Devan Sullivan’s 229-Inch Illinois Beast

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A classic late-rut tale from the Land of Lincoln’s big-buck country

Rack Report Details
Buck: 229 4/8 inches (gross non-typical)
Time of Year: November 24, 2019
Place: Washington County, Illinois
Weapon: Shotgun

After three long seasons of hunting him, Devan Sullivan grunted this giant buck to within range on the last day of the first Illinois shotgun season. (Photo courtesy of Devan Sullivan)

Three years ago, Devan Sullivan and his family relocated from Collinsville, Illinois, to Nashville, Illinois. The motive behind the move? They wanted more acreage for deer hunting. And the 200-plus-inch deer Sullivan tagged on the property this year is just one reason why that turned out to be a good decision.

Although the 18-year-old often hunts with his uncle and grandfather, Sullivan says he found his love for hunting on his own. Interestingly, his own grandfather didn’t begin hunting until Sullivan did. And when his aunt got married five years ago, he started hunting on his new uncle’s property, as well as on his parents’ land. His uncle is a longtime hunter, and Sullivan shot his first two bucks on that property. One was an 11-pointer he took with a bow, and the other an 8-pointer taken with a shotgun.

Right after his family moved to Nashville, Sullivan captured a nice deer on his trail camera during the winter. At the time, the buck had nine points.

“I knew the buck had great potential,” Sullivan says. “I kept my eye on him. Last year, I captured a trail camera video and found that he’d blown up into a huge buck. I didn’t encounter the deer at all last fall. He was always nocturnal on my trail cameras.”

In 2019, however, Sullivan spotted the buck in a field a couple of times during the day. But the buck never showed during archery season, or even during the first few days of gun season. Sullivan logged lots of hours, hunting almost every day after school, without ever seeing the deer.

In 2017, the buck was already exhibiting a world-class frame. (Photo courtesy of Devan Sullivan)

Then on November 24 – the final day of Illinois’ first slug season – the buck slipped up.

“I was on my way back home from the store and I saw the buck standing alone out in a field,” Sullivan says. “He took off running toward our woods. So, I went home, grabbed my gear and headed out to my treestand. After about an hour and a half, I spotted the buck walking through the timber. He wasn’t coming my way, so I grunted at him, which brought him trotting in my direction.”

The tremendous buck walked into Sullivan’s shooting lane, and he didn’t hesitate. The buck ran at the shot, and then went down. As he packed up his gear, another large buck – a 10-pointer – walked right behind Sullivan’s buck, then passed out of sight. He couldn’t believe his luck: He’d seen two giants in one sit.

“I usually always hunt with my grandpa, but he was attending his sister’s funeral that day,” Sullivan says. “So, I called my uncle and said, ‘You have to come and help me. I just shot a 200-inch buck.’”

Two hours later, his uncle arrived, and they started tracking the buck. But as they walked up to it, they realized it was still alive.

“He rose from his bed and started walking away,” Sullivan says. “So, we backed out and gave him another two hours to expire. When we returned, we found him [dead in his second bed].”

It turns out he’d hit the buck a touch far back – a lethal shot, but one that required additional time before recovery. When the hunters weren’t able to take a follow-up shot, they did the next best thing and backed out.

Although Sullivan lives in big-buck country, he probably won’t soon top this big monarch. With 18 scoreable points, Adam Gebke of Remember the Hunt Taxidermy measured the buck’s green, gross non-typical score at nearly 230 inches. The deer also appears to be very old, too. Sullivan said the buck only had four teeth still intact.

Sullivan says the hunt feels surreal, even a few weeks later. “It still feels like I’m dreaming.”

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