In 2012, my bosses and I decided to lease ground in Pike County, Ill. I’d lived there for two years, so I knew the area intimately, though I’d never hunted any of the private land.
I knew that Pike County is a land of giants, the kind of place that could provide us all with deer of a lifetime.
A good friend who I met while living in Illinois told me about a farm that had just come up for lease. It was 420 acres in the northern part of the county.
I knew that chunk of land wouldn’t last long, so I made the seven-hour drive to take a look. It was early summer.
The farm had everything it needed to attract and hold deer — crop fields, a creek that ran through its center, and a perfect mixture of thicket and hardwoods. Before heading back home to Indiana, I’d secured the hunting rights for 2012.
After closing on the lease, we made many trips to erect stands, trim shooting lanes and set out trail cameras. The most exciting part was checking our cameras.
But when there were no mature bucks among the photographs (from the cameras that weren’t stolen), excitement turned to doubt. We’d paid a lot of money for a lease that didn’t seem to have any mature deer, though it was indeed a magnet for trespassers and thieves.
To make a long story short, we were disgusted with the lack of deer activity on our farm.
Nevertheless, we were still anxious for October to arrive so we could hunt our new ground. The first trip, three of us hunted for four days and saw very few deer, which confirmed our fear that we’d leased a lemon.
Despite plummeting morale, we made plans to return during the peak of the rut, Nov. 11-18, for five days of bowhunting and the (first) three-day shotgun season. We knew this would be the ultimate test.
When dawn broke that first morning, my cell phone became overloaded with text messages. Everyone was seeing numerous deer, many of them bucks.
Not surprising, given the time of year, deer activity was at an all-time high. We were averaging 15 to 20 sightings per sit, and half those were bucks.
As the week rolled on, the hunting was outstanding. Members of our group harvested two mature deer with their bows, and another guy shot one that we didn’t recover.
I had some awesome encounters while aloft with my bow, but I couldn’t close the deal.
On Nov. 16, opening day of shotgun season, I settled into my stand about 45 minutes before daybreak. Two hours later, a doe came in from behind me and milled around, eating brush and acorns.
Although I thought the activity was pretty slow for the opener, I was committed to stay put for most of the day.
Shortly after the doe left, two nice bucks ran behind me along the field’s edge. One of them, a 10-pointer, might’ve had a rack in the 150s; the other’s was 130-something.
I was trying to get my scope on the big 5x5, but there just wasn’t a clear shot through the brush. Frustrated, I lowered my gun.
I’d just taken it off my shoulder when I happened to look down to the left and saw yet another shooter, also in the 150s, with a doe. They were at 60 yards.
Before I could lift my gun, however, the buck squirted into a nearby thicket, which I thought was a bit odd. I wondered why it would leave an obviously hot doe.
Without considering a possible answer, I kept focused on the thicket, hoping the buck would re-emerge.
Unbeknownst to me, at first, a far greater buck was standing 15 yards behind the doe, which is why the other one veered away from them.
When I finally saw the big one, I tried ranging it. But I couldn’t keep my hand steady enough for the laser to lock on the deer.
I guessed that it couldn’t be more than 50 yards from me.
While it was casually eating clover, I tried to relax. I raised my gun and focused on the deer’s right shoulder. It was almost impossible not to dwell on the fact that the buck had everything we all hold dear: spread, tine length, dark antlers, muscled-up neck and bunches of tines.
Every time the buck turned its head, I was treated to a show of points.
Before I knew it, my finger tapped the trigger and my buck darted into the thicket.
I wasn’t sure of anything at that point. I didn’t know if I’d hit or missed the thing.
Either way, I called every person I could think of — hunting partners, wife, parents, everyone I’d ever talked to about deer hunting — to tell them what had happened. I probably spent 45 minutes telling the same story, over and over again.
When I finally got down from my tree, I was elated to find blood, far more so when I came across the buck after just 40 yards of tracking.
I was blessed to have bosses who not only share my love of deer hunting, but who also made leasing this ground possible. I look forward to hunting with them for years to come.
Hunter: Scott Siefert — Photos Courtesy of Scott Siefert
BTR Score: 180 4/8
This article was published in the August 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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