Chasing The Whitetail Dream

By

I have “lived” in Boulder Colorado for the last thirteen years, but home for me is chasing the hunt, wherever I turn off my Toyota, pull out my sleeping bag, plug in my laptop andturn on my cell phone. I’ve stayed in a hotel only a handful of times. Peanut butter and honey sandwiches and power bars are my main staples. My biggest regret about this lifestyle isn’t that I don’t have a house, savings account or a bunch of “stuff.” It’s that I don’t often attend my home church, I don’t get to see my family much, and I don’t ever get a chance to date.

HOW DO YOU DO ALL THAT TRAVELING?
Whenever I’m at a new spot to hunt, I am asked one question. How do you do it, how are you able to travel and hunt so much? They quickly follow the question with a statement, “I would do “ANYTHING’ to be able to do what you do.” “ANYTHING?” I say. ThenI proceed to fill them in on what it involves to be on the road for so much of the year, andhow they or anyone can do it if they want.

I must start off by saying that without the help of God, my incredible mother, two sisters, each of their families, the rest of my family and my tight network of friends throughoutthe bush, I would NEVER have been able to have accomplished what I have. When I have phone service, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t talk to at least one of them. Whether I need my mail checked, a weather update, a loan for a dropped transmission or just an ear to listen, they are ALWAYS THERE!! Also, what I’ve learned to live on each month is probably less than what most families spend on their groceries.

A couple of KEY factors that have translated into success for me, in no particular order are: sleep deprivation (three to four hours a night during the fall and spring), 300,000 miles on my Toyota (40,000+ miles a year), a lot of elbow grease and determining very quickly the difference between a want and a need.

WHAT'S A NEED AND WHAT'S A WANT?
A NEED or a WANT? This is a question that all of us have had to ask another or ourselves at one time. If you really think about it right now, you will begin to realize how many “NEEDS” are actually “WANTS.” I’ll put it into my perspective. I “NEED” oxygen, food, water, car insurance, health insurance, a cell phone, AOL, gasoline, hunting licenses, car maintenance, a few miscellaneous items and some new gear from time to time.

So let’s get started, go into the house and get everything that you think you need and putit out on the front lawn. Once you’ve got all of your NEEDS into a pile, go through and grabmaybe the top 10 % of the gear and throw it into your truck. Kiss your dog and very understanding significant other goodbye, get into the truck and don’t look back.

You’ll want to automate what few monthly bills that you have deemed a true “need” in order to simplify payment. I might mention a side note. Make a list of all of your leftover gear at home. One day for sure, you will be in a pinch and need to hock something, your excess pile of “needs” is a great place to start

IS THIS WAY OF LIFE GOING TO CHANGE?
I have lived this lifestyle for the last four years, starting with Antelope in the middle of August, Elk, Deer, Fall Turkey, Predators, Upland birds, some hunting shows and Spring Turkey until the end of May. I have a painting business, and work dark to dark for ten weeks in the summer to save up for another year on the road.

I have put a considerable amount of time into hunting over the last 10 years with most of my results finally coming about over the last five years. My biggest accomplishment is harvesting 25 Single Season Grand Slams of Wild Turkeys to date, followed by four archery Bull Elk in the last four years, several Deer (my biggest was a 170” class this year) and an Africa trip.

Even though I’ve been offered some great jobs, I’ve never even entertained the thought of 'settling down'...until now! One of my closest friends, Dick McCormick, and I havebeen working on a lease in central Illinois since October. We finally signed on the dotted line in April on a piece of ground that is unheard of in the mid-west.

We signed a multi-year deal with the Grigsby family for the rights to all of the outdoorrecreation on their 12,000 contiguous acre farm! That’s right, 12,000 acres in ONE solid piece! Right in the middle of Whitetail heaven! The additional great news is that it’s right next to 15,500 trophy managed acres of state ground. Both pieces together are43 square miles of a slice of whitetail heaven!

I thought, if I was going to ever “settle down” it would have to be a great deal, and Icouldn’t have dreamt up another deal as good as this. The Grigsby has so many possibilities. It makes my head spin. The best news for me is that my family is just minutes away! I have six nieces and nephews that NEED an uncle. Now spending quality time with them can be done on a weekly if not daily basis.

We have several opportunities available for all outdoor enthusiasts: fishing, dove, put and take upland birds, photo tours, morrel mushroom club, squirrels, predators, bed and breakfast, Turkey hunts and, of course, Deer hunts. Even though we signed this deal in April and got a late start booking hunters, we are almost full. You can find out more about the entire operation by checking out my web site at TAGITWORLDWIDE.COM.

HOW IS LIFE GOING TO CHANGE?
So, how will this new endeavor change my schedule, hunts and life now and in the futureyou ask? Last spring I hunted Turkeys for 67 days, guiding and harvesting around 35 birds. This spring was a little different. I hunted for only 23 days, totaling 20 birds formyself and my hunters. I’m planning an Archery Elk trip in September and a fall trip to Florida or two more Osceolas, so I can turn in FOUR more Grand Slams this year.

I have moved into a house out on the farm, and I just planted a garden for the first time EVER. I am going to get a puppy this summer, and I’ve even been dating a GIRL!!!!I spend some time almost every day out on the Grigsby getting more familiar with it. I did luck out through an introduction to Brent and Dr. Paul Davis, a father/son team thathas hunted on the property for the last 14 years. They are very excited to help me learnall about the Grigsby and more importantly about the patterns of the resident wildlife.

The first time I met them they told me about their 154” and 150” Deer that they had takenlast year, about another hunter that shot TWO B & C Bucks from the same stand within ten days of each other, and about the several other 140” plus bucks that they have harvested. Now I was really` pumped up.

THE BEGINNING OR THE END?
Oh, the big question, is this the Beginning or the End? I think that this is the beginningto what will become an incredible chapter in the life of Jeff Budz. I think that I will notbe living on a whim or by the seat of my pants anymore, but I do plan on spending MORE time in the woods than ever before. No, I won’t be the one with the weapon most of the time, but I do get so much fulfillment when I help someone else get their quarry. It doesn’t matter who is the one that actually pulls the trigger, just as long as I’m there. Iwill continue to hunt myself, primarily for Elk and Turkey, ALWAYS keeping my quest alive to be the #1 Grand Slam Turkey Hunter.

I do hope that this story is one of encouragement for all of you to chase your dreams and not to settle. It has been a tough road, but one that I have thoroughly loved, and also one that I wouldn’t change at all.

Author's Note: If you're interested in obtaining a tag for Illinois archery seasons, they are going on sale for a limited time on July 12th, 2003. For more information, visit www.TagItWorldWide.com.