Hunting Strategies: I treestand hunted out of a Summit Viper climber
It was the 28th of October, just three days before Halloween. I had been hunting in Pike County, Illinois at Walnut Knob Outdoors off and on for about a week. My dad/cameraman and I met up with J.J.--one of the guides for Walnut Knob--late one evening on Friday, October 21.
J.J. showed us around on some newly leased property. We found what we thought was a good place to set up. It was about 20 yards off of an old logging road, in between a bean field and a bedding area. We started setting up our stands and while we were setting them up, the sky opened up and started pouring down rain.
The next morning, we got in our stands before daylight. It was nice, cool and quiet. Just like we thought, the deer came out of the bean field down the logging road to a bedding area. We were seeing a good number of deer. We hunted there for a couple of mornings and a couple of evenings.
We were seeing some pretty nice deer, which included a really nice mid 140s 8-pointer. There were a lot of deer coming in behind us just off the logging road, but we couldn't see them because of the heavy foliage. So, we decided to move our stands about 70 yards down into a little clearing. We hunted this area for one morning and saw a couple of 125- to 130-class deer.
This logging road had scrapes and rubs all up and down it. The only problem was, I think that we were seeing most of the deer that were coming through there. But, this wasn't the type of deer that I was looking for. So, that evening we grabbed our climbers and got out next to the bean field. We thought that would be a good place to see if there was anything big coming out into the field.
We started seeing some deer filtering out at a couple of different places around the field. The main number of deer that we were seeing were coming out at both ends of the field, where the field splits from beans to corn. When dusk came, we started seeing some big-bodied deer that could have been bucks in the picked cornfield. So, we made the decision that the next morning, we were going to hunt the stands that we had by the logging road. Then in the afternoon we were going to take the climbers down by the cornfield.
We got out of the stands at about 10:00 a.m. and went into town to get something to eat. When we got back to the bean field it was about 1:00 p.m. The bean field was about 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile from the truck. Now get this, we are carrying video equipment, two climber treestands and my bow. We finally got to the bean field. I don't like to walk straight across an open field because bucks tend to hang around the edge of open fields and watch. So, we moved slowly around the edge of this field to where this long finger of timber came out between the bean field and the cornfield.
This finger of timber was only about 70 yards wide and 300 yards long. It came off of a big timber area. We thought that the deer were coming out of the big timber through the finger into the fields.
When we finally got around to the edge of the finger, the deer were bedded down in the finger. Well, we bounced out about 15 does and 3 nice shooter bucks. We discussed the situation and thought that, because we had bounced out so many deer, it would be useless to set up at the end of the finger like we had intended. But, it was getting late in the day, so we did it anyway.
Now, we had to find a couple of trees to get into. We picked out two tall white birch trees up at the end of the finger. The only problem was there wasn't any cover. So, we made the decision, we had to climb high! I went up about 40 feet and my dad went up about 42 feet in the tree right next to me. I don't encourage or recommend hunting that high, but I felt comfortable doing it in my trusty climber and I was wearing a good full-body safety harness.
I went up about 40 feet and my dad went up about 42 feet in the tree right next to me. I don't encourage or recommend hunting that high, but I felt comfortable doing it in my trusty climber and I was wearing a good full-body safety harness.
When we finally got settled in, it was about 2 p.m. and it was a little windy. But after a short time the wind died down. All of a sudden, in comes this doe and yearling fawn. They were running as hard as they could across the bean field from the same end of the field that all of the deer that we bounced out dove to. The big doe went right on by, but the yearling fawn came into the end of the finger, right underneath our stand. We couldn't figure out what had run them out of there. We kept watching the other end of the field--290 yards away. Out of this bedding area came two fork horns, which must have run the does out. Some other does came out behind them and they headed off in a different direction, as the two little fork horns started pushing on each other. The yearling fawn fed right underneath our stand for about a half an hour.
Then she bedded down with her butt actually touching the base of my tree. She was bedded there for quite some time. We kept watching up at the other end of the field where the fork horns were still pushing on each other. Every once and a while more deer kept coming out. Everything from does to this basket rack, 1-1/2-year-old buck.
Then out came this nice mid 130. I was looking already looking through my binoculars, when I saw a giant set of horns just inside of the timber. My dad saw the horns at the same time I did. We looked at each other and simultaneously said, "Oh my God." This was the type of deer that I was looking for!
