a 72-inch shed and a bunch of the previous fall’s big buck sign, I knew I wanted to hunt it. My focus quickly shifted to finding potential filming stand locations.”
Nailing the Spot
A rainy afternoon, Nov. 12, found Chad and Pat battling the elements to get all of the stands set. “It was miserable,” recalled Reeve. “I’m sure Chad thought I was nuts, but I needed to get all my stands up before my cameraman, Jim Musil, got there. I wanted to get everything done so the woods could settle down and we could focus on hunting.”
They were heading out to hang another stand when Pat made a last-second decision to make a final addition. This move was crucial to eventually meeting Mr. Big.
A large CRP field fanned out across a bottom, flanked to the south by a brush-choked creek bottom and to the north by a steep hillside. A picked cornfield sat on top of the wooded hill. With the CRP’s bedding, the picked corn offering food, and the hillside being choked with cedar trees, multifloral rose and brush, the area screams big buck habitat.
However, it’s the deep erosion cut, running down the hill to an inside corner of the CRP, that makes the setting perfect. With the cut creating narrow, easily traveled wooded passageways on top and bottom, the only question is which end to hunt. Because of a more forgiving wind, Pat planned on hunting the top.
That changed swiftly upon seeing all the fresh sign.
“The spot on top was ideal for sitting all day, and Chad and I were headed to put a stand in,” recalled Pat. “As we drove ATVs in, we passed right by the funnel at the bottom and could see thigh-size rubs. Arriving up top, Chad told me that he’d been in there a little while ago, and those rubs weren’t there. So, after hanging the stand, we went down to take a closer look. I’m glad we did. Not only were the fresh rubs encouraging, but the trails were much more impressive than they appeared in spring.
“Part of the problem is finding a tree that provides enough cover for two stands where we can shoot and film deer. You need a place that provides broadside or quartering-away shots, that keeps the sun out of the camera lens and has a wind direction that’ll work. Luckily, a good split tree provided all of that, and a south wind would carry our odor up the cut. The rain was cold, we were tired of hanging stands, and I already had enough set up, but I just liked it so much that we went back, grabbed a couple more stands and went to work.”
The first day of the hunt found Pat and Jim pulling all-day duty on a different farm. Because of a northwesterly wind, they were unable to babysit the stand at the base of the cut. Still, Pat’s mind kept drifting there.
With minimal morning movement on their creek bottom stand, Pat and Jim relocated to some thick timber for the midday hours. This area held doe bedding that they hoped would draw a cruising buck. But with no action, they shifted their afternoon attentions to hunting food. Just before darkness fell, a 2-year-old buck emerged, but no mature bruisers showed.
“The property didn’t seem like it was shaking,” Pat recalled. “It was my favorite of the four farms and, if I’d seen a big buck, I probably would have wanted to go back. It was the farm I’d found the shed on, and I knew it held big bucks. But it wasn’t hot right then.”
A Slow Start
When Chad arrived that morning and confirmed the wind was out of the south, the game was on. A shower and drive later found Pat and Jim dressing in the darkness.
“I store everything in Hunter’s Specialties’ scent-free bags, wear carbon suits and always spray down with Scent-A-Way,” Pat explained. “Even with a good wind, currents switch and swirl, and I need to do everything I can to go undetected. That takes time. Then, dealing with more than 50 pounds of camera equipment takes us another 45 minutes to get set up.”
Just before filming light, a small buck was chasing a doe in the CRP. With the wind hitting Pat in the face, things were looking good.
“All I could do was sit there and be patient,” Reeve said.
After the deer left, things were pretty uneventful. That’s when it’s nice to have a cameraman with you. Time passes faster when you have someone to whisper back and forth with; another advantage is the extra eyes and ears.
“After about an hour without action, a group of does came off the hill behind us. When they got to the steep ditch and started to cross, they caught our wind and started blowing. At first, that made me nervous. That ditch is steep, and I wasn’t planning on deer crossing it. Then it dawned on me that something was happening. Those does weren’t acting normal. A buck must have pushed them.
“I grabbed my Hunter’s Specialties can call and made three estrus bleats, followed by three tending grunts with my Tru-Talker,” Pat explained. “When I heard a deer coming from the same direction as the does, I got really concerned that it would cross the ditch at the same spot. Because it was so thick back there, I knew I wouldn’t get a shot and the buck would wind me, just like the does did. I was actually relieved to see it was a young buck. As the little guys do so often, he passed through unaware.
Things Get Interesting
“At 9:30, I heard rustling in brush 70 to 80 yards away, followed by a grunt,” Reeve said. “Just that quick, a doe came running out of the thicket and stopped. After telling Jim that a buck was following her, I heard another grunt. It was soft, but it sounded like a big deer. While Jim was getting the camera in position, I was trying to see around the big tree. As I waited to see him, I heard Jim whisper that the buck was coming and it was a shooter. After a slight pause, he revised that to ‘monster.’
“I was going nuts because I still hadn’t seen him and knew from Jim’s reaction that he was a good buck. But I sure wasn’t prepared for what I saw.
“When the deer finally came into view, he was still about 60 yards away in brush, walking toward us. I focused on getting my release on the loop and positioning my feet. The doe was to our left. As he kept going toward her, things looked like they were going to go badly. I didn’t have a shot back there, and the wind would kill us.
“He was all stiff and trying to corral her. He got between her and us and started stomping his hoof in our direction. In hindsight, he might have been trying to keep the doe locked down, but I was getting nervous. I seriously questioned if he’d winded us and started praying, ‘Please, please, please let this happen.’ At the same time, I was trying to anticipate how I could still pull off a shot.
“The doe must have heard my prayers. All of a sudden, she looped around the buck and came running toward us with the buck trotting behind her. She stopped right under our stand. Getting my feet shifted to the shooting lane, I focused on the opening I hoped the buck would find. He was moving fast, so I let him go through my first shooting lane and shifted to the second.
“When he hit my wider 20-yard shooting lane, I voice-grunted to stop him. After getting the okay from Jim, I took another second to be sure my 20-yard pin was on him and let the arrow fly. I knew before I hit him that it was a good shot. After impact, he ran less than 10 yards and stopped. The doe went tearing off, but he stood there, looking around, stomping his hoof. Then, he just started calmly walking away. I grabbed the binoculars and was relieved to see blood right behind his shoulder. Seconds later, he toppled over ... on camera!
“From that point on, everything was in slow motion,” Reeve admitted. “That’s when it started setting in. I just didn’t realize how big he really was yet. I don’t even remember what I said to the camera. You wait your entire lifetime for such a buck. You practice for it and mentally prepare. When it happens, it’s natural, but you keep asking if it really happened!
“When I walked over to him, the buck was bigger than I thought. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling, but I can say it’s addictive.”
Pat’s buck measured an incredible 182 inches on the BTR scale as a Typical. I am confident that this is the largest Typical ever taken on professional-grade video equipment.
In the past three years alone, Pat has taken 23 trophy bucks on film, 11 of those with a bow.
“I do this for a living, but I only do this for one reason,” Pat said. “I do it because I love whitetail hunting. Even if I worked at a factory, I’d be thinking of hunting big bucks 24/7.”
I think that statement sums up why he has had such an incredible string of success. The man simply lives for trophy bucks.
This article was published in the September 2006 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.