Miracle Buck Part I

Posted on September 26, 2013

Part I of a two-part series.

Over the course of three seasons, and three weeks on stand, this bowhunter’s dream of scoring on a Boone and Crockett-caliber buck finally comes to life.

By Ron Way

The author and his massive whitetail, which he arrowed after 15 days on stand while hunting with the Harpole’s Lodge in Pike County, Illinois. The buck’s gross score was 192 points—truly a deer of a lifetime. Photos by Eric Suhm, www.braindanceproductions.com

The author and his massive whitetail, which he arrowed after 15 days on stand while hunting with the Harpole’s Lodge in Pike County, Illinois. The buck’s gross score was 192 points—truly a deer of a lifetime. Photos by Eric Suhm, www.braindanceproductions.com

“I can’t believe it,” I said to myself. “I just blew a chance of a lifetime on a Boone and Crockett buck!” In my mind, I’m going through what just happened as I watch this true giant walk out of my life forever. “Would I ever, ever see him again?” I desperately pleaded as his giant rack faded away into the deep, dark woods.

It was mid-November, and I was hunting at Harpole’s Heartland Lodge in Pike County, Illinois. This would be my third trip to the lodge in Nebo, Illinois. I’ve been anticipating this hunt all year as I’ve seen 170-inch-plus bucks on this outfit’s properties for the last two seasons. I was never close enough for a shot, but just seeing those massive bucks was enough to get me to come back.

By late-October, I was getting anxious for the fall trip. I was practicing with my bow every day and had great confidence in my equipment, plus I had already taken a record-book mule deer and bull elk in Arizona earlier in the year. I definitely felt ready.

I had lots of hunting gear and clothing to pack, as my wife and I were going to be traveling for three weeks. We had the Tundra packed to the max and off we headed from Northern Arizona to Minnesota, and then to Wisconsin.

First Stop

The first week I was going to hunt with my friends Bob and Bruce Barrie on their property in Wisconsin, while my wife, Jennifer, did some antiquing and sightseeing in Red Wing, Minnesota. The weather did not cooperate with us during the trip, as it was warm and very windy. I had a great time with Bob and Bruce, but I didn’t see any nice bucks to speak of.

After several days of hunting, Jennifer and I then headed to Nebo, Illinois, but first stopped in Springfield, Illinois to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. It was very interesting to see how dirty the politics were back then. Really, not much has changed since. As we were leaving the museum, we were left with the desire for a better future for our country.

Hunting Camp

The first night at the lodge I met my guide Matt Brunet. Then I began to get equipment ready for the morning’s hunt. I really didn’t sleep well that night, as I was anxious to see some deer.

The first morning I got on stand and had several 120- to 130-class bucks come within bow range, but nothing too big. I had two shooters in the 140-class come by but just out of bow range. I stayed in the same spot all day, hoping for a chance at a bruiser.

On the second day, I went back to the same spot and had several bucks come by, but no shooters. I decided to climb down and head back to the lodge for some lunch. The wind was beginning to howl too, so I figured, why not?

After lunch, I decided to go ahead and change stands. I knew there had to be more action elsewhere. I ended up seeing more bucks that evening, but again nothing big enough to shoot.

The third morning I changed stands once more, as my guide, Matt, suggested a great spot with a known big buck running the woods.

As I went to the stand that morning in the pitch dark, there were turkeys roosting in the tree that my stand was in and several trees around the spot. The sight of all them, and the noise they made bailing out of the trees, really got my adrenaline flowing. It was more excitement than I wanted leading into the morning’s hunt.

Seeing the Big Boy

When it started to get light, I did some rattling. As soon as I placed my bow back in my lap, I saw a massive shooter buck coming in at about 50 yards on my right—and moving fast.

At about the 30-yard mark, he came to a halt, stopping in some thick cover. He began turning his head from side to side, looking for the bucks that were fighting. After pausing for a bit, he began fast-walking and, once again, heading straight for my location.

I figured now was the time to get to full draw, which I did. He was about to come through an opening, so I grunted a few times trying to stop him. However, he gave me no reaction of slowing down. He was now only 14 yards away!

I swung my bow and put the pin a foot in front of his chest and let the arrow go. The sound of the shot put him in high gear, but he stopped 60 yards away. I didn’t know if the arrow was high or low, I just knew I missed. He stood still for about 30 seconds then slowly walked away.

What did I just do? How could I have screwed that up? I began thinking all kinds of things and “what ifs,” which continued to haunt me again and again. In fact, that’s all I did that night in bed back at the lodge, replaying the scenario, the miss and how I should’ve done things differently. Man, I wish I could go back and redo all that.

Check in next week to see the conclusion.

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