Because of good friends and a lot of luck, Jody Macon arrowed the buck of a lifetime last fall.
By Jeff Brown
When Mississippi native Jody Macon and his wife named their daughter Hadley, they had no idea that this decision would someday put Jody in a position to shoot a trophy non-typical buck with his bow in Illinois. But putting an arrow in the big buck was only the beginning of this incredible saga!
The 34-year-old Brandon, Miss., resident started hunting with his grandfather and father when he was just 12 years old. He killed his first deer at 13, but didn't start bowhunting until he turned 25. All of his hunting took place in his home state until 2002. Prior to that year he had harvested many decent bucks, with his best scoring about 125 inches as an 8-pointer.
With this success behind him, he looked forward to gaining an opportunity to kill a bigger buck with his bow, and he decided to look into guided hunt options. Macon researched some places, and one day was looking in North American Whitetail magazine when he saw an advertisement for an outfitter from Pike County, Illinois, called Hadley Creek. Since Macon's daughter was named Hadley, he decided to check into this outfitter. After looking at their Web site and speaking with the outfitter on the phone, he decided this would be the destination for him and his friends in 2002.
During his first trip to Pike County in 2002, Macon was accompanied by friends Roby Allen, Clay Schweizer and David Love. Macon fulfilled his dreams of shooting a big buck with his bow, although there was plenty of drama. On the last day of the hunt, just five minutes before dark, Macon put an arrow into a very nice 125-inch 8-pointer, but the buck was not recovered before he had to leave for home. He headed home with a heavy heart, but the hunters all decided to rebook a trip for the next year. They all saw some great bucks, and they were impressed with the guide service, the territory and the trophy potential. And as luck would have it, Macon's buck was found dead three weeks later, and Macon's rack was recovered! He was thrilled, and could not wait for the 2003 hunt. Little did he know that the drama was not over, but it was just beginning! This little test of Macon's faith in the guides was nothing compared to the test that awaited him.
In mid-October 2003, Macon and his buddies drove back to Pike County. Macon hoped that he would not have a repeat of the gut wrenching drive home he had the previous year while he waited for the guides to find his buck. Poor Macon didn't realize that this year's ride home would be even tougher!
Jody Macon's 27-point buck has a final score of 211ÃŠ3/8 non-typical inches. Photo by Jeff Brown
Things weren't looking all that promising early in their 2003 hunt. By the second day of the hunt the temperatures were in the high 80s - not exactly ideal bowhunting conditions. The morning of Oct. 20, Macon saw a 6-pointer and a bunch of does, but the big bucks just didn't seem to be moving in the heat. As the mercury climbed that afternoon, Macon decided that this might be a good day for an afternoon nap. Everyone was discouraged because of the heat, and no one seemed to expect much of the afternoon hunt this day. But luckily for Macon, good friend Roby would have none of that! He dragged Macon out that afternoon, and even let him take "his stand."
At 2:30 p.m., as the warm winds blew at 20 mph, Macon found himself just off a huge bluff with some CRP land 100 yards behind and hardwoods with a bluff feeding right down to him. It was a very nice natural funnel. He was in a fixed-position tree stand about 15 feet up, and Macon really didn't like the setup because if felt "short" to him. But he had a Scent-Lok Suit on and used a whole bottle of scent-killer spray in hopes of keeping his scent from alerting deer to his presence. He really didn't expect to see much anyway on this warm and windy day, but kept spraying himself down with scent killer every 30 minutes or so just in case.
By 3:45 there were deer all around him, and some even bedded down near him. Macon decided to pick up his new bow and fill his doe tag with the first deer ever killed with that bow, but his position in the tree prevented him from getting the shot. He hung his bow up, even more disappointed than before. He could not have known that this "missed opportunity" to shoot a doe was just another very fortunate break that would lead him to an incredible encounter with a monster!
About five minutes later a dejected Macon heard something to his left, and suddenly his whole outlook on this hunt changed for the better. Standing there at 30 yards was a monster buck. At first glance Macon knew he was big, but couldn't really tell just how big. He grabbed his bow as the buck fed on acorns and rubbed some limbs. At about 40 yards the buck was walking away, and Macon felt it was "now or never" and let the shot fly. But his luck did not improve, and he missed as his arrow hit a limb. The big buck took off, ran 100 yards, and stopped behind a tree.
Then, to Macon's surprise, the buck walked right back toward him! Macon nocked another arrow, but his second opportunity would not come quickly. The skittish buck spent the next 20 minutes raking trees, looking around and walking slowly toward Macon as it fed on acorns. Amazingly, as the hot winds blew, the buck worked his way back to within 18 yards, slightly quartering away. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, he got the chance to draw and shoot quickly. This time he knew he hit him good and could see half of his arrow hanging out of the shoulder.
Deer ran everywhere at the shot. Macon was shaking so badly he had to hang the bow up and sit down. He glanced at his watch and saw that it was 5:15 p.m., and he replayed the shot in his mind. He figured he had hit the buck high behind the shoulder, and hoped it would be enough to bring the big boy down. He sat until dark and then eased his way out quietly. Macon had a feeling of déjÃ vu and hoped that things would go better than last year.
After a long night of waiting, Macon showed the guides where the deer was shot, and five of them tracked the deer. Macon got a sinking feeling after 70 yards, because the blood trail dried up. At about 100 yards, guide Scott Bradshaw found part of the arrow, with no broadhead. And it was time to drive back to Mississippi. The 9 1/2-hour ride home felt even longer, as once again Macon found himself leaving Illinois with an unrecovered deer, but this time it could have been his once-in-a-lifetime buck, and that just made the feeling even worse.
Macon arrived home at 7 p.m. that evening. His wife and kids were depressed but supportive. Macon spent a sleepless night lamenting his bad luck. But at 7 a.m. Sunday morning, Macon's life changed when the phone rang. It was Scott from Hadley Creek. He said, "Hey, Macon, I've got some bad news. The cape on your buck is ruined!" In disbelief Macon said, "You found my deer? Really! How big is he?"
Scott told him he hadn't seen it yet, but guide Robert Lawson had found the buck and said it had at least 20 points. He told Macon to get his tag and get back to Hadley Creek.
Macon scrambled to arrange a quick trip back, his heart pounding with excitement. He grabbed his tag, called his buddy Dave and headed back to Pike County. Outfitter Stacey Ward was waiting there with a big smile on his face, and they quickly grabbed the four-wheelers and headed out. After a short ride they arrived at the site, and when Macon saw the huge buck, he fell to his knees. This was so unbelievable, the most incredible moment of his life. And he savored it, because he recalled the incredible set of circumstances that brought him to this moment. Good things really do come to those who wait!
The buck was officially scored after the 60-day drying period by Pope and Young measurer Randy Spencer from Mississippi. The final gross score was 219 5/8 non-typical inches, with a P&Y net score of 211 3/8 inches. Macon will enter the buck in Pope & Young and Boone & Crockett records. The rack has 27 scorable points, with an 11-point typical frame complimented by 16 abnormal points - 7 on the right and 9 on the left. The funky-looking rack is littered with drop tines and sticker points, totaling just under 60 inches of abnormal growth. The main beams are 21 7/8 and 22 3/8 inches, and the inside spread measures 19 1/8 inches. The bases are both over 5 inches, with good mass all the way out.
The head-spinning circumstances that surrounded this buck are almost too overwhelming to remember. It's a classic case of "what-ifs." And maybe the biggest "what if" of all, we can only imagine what would have happened if Jody Macon had not named his daughter Hadley!
Discover even more in our monthly magazine,
and have it delivered to your door!
Subscribe to Illinois Game & Fish