November 08, 2021
Illinois hunter Mark Hayes loves to hunt big, mature deer.
"I'm a deer-hunting fanatic, to say the least," Hayes recently told Game & Fish. "Deer hunting is amazing. I mean, they are coast to coast and from our southern border to the northern border. It is something everyone can do."
Hayes and his hunting buddies had multiple years of history with a giant buck that frequented the area they hunt. Last year, the buck spent most of the time on their property, though they didn't pursue it in hopes it would grow bigger in 2021.
It didn't. Instead, it remained a 190-inch deer, but lost its abnormal points and cleaned up into a big typical 10.
A Monster Illinois 190
- Hunter: Mark Hayes
- Date: October 27, 2021
- Location: Illinois
- Method: Compound bow
- Score: 193 5/8 inches
On Oct. 27, with cloudy skies, temperatures in the 50s and 15- to 20-mph winds, Hayes thought the conditions were good enough that he might see the buck during daylight.
"Late October has been good to me in the past, as I think the mature bucks are getting fired up and looking for the first does to come in," Hayes said. "I like to get aggressive and push close to the buck's bedding area. I had a good idea where the deer was bedding. I knew I had to be just off his wind and cut the corner."
Generally, Hayes hunts with his friends Nathan, Logan and Mike, but that day he hunted alone. He carefully followed a low-risk entry route to his hunting spot, which was in the corner of a CRP field. His stand overlooked an area where the timber met the CRP, which was about 100 yards west of a 1 1/2-acre food plot.
The afternoon started off with quite a bit of action.
"Chipmunks and squirrels were running the entire afternoon," Hayes said. "Deer began coming into the field and food plot shortly after I got into the stand. You could smell the damp earth scent, as it had been raining the previous few days, and the air, as a storm was coming later that evening."
Eight does and fawns milled around for the first few hours of the hunt. Hayes watched the does in the food plot, wondering if the giant would show up. He didn't wonder for long. Suddenly, he spotted the giant walk out from where he believed it was bedding.
"I knew he was going to come by, so I just reminded myself to keep it together and make the shot," Hayes said.
He drew just as the buck passed behind a tree. Hayes was at full draw when it popped out on the other side. It stopped at 33 yards, offering a quartering-away shot. Hayes settled the pin behind the buck's shoulder and released the arrow.
"The shot was good, and the buck didn't know what happened," Hayes said. "After the shot, he turned and ran into the field in front of me. I could tell he [was] hurt, but with him being stopped, I ranged him at 55 and put another arrow in him. He fell right there."
His friends were excited and in awe of how big the buck was. High fives and friendly jabs were flying, but banter is to be expected between hunting buddies.
"I was grateful to harvest a mature buck in his element," Hayes said. "Bucks like this take discipline and lots of strategy to harvest. One wrong move and he could shift his pattern or go nocturnal. There is always so much to learn from these animals. It was just taking the time to hunt him right, so I didn't blow him out of there. Knowing that the first sit [can be] highly productive, I was hopeful things would come together."
Obviously, it did, and he has a 5 ½-year-old, 193 5/8-inch Illinois giant to show for it. It's a memory Hayes and his friends will cherish forever.