Sometimes taking a deer seems like it was just meant to be.
Some hunters get a reputation for their passion for the sport and respect for the wildlife they hunt, and that was the case for Colchester, Ill., buddies Daryl Sidwell and Kerry Foxall. The two have been hunting together for years, sharing views about the right way to do things, but neither man ever dreamed their dedication would lead to an invitation to hunt one of the area’s most prime properties.
In 2006, the landowner, a farmer and non-hunter who wishes to remain nameless, had some trouble with the group that had been hunting his property. With a desire to allow others to enjoy what he knew was an outstanding hunting property, along with the added benefit of thinning the deer herd a bit, the landowner approached Daryl and Kerry.
“We had known the landowner for a while,” Daryl said. “He let us hunt for sheds on his property for years, and then he had some bad luck with the hunters on his land.
So he told Kerry and me that he would let us hunt there.” The only reservation was that there was one other hunter whom the landowner wished to continue to allow on the property, and he asked Daryl and Kerry to respect that man’s activities.
The 2007 bow season had been pretty uneventful — and extremely hot. Finally, the Illinois rut neared, and Daryl took his customary week of vacation during the second week of November.
On Nov. 10, he had endured another hot and slow morning hunt and was just thinking of getting ready to head out for the afternoon when his phone rang. It was his wife, Lora, and she was at Wal-Mart with a purchase too big to fit in the car. She needed her husband — and his truck — to get it home. “It was about 2 o’clock when I headed over there, but what choice did I have?” Daryl said. “I didn’t even look at a clock or anything when I got back to the house. I just scrambled into my clothes and rushed out the door.”
His mind racing, Daryl said he realized on the way to the farm that Kerry and the other hunter would already be in the woods and settled by the time he arrived. “I didn’t want to mess them up, and I kept hearing the landowner’s voice in my head. He had been telling me and telling me that I needed to hunt the east side of the property, but I had never really seen anything there. But with the other guys already in the woods, I figured it would be a good time to do a little hunt-scouting.”
Daryl grabbed his climber and headed into the woods. “I just went in there blind and looked around,” he said. “Then I found a ridge with nothing but white oaks and acorns everywhere. I saw some big rubs and thought, ‘I’ll just set up right here.’ It was hot as could be, and I was drenched by the time I got up the tree. Then I realized I was facing up the ridge when the deer would probably be moving through the bottom.”
Daryl said he considered packing up and just heading home. Nothing was going right, and with as much as he was sweating, he figured there was no way every deer in the county couldn’t already smell him.
“But I finally got Kerry on the radio, and he said he had seen a large buck earlier and a lot of chasing activity. And since I was already in the tree and would make more commotion going out in the daylight than just waiting until after dark, I decided to stick it out.”
Nothing happened until shortly before dark. Just as he feared, Daryl heard a buck grunt below him in the bottom. “I grunted back at him twice, and there was no response, no nothing,” he said. “Then, probably five minutes later, I heard something coming up the trail that ran right under my tree. I looked over my right shoulder, and there he was!”
Living where he does and having taken several wallhangers over the years, Daryl shoots only mature bucks. But the sight of this one still gave him that, “Oh my God!” feeling. The trail the buck was on angled up the hill and ran just to the left of the hunter’s tree, so he drew back and waited. The buck walked right up and stopped at the base of the tree.
“This was just one of those rare hunts where you can’t do anything wrong,” he said. “The wind that day was out of the southeast and blowing right at the buck. I think the only reason he didn’t know I was there was because my height in the tree, combined with the slope into the hollow, carried my scent over him. I mean, he was straight downwind from me!”
Asked if he felt nervous at the moment of truth, Daryl said he was excited but not worried about the shot. “It was so close that it was a done deal,” he said. “He was dead before I even shot.”
Daryl watched as the buck ran after the shot, making a big circle around his tree and heading right back into the bottom. Kerry showed up not long after, and the two ended up finding the deer about 50 yards from where Daryl had lost sight of it.
“When we found the buck, Kerry said to me, ‘Do you know what you just shot?’ I guess I was still in shock, because I just shook my head yes, but I don’t think I really realized how big the buck was until later.”
Daryl’s Illinois monster ended up with an official BTR score of 170 3/8 inches — that’s all antler and no spread. The truck came in handy to make another big haul to the house!
— Editor’s note:
Daryl’s Real Trophy
I met Daryl Sidwell six years ago, one season after he had taken an enormous mainframe 8-pointer with extra kickers in 2001. He had videoed the approach of that buck, and the tape continued to roll to provide audio only of the shot (and heavy breathing) that followed. As written in his story, he’s one of those super hunters that you just have to respect and like the minute you meet him.
I got together with Daryl to score his latest buck this past deer season while hunting at Dixon Farms Whitetails in Colchester, and I got to meet his family, including his wife, Lora, and the couple’s two sons, Cole and Clay.
Cole was “ate up” with hunting and couldn’t wait to share his stories and photos of the bucks and turkeys he’d taken. This spring, he and Daryl sent photos of the 11-year-old’s latest prize, a beautiful spring gobbler.
Then tragedy struck.
Just a few weeks after I received Cole’s pictures via email, my outfitter called to tell me that Cole had suddenly passed away from a rare condition called a kinked bowel. The boy had felt sick for less than 24 hours before collapsing and later passing away at the hospital.
Daryl gave me permission to go ahead with the story of his buck and to dedicate it to his son, but it was a while before I got up the courage to call him to review the details of the hunt. Of course, we talked about Cole, too.
“It’s really hard, and every day is a struggle,” Daryl said. “But the one thing I have going for me is that I don’t have any regrets. I spent every possible minute with Cole, doing the things that he wanted to do. I’ve taken some good deer, but the most important trophy I have is the time I spent with Cole and the memories he gave me.”
It’s difficult to find the good in such tragedy, but Daryl said he hopes other dads and moms will think about Cole and spend more quality time with their kids. “We all go about our lives and do the things we have to do, like work, but in the end your family is what’s really important. I’ve always had a pretty good grasp of that, and Cole’s passing just makes it even clearer. My world is this little 40 acres and the people who live on it; everything else is secondary. I’d like to think that other people will learn from this and realize that there are no guarantees.” Read Recent Articles:
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This article was published in the November 2008 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.