Now, I would like to tell you that we did some fancy rattling or calling to get this deer across the field, but that is not what happened. He stepped out onto the edge of the field and at 290 yards he was a toad. He was definitely the boss hog. I watched intensely as he pranced around there for a minute or so then a doe came out. He took off chasing her almost straight away from me crossways through the field. My heart sank to my knees. All I could think of was tomorrow night I am going to be in a tree across the field where he came out. When, like some kind of miracle, the monster stepped back out into the field by himself!
He went right back over to where all of the deer were congregating, stopped for a few seconds and then started right across the field, straight toward us! I could see him every step of the way. In front of my dad was this big bushy tree that blocked part of his vision, but I kept informing him "he is still coming, he is still coming." Now I am thinking, if he takes the same route as the doe did, he is going to be broadside, right in front of me. This was working out perfectly, there was not a reason in the world for this buck to come all the way across the field. When, just two and a half hours prior, the doe and fawn were spooked across the field. This was working out great.
Then suddenly, things started going bad. He was coming in on the other side of us, which was a fencerow coming up alongside of the finger that was overgrown with solid brush. I didn't see anywhere I'd be able to shoot. There was one opening about 3 feet wide, that I though I might be able to get an arrow through. Now, what would be the odds of getting him to stop right at that point?
We had the camera all set up for everything to be filmed in front of me, because we knew that there wouldn't be much of a shot opportunity behind us. It took this deer over 30 minutes to come across this field. My nerves were totally shot at this point and things were getting worse. I ranged the opening, with my rangefinder--it was 40 yards exactly.
My dad turned the camera around and got positioned as best as he could. The buck locked up in one spot for about five minutes just watching and listening. Remember, the yearling doe is still bedded underneath my stand. When she saw this buck, she almost jumped out of her skin. He went on full alert, as she trotted on down through the timber. He started walking cautiously. He was getting closer and closer to my shot opportunity. My heart was pounding so loud and my adrenalin was already at its peak.
Everything went perfectly, he got in the clearing, I grunted softly and instead of him looking up, he looked at the yearling doe that had just jumped up. I just pulled the trigger on this monster and my Easton arrow tipped with my Muzzy 100-grain 3-blade passed through like butter.
He whirled and took off for about 40 yards into the bean field and I watched him go down. Finally, all of the adrenalin and anticipation came to a head. The excitement was so intense, and then my adrenalin hit my stomach. I thought that I was going to be sick. It took me about 30 minutes to gain my composure, get down out of the tree and look at my Halloween monster.
He is what you would call a perfect 10. His gross score was 160 6/8 and he field dressed at 240 pounds and he is probably not going to have over 1/1/2 inches of deductions.
INFO ON WALNUT KNOB
So, if you like Halloween time and you like monsters, try Walnut Knob Outdoors in Pike County, IL. And tell them Randy sent you! You won't be sorry! To contact Walnut Knob go to www.walnutknob.com or give them a call at 217-285-2347.
Walnut Knob has over 4000 acres (adding more acres each year) of quality hunting ground. The terrain is varied and has an abundance of free-roaming whitetails and turkeys too! Walnut Knob is just finishing up a lodge (6000 sq. ft.) that each hunter will have his own private entrance and bathroom.
LATE SEASON MONSTER
Last year, Randy and his dad hunted another great camp in Illinois. Here' s the journal report for his 2005 Late Season Monster!
It was the 5th of January, when I received a call from Jeff Williams (manager of The Bottoms). he called me up and said "Randy, you need to get down here. The backwaters are coming up and things are getting crazy" This is a scenario that happens almost every year when flooding occurs from the Wabash and Ohio Rivers. What happens is the flooding brings deer out of the bottoms and into the hill country. Which is something that you seldom see during early season. I told Jeff, I was getting ready to head to Indianapolis to the Archery Trade Association (ATA) show.
I told Jeff, I will be there Monday morning after the trade show. Well, it didn't quite work out that way. I arrived at The Bottoms, on Monday evening, after making sure all of the farm animals were taken care of before I left home. I met up with Jeff and he said that he had been seeing some really good deer out in the fields.
There were four other guys hunting there, two guys from Mississippi, Charlie a linebacker coach for Ole Miss and his friend Tim. Then there were also two guys that were there filming for the Knight and Hale TV show. Jeff started filling me in on what we were going to do the next morning. We had to meet up with the guys from Mississippi and get them put in the woods and then we were going to get me set up. This time of year, the deer are really bunched up and with the floodwaters up; the deer were traveling in tremendous groups.
