While not a traditional deer call, apparently yelling at the family dog can yield a trophy buck.
Clee Dixon has seen and killed more big bucks than most people ever dream of. Growing up in a farming family in western Illinois and carrying on the tradition today, Clee encounters deer on a regular basis, including the big bucks that raid his soybeans and cornfields in the fall.
Unlike many of his farming counterparts, though, Clee never developed the disdain for deer that watching them eat up so many profits has given many of the area’s professional farmers. He has hunted deer for more than 30 years, and he still looks forward to opening day of the Illinois shotgun season.
But after that much time in the woods and with access to some of the best whitetail habitat in the world, it takes something special to get Clee’s deer-hunter heart really thumping. Such a buck and Clee crossed paths in 2007, and he’s not ashamed to admit to having a few palpitations.
“I’ve hunted deer for a long time and have some pretty good deer on the wall, but you only get a crack at a deer like that once in a great while,” he said. “I’m not ashamed to admit that I was pretty worked up.”
The harvest of this magnificent 219-inch buck happened on Nov. 18, and the chain of events that led up to it started just after daybreak.
Clee’s nephew Matt Dixon is a small whitetail outfitter who runs Dixon Farms Whitetails, where I’ve had the pleasure of hunting for the past seven years. Several of Matt’s clients were hunting a property adjacent to Clee’s on the morning of the 18th. When the giant buck stepped out across a cut soybean field, one of them opened fire. The shots sent the buck running — straight for Clee’s biggest block of timber.
“I was in church when Matt called and asked if he could go in there and look for the buck, just in case,” Clee said. “I told him I didn’t mind, but I asked if he would wait until I got out of church and got my guys ready. I couldn’t see the point in kicking up the buck and sending it running into the next county with nothing to show for it.”
Matt agreed with his uncle, so after church, Clee, his son Austin, and friends Bryan and Casey King, headed to the timber on Clee’s end of the property. “I put Austin in a spot where the deer like to cross when they come up out of the bottom and where I thought the buck would go if Matt kicked it up,” Clee said. “I moved back up the ridge a ways so I could see down into the bottom. I just wanted to get a look at the buck if he came through.”
Based on Matt’s description, Clee was sure it was a buck he had seen two weeks earlier in the headlights of his truck. “We saw him well enough that I later told people I had seen a 17-pointer,” he said. “I couldn’t see one of the brow tines, and two of the drop tines must have lined up so that I only counted one, but it’s the same deer. That was about a mile and a half from where I got him.”
Back on the hunt, it was about 15 minutes after he settled in on the ridge that Clee looked around and realized the family’s black Lab had followed him to the woods. The spot wasn’t that far from the house, and the dog wasn’t about to let a hunter get out of his sight without tagging along to see what was going on. But Clee wasn’t having any of that.
“When I saw him, I turned and yelled, ‘Barney, git!’ As soon as I said ‘Git!’ the buck got up and took about five big jumps right toward me. Even as I raised the gun to fire, that big drop tine was sticking out right at me, and I knew it was him.”
One shot at just 12 steps was all it took. The buck didn’t take another one.
“It was quite a sight,” he said. “When I walked up to him, his antlers were all caught up in some grapevines, and the big drop tine was digging into the dirt.”
About 30 minutes later, after not hearing anything from Matt, Clee gave his nephew a call. “We’re just getting to the edge of the timber now,” Matt said.
“Matt, I killed the buck a half hour ago,” Clee replied.
Upon closer inspection of the buck, it had a small flesh wound on the shoulder — not even enough to bleed. Clee said he’s sure the only reason he got the deer is because it thought it was heading to its secret safe haven.
“I’m a big believer in staying out of the timber, and I also think it’s important to have a place where the deer feel safe,” he said. “That is a block of timber that I don’t disturb, and Matt is the same way on his side; he doesn’t go in there either. When the shooting started next door, that buck headed to a place it thought was safe. They travel the bottoms and feed in the bottoms, but they like to go up on the hillsides to lay up. I just happened to walk right up to where this one was hiding.”
Clee’s buck scored an official 199 6/8 for the BTR, with a composite score of 219. Although he never got it weighed, it’s one of those bucks whose bodies make the racks look smaller than they really are.
Asked if the harvest has him a little more excited for the 2008 deer season, Clee said, “Well, once Austin started hunting, I got to where I really look forward to it again because I know what he’s going through, and I’ve seen a few bucks this year that got my attention. We’ll be out there all right, I can tell you that.”
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This article was published in the Winter 2008 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.