-By Brandon Wikman
I arrived back home from my Illinois archery hunt Tuesday at 2am – just in time to make a head-on collision with my pillow and be back on my toes before my 8am class.
I’m extremely exhausted, considering I’ve done this for the third weekend in a row. It’s becoming frustrating and stressful trying to balance school with the pursuit to harvest the largest whitetail of my entire life.
Picture this: Nestled in the breathtaking countryside of central Illinois, a buck that scores well into the Boone & Crockett category roams the woods. He has remained undetected, mystifying each and every hunter that attempts to bag him. With no actual visual sightings of this buck other than the remnants of his shed from last year, he has literally captivated every emotion and feeling I have. His gnarly, root-like shed antler sports a base that looks like a melted lava spill; a drop-tine stooping off his main beam more than 7 inches and a cluster of brow tines that truly gives this buck a unique quality that tempts the hearts and emotions of all hunters alike.
During the summer, I hung ten sets of stands to kill this baffling creature of the woods. I even set out a security system consisting of 4 scouting cameras on the property I believe he roams. Yet the only sign of hope I’ve seen this fall has been his massive rub-lines and scrapes all over the property. When the drop-tine buck makes his presence, he makes it known.
This past weekend I drove 8 hours to hunt two days in anticipation that’d I’d have a crack at this giant of corn country. The first morning I didn’t see a deer. Not one. It was more depressing than anything. I remained calm and sat the rest of the day to only see a few scraggly bucks and a doe the rest of the evening.
Sunday, I sat in the same spot. My confidence of even seeing a deer was as low as ever, but I remained persistent to my original plans of hoping this buck would cross through the pinch point, which connected two large woodlots surrounded by a picked cornfield.
At 3pm I saw the drop-tine buck!
With junk dangling from his head, and a neck that would probably be twice the size of my waistline, he snuck through the downwind side of the field with his nose sniffing each dried corn leaf for the remains of an estrous doe crossing. I grunted at him, snort-wheezed, bleated and nearly everything else I could possibly do in the 10 seconds of glory I had face-to-face with this legend. But nothing fazed him. What would? A buck of this caliber will probably die of old age. In fact, I can almost count on it. His sighting was a significant achievement alone and getting him on live video for my show was a gift in itself.
I don’t know if it’s his 10-inch drop-tine or 180-inch frame that really makes me tremble, or perhaps the rarity of fortune I have of being the only person to lay eyes on this loner. All I really know is that seeing something like him has changed my perspective and appreciation for what hunting really is. It is truly something indescribable.