After an inauspicious beginning, pro angler Tommy Biffle has compiled an incredible deer hunting resume. The MLF and Bassmaster Elite angler boasts a 187-inch buck among his 40 trophy mounts.
With a little help from his friends, he hunts prime properties in Illinois and around his home in Wagoner, Okla. That’s where he began hunting, but one of his first experiences didn’t go so well. He was 12 and taken out by an acquaintance, who got him started in bow hunting, to Camp Gruber, an army base located near his hometown.
Biffle said after scouting and walking around all afternoon the man set him in a tree and told him he’d come get him at dark. But a storm came in and blew away those plans.
“That’s back when you sat on the tree branches, so we didn't have any stands or anything,” Biffle said. “It was raining so hard, I just sat over and humped up, pulled my hood up over my head.
“I guess I fell asleep and he never came and got me. When I woke up it was 9 o'clock at night. I did not know which direction to go, where the highway was, anything.”
So Biffle just started walking, fortunately starting off in the right direction. Then he heard the cars on the road and headed that way.
“I made it to the road, walked down the road and happened to find the car, and he was in there drunk,” Biffle said. “That was my last time I went with him.”
There also was some contention on Biffle’s first kill, but he ended up calling it a pretty neat deal.“It was with a gun, a little ole 30-30, and it was a little ole 6-point buck,” he said.
Biffle set up in a huge tree in the back of a cove at Tenkiller Lake. The tree’s top was broken out, providing a comfortable seat with two branches acting as foot rests. He said it was a popular spot as someone had nailed a board there to sit on, but since it was old and squeaked, he had thrown it down during bow season.
“I got to messing with my raincoat trying to put it on ‘cause it was snowing pretty hard and I dropped the top on the ground,” he said. “I crawled down the tree and this guy goes, ‘Here,’ and handed me my top to my rain suit.”
But then he said something that would make most 12-year-olds think twice.
"You're in my tree," he said.
"How you figure that?" Biffle responded.
The man Biffle was hunting with had told him earlier not to give up the spot if anybody were to come around demanding it.
“So I took the rain suit top, crawled back up in the tree and sat down up there,” Biffle said.
He didn’t budge when the man again said Biffle was in his tree.
"Well, I don't know what to tell you but I'm here," he told him.
The man loitered around a bit then walked off right at daylight, but Biffle could see he set up only about 50 yards away. The sun rose and there was some doe activity before shots rang out over the hill.
“They start shooting at this little ole buck, and he runs down and comes down across the back of the cove, stopping out in front of me about 80 yards and behind this big old cedar tree,” Biffle said. “I lay the gun there on a branch and it doesn't have a scope, it's just iron sights, and waited for him to come out behind that tree.
“When he did, I had it right there on him, right there at the tree, and when he come out ‘Blam, bunk.’ So I got down and walked over there to him. The guy that was going to get in that tree walks up and he said he never saw the deer even though the deer wasn't 30 yards from his tree.”
The man Biffle was hunting with heard him shoot and arrived, then left to retrieve the vehicle.
“And the guy that was gonna run me out of that tree ended up taking me to his house and giving me some hot chocolate,” Biffle said. “That was my first deer.”
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His good fortunes continued through the years, starting with purchasing deer hunting land in his hometown.
“I live next to a refuge and it surrounds my place on three sides,” he said. “Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to live on this land.”
Then a fishing buddy hooked him up with a friend who had access to great hunting woods in southern Illinois, but he waited two years before calling him. He warns most not to offer him an idle invite to deer hunt, because “I will show up.”
Throw out his 187 he killed in Texas, and Biffle’s top bow kills of 181, 170 and 165, shot last year, have come near Galconda, Ill., which sits on the Ohio River in the Shawnee National Forest.
“This town has one Dairy Queen and two gas stations,” he said. “We don’t have deer like that around here. We do now, but we didn’t.”
How Biffle came to be a regular in Galconda was certainly fortuitous. A buddy had seen all his trophies and said for Biffle to find a farm there and he’d buy it for them to hunt. Biffle thought he was just blowing smoke, but was asked again on their next fishing trip.
“Call your buddy right now,” Biffle said he was ordered. “I called Gary and I never thought much about it but a month later, he called and said I got you a farm.”
It was a particularly desirable place as well. A man named Roy hunted the bottom land and Biffle had got to hunt it several times, discovering it was the juice.
“For me, back then it was like going to the zoo,” Biffle said. “You couldn’t even walk in there. Roy would die before he would sell that. All this time we thought it was Roy’s, it wasn’t.
“This is the best spot that I know of over there. We’ve been hunting it for the last 6, 8 years. We went from Pittsburgh Classic and went by there on the way home. Got out and the corn was just about knee high, and we turned the corner and there’s two nice bucks standing in velvet right there. This will work.”
With its big woods, corn, soybeans and clover, the area is set up as good as you can draw it, Biffle said. However, his buck selection had to change, as shooter deer in Oklahoma were overshadowed by bucks roaming these river bottoms.
It got sweeter as they met with an older gentleman who lived in a trailer in adjacent property. Biffle worried that if the land fell into the wrong hands, their hunting could be compromised. He wasn’t interested in selling, but while walking out, Biffle turned and gave this what if – they buy it, the man could stay and nothing would change except the deed. He bought it.
At first Biffle would stay in the motel with 10 rooms during deer season, but his friend built a home on the property.
“I come in from tournaments with my boat and park in barn,” Biffle said, “and he goes, there’s a truck, there’s a four-wheeler, I’m gone.”
He once spent 25 days chasing one buck before he got it. The spot beneath his stand was visible from the house, and his friend saw a deer out in the field and knew Biffle wouldn’t be back.
“They go, he ain’t going home. That same night, he came out right in the last light, and I got him,” he said.
Other bow hunting exploits for Biffle include Africa game and New Zealand red stag. He opened the guide’s eyes by wanting to kill a red stag with a bow, and they figured out how to spot from the mountaintops and skulk down to get into range.
With seven B.A.S.S. wins, more than $2 million in earnings and 19 appearances in Bassmaster Classics, Biffle said he finds hunting a great release.
“It’s a lot of time to sit and think … how your year went. Whether you caught them good or where you messed up,” he said. “A lot of good times with your buddies. And you meet a lot of good people. Everybody over in Illinois is good folks.”