Hunter's 3-Year Quest Ends with 19-Point Buck

By author of Timber 2 Table Wild Game Recipes

Illinois bowhunter Shane Barker missed the big deer he’d been after for two years last season, but he got another chance at the 205 giant in November

Rack Report Details
Buck: 205 7/8
Time of Year: November 16 2021
Place: Hamilton County, Illinois
Weapon: Mathews Vertix

The first time Illinois hunter Shane Barker saw this buck on his trail camera was in 2018. Back then, the deer was a heavy 8, and already big enough to get Barker's attention. The 2019 season came and went with more photos of the deer, but no actual sightings. With each picture, though, Barker was able to narrow in on the buck’s core area. 

After a miss last season, Barker had a score to settle with the buck.

In 2020, Barker had pinpointed the deer’s favorite hangout. It was a small patch of extremely heavy cover, full of high grass and briars. The narrow thicket reached about an eighth of a mile in either direction from Barker’s stand, and the hunter knew he could only hunt on perfect winds to keep from pushing the deer out of his core area. 

A lifelong archer, Barker decided to switch to a crossbow for the 2020 season, thinking it might give him a bit more range and ease of shooting if the big deer slipped up during the daylight hours. He practiced with the crossbow and was confident he could make the shot. 

When a good wind presented itself, he grabbed the crossbow and climbed into his stand. Soon, a big buck came into view. It wasn’t the buck he was after, but the 150” 9 point was too good to pass. Barker leveled his new crossbow, settled the scope, and squeezed the trigger. The shot was high; a clean miss. Barker watched the big buck crash away, unharmed. 

Shane Barker first saw the buck on camera in 2018.

Frustrated, Barker figured he had pulled the shot. “I struggled to get the crossbow recocked while up in the stand on the slim chance the buck might come back through. I was feeling pretty low at that point and wasn’t really expecting to see another deer,” he said. But finally, he was able to get the crossbow cocked and another bolt loaded. Then his luck got worse. 

Soon, another deer appeared in the cover below. Barker knew instantly that it was the big buck he had been after all along. Again, the hunter leveled his crossbow and squeezed the trigger. He heard what sounded like a hit, but couldn’t see the bolt. After a bit of time, Barker climbed down and finally located his bolt. It was clean. He searched up and down the trail but found no blood. It was another clean miss, and Barker realized his crossbow sights had somehow gotten knocked off zero.

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Fast forward to the 2021 season. Barker had cameras on the trails in and out of the tiny patch of cover the big buck called home. He quickly discovered the buck was alive, and still making the small patch of cover his main home. 

On November 15th, the wind was right to hunt the area. The farmer was shelling the last of the standing corn near the patch of cover. After last year’s miss, Barker had gone back to a vertical bow, and had grabbed his Mathews Vertix before climbing into his stand. As the nearby combine was finishing up the last of the corn, Barker saw the buck. It was across the road, chasing another buck that had gotten too close to the hot doe the big buck was trailing.

The buck green scored 205 7/8.

The deer never crossed to his side of the road, but Barker knew that with the corn gone, the hot doe would probably end up in the strip of heavy cover sometime that night. 

He was back in the stand the next morning. Soon after daylight, Barker first saw the doe, then the big buck still at her side. The buck chased the doe around the hunter, but never got closer than 80 yards before finally chasing her out of sight. 

That evening, Barker moved closer to where he had seen the buck and doe that morning. At 3:30, he saw the doe again. She was in range and completely unaware that the hunter was nearby. Soon, Barker heard the unmistakable sound of antlers raking a tree. The sound was close, and Barker was finally able to pick out the buck through the heavy cover. He was in range, but there was just too much cover for a shot. Barker waited. 

The buck moved toward the doe, chasing her even closer to the hunter. With the doe at 10 yards, the buck stopped broadside, but again, a tree over the deer’s vitals kept Barker from having a clear shot. 

Finally the big buck took a few steps toward the doe, giving Barker the shot he needed. The hunter drew his bow and released the arrow, watching it hit and bury into the buck’s shoulder. “The shot felt great”, said Barker. “I knew he wasn’t going to go far.” The big buck ran about 60 yards before crashing. 

Barker's buck featured 19 scorable points, and taped out at a whopping 205 ⅞”. His taxidermist estimated the buck to be 7 ½ years old.

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