Jeff drove us close to the timber's edge. We drove right through some deer. The deer are used to the trucks and farm equipment coming in and out of the field. We walked about 250 yards into the timber and all the way in we had deer all around us. I just knew that we were going to ruin the hunt bouncing out this many deer. But, Jeff had assured me not to worry about the deer that we were bouncing out of this field. He said that there was another field on the other side of the ridge and that the deer would be coming into the timber and most likely filter by my stand.
We climbed into our stands just as the sun was coming up and settled in. About five minutes later, we had a doe come in behind us downwind. She didn't really spook, but she sensed something wasn't right. She kind of trotted up over the hill. We heard a grunting that sounded like a doe in heat. We wasn't even 10 minutes into the hunt and here comes a yearling doe with this giant, hot on her trail. The conditions were very low light, the sun had just come up and the timber was still pretty hazy.
Now this was Tuesday January 11, there are only two days of Illinois archery season left; I was not going to let this giant walk by. I had passed on numerous bucks all year long. Some that would score higher than the buck that was right in front of me. I had been saving my last tag for this possible world record 8-pointer that had been filmed in this area the year before. But, as late as it was in the season, I was not about to let this monster walk by. He came in just like Jeff had predicted. He came up over the ridge and right in behind me. I let him walk by and he was straight on in front of me at 23 yards. He was still hot on this doe, but he had stopped for just a second, to check his surroundings. I was already at full draw. I squeezed off a shot. I knew that I had smoked him.
He took down the trail that we had walked in on and headed straight toward the field. I gave him about 30 minutes and got on the blood trail. I was so excited, because I had just pulled the trigger on the biggest buck that I had ever shot. I was following the blood trail and looked up and there he was. There wasn't any ground shrinkage on this one!
I was so excited, because I had just pulled the trigger on the biggest buck that I had ever shot.
I was never so excited. This deer was a 9-pointer that was 19 1/2 inches wide, 12 inch G-2s,10 inch G-3s and I scored him at 156 6/8 with my Rackulator. While at the ATA show, I met up with a friend of mine who owns Turbo Nocks. He gave me some nocks to try that are designed with a built in helical. He said that when you fire your bow, instantly the arrow goes into a spin and will make two full revolutions in the first 5 feet of the arrow flight and it stabilizes the arrow quickly. It makes fixed blade broadheads fly like field points.
Personally, I do not have any trouble getting my Muzzy's to fly straight. The thing that I noticed the most was the devastating hole that it put in this deer. I always shoot a Muzzy because it has never failed me. The extra spin that this nock puts on the arrow made a hole in the deer that looked like a deer slug had went through him. What a way to test out a new product!
I called Jeff and told him that I had a giant down. He came and picked me up and we took the deer on in to town to check him in. It was about 70 degrees by then, which is unseasonably warm. We drove up to the machine shed at the farm to process and cape out the deer. The roads were already covered with water. The water was over the tires of the truck. We made it up to the machine shed and got the deer caped and cut up. We put him in a freezer that was on the second story of the machine shed, because I was staying another day to film Jeff and the other hunters.
By the next morning, the roads leading into the farm were totally covered with water and impassable. The only way in, was on 4-wheelers through the field.. We went in to check on everything and to help Jeff move some computers and equipment out of the offices because the water was rising so quickly. We got things high enough, that we thought that they would be safe from the flood. So,we headed back to get in the stands for the afternoon and evening hunt.
We saw a lot of deer that day, including some really nice bucks, but no one got off a shot. It is really neat seeing that many deer, but when you have that many deer, you also that many noses and eyes and they are hard to hunt. On Wednesday night , when we were to go home, the only way back to the machine shed to get my deer, was by boat. So we took a jon boat in and picked up my deer and headed back into town to Jeff's house.
I want to thank the Bottoms and Jeff for a great hunt and a great experience. I hunted at The Bottoms in early season and the very first night that I was in the stand I could have shot a 130 class 7-pointer right underneath my stand. It was a 5-1/2 to 6 year old deer. But I passed on him, knowing the size of deer that are there. It is definitely the land of the giants, with world class bucks running all over the property. The Bottoms is over 10,000 acres of agricultural farm ground with soil high in nutrition that evidently makes antlers grow to tremendous size. The Bottoms is a place that you can see giant bucks in a fair chase environment, where they have a chance to grow to full maturity. It is not an over-hunted area and the deer are under very little pressure. The Bottoms is located just outside of Old Shawneetown, IL. in Gallatin County right along the Wabash and Ohio Rivers That is where the name "The Bottoms"came from. To hunt the land of the giants call Jeff Williams at 618-269-3099.
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