October 04, 2010
Greg Wilson holds his buck's massive rack.
Photo courtesy of Greg Wilson.
Everyone in Greg Wilson's family had harvested a deer except Greg. Almost in desperation, he agreed to go with his teenage nephew on the last day of the Illinois gun season.
When the firearms season rolled around in 2007, this Illinois hunter had no idea what was in store for him.
I live in Litchfield, Illinois, and I come from a long line of deer hunters. I have been hunting for some 28 years, and I have taken some nice bucks in my time. These days I hunt with my son, Rob, who has been hunting since he was 12 and has taken a few nice bucks with bow and shotgun. Many of our bucks have scored in the 140 class and 170 class.
In 2005, my youngest daughter, Nicole, started hunting. She enjoys the sport as much as we do. She has taken a few does with bow and shotgun but has yet to take an antlered deer. My daughter, Jamie, doesn't enjoy the sport as we do, but she and my wife always enjoy the good venison we bring home every year.
On Nov. 16, the first morning of the firearms season, we all packed our gear and headed out before first light. We hunted on public ground all day with no luck.
On Nov. 17, we went out to the same area and again had no luck. We returned home for lunch and decided to come up with another plan. On the evening of the 17th, Nicole had other arrangements and didn't go with us. My son harvested a good doe that evening, but I came home empty-handed.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
On Nov. 18, the third and final day of the first firearms season, I hunted a different spot owned by my nephew, Randy. He and his father had already filled their tags with several good deer, including a nice 10-pointer and a 7-pointer. That morning, I hunted one of my nephew's ladder stands and only saw a small spike. Again, I went home empty-handed.
In our family, after the morning's hunt is over, we usually head back to town and gather at my parents' house to see who in the family had filled their tags.
My father, Chuck, harvested a really nice 10-pointer, and my brother in-law also filled his tags with a doe and a nice 7-pointer. While we were sitting around talking about our hunts and drinking coffee, my nephew, David, was telling me about several bucks that he had been seeing. He had already harvested two nice bucks with his bow before firearms season started.
A doe raced from the creek bottom. I drew my gun to shoot when I spotted antlers in the weeds. Needless to say I turned my sights on what was about to appear. Finally, he came from around a big oak tree and I noticed a very huge rack . . .I put my sights on his right shoulder. He quartered toward me and I fired.
David bugged me to go with him to his "honeyhole" so that maybe I could get a chance to tag one of these nice deer. This area was familiar to me because it's public ground and I used to hunt it with my father and brother when I was younger. We stopped hunting there because it was becoming overpopulated with hunters.
David went on to tell me that he hadn't been seeing many hunters during bow season. That evening, I agreed to go with him. My son, Rob, took Nicole to my nephew Randy's, while I went with David, not knowing this spur-of-the-moment hunt would soon be a life-changing experience.
AN ILLINOIS BEHEMOTH
David and I arrived at the spot around 2 p.m. and walked a good distance. We said our goodbyes and good lucks and split up. I cut off the main path, and he went on to his stand farther into the timber. I scouted around a little and found an area that looked good. I was by an old dried-up creek bed with weeds about chest high. I found a place to sit on the ground and settled in for the evening.
The only things I saw the first hour were a few squirrels and a ground hog. About an hour later, a doe raced from the creek bottom. I drew my gun to shoot when I spotted antlers in the weeds. Needless to say, I turned my sights on what was about to appear. Finally, he came from around a big oak tree; I noticed a very huge rack. I tried to focus on making the shot and I put my sights on his right shoulder. He quartered toward me and I fired. It all happened so fast and I knew I made a good 20-yard shot as the deer whirled around and fell back down the creek bank. I didn't hesitate to jump up and run to where I watched him go down. I was ready for the second shot if need be.
As I slid down the bank of the creek to the fallen deer, all I could see was a white belly and antlers. I pulled his head from the twisted weeds and as some would say, I became "unglued." I couldn't believe I had just shot a 200-class trophy.
PUBLIC LAND JACKPOT
By the time I found David, I realized I hadn't even counted the points, although I knew there were quite a few. When I found David, he asked what I had shot, and when I told him the deer had to be at least a 200 class, he acted like I was over-exaggerating. When I lifted his head, we were both amazed. We started to count the points. The monster had 25 points, of which 21 were scoreable and two were broken off. After celebrating and a few high-fives, we shook hands and thanked the good Lord for the perfect day. We loaded up and headed for town. I only wish my son and daughter had been there for the excitement.
The monster had 25 points, of which 21 were scoreable and two were broken off.After celebrating and a few high-fives, we shook hands and thanked the good Lord for the perfect day. We loaded up and headed for town. I only wish my son and daughter had been there for the excitement.
We arrived at my parents' house around 4 p.m. No one could believe what they were seeing. By the time everyone we knew came by and talked, congratulated and took many, many pictures, the time had slipped to around 11:30 p.m. Now for some supper and a little relaxing.
The public-land monster buck gross-scored 230 non-typical inches and had a net score of 222 5/8. He was a basic 5x5 with a total of 11 abnormal points that added up to 52 3/8 inches. He had a 19 4/8-inch inside spread and his gross typical score added up to 181 1/8 inches. He definitely was a mature buck, probably either 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 years old. He field-dressed at 220 pounds. Not bad for an afternoon of hunting on public land!