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With Rut Just Ahead, Illinois Hunter Arrows Giant Public-Land Whitetail

Everything fell into place on a windy afternoon hunt that almost didn't happen.

With Rut Just Ahead, Illinois Hunter Arrows Giant Public-Land Whitetail

Illinois bowhunter Fernando Barrera with the large whitetail buck he harvested on public land near Kankakee, Illi. (Courtesy photo)

The wind was blowing upwards of 22 mph when Illinois hunter Fernando Barrera, 20, got off work at 3 p.m. on Oct. 13, and headed to his dad's house to pick him up to hunt a public parcel near Kankakee.

But, given the windy conditions, they debated whether a hunt was even worth the bother. "My dad tried talking me out of hunting because it was windy," said Barrera, who convinced his father to go, "so we arrived later than we wanted to.”

The timing couldn’t have been better. Instead of heading deep into the woods, he hunted a more-open area near the edge of a field and high-traffic road. Instead of hiking in far from the parking lot, he hunted within about 75 yards of his truck; his logic being other hunters would be spread out further into the woods and pressuring deer.

Huge Illinois Public-Land Buck
Fernando Barrera. 20, was hunting a small parcel of public land near Kankakee, Ill., on Oct. 13 when this big buck got in range. (Courtesy photos)

Windy Public-Land Buck

  • Hunter: Fernando Barrera
  • Date: Oct. 13, 2022
  • Location: Kankakee, Ill.
  • Method: Compound Bow
  • Stats: 173 green score

"I usually try to go farther away from people, but since other people have been walking farther into woods, I decided to go the opposite direction and hunt close," he said. Around the same time, a farmer driving a combine was exiting a nearby cornfield, and Barrera, who likes to hunt open areas on windy days, was able to sneak in and set up as the farmer was coming out.


Around 3:45 p.m., Barrera was in his stand, and before he could nock an arrow, a couple of does came walking in, and passed through the area. At 5:10, Barrera saw a big buck crossing the road, followed by an even bigger buck. The bucks hopped the fence and entered the public parcel, making their way through grass as high as 5 feet tall. The grass was only around 2 feet tall under Barrera's stand. Within 10 minutes, the first buck passed through, trailed by Barrera's now target buck.

Barrera ranged the buck at 27 yards, but a large truck then drove past, pushing the buck even closer, to within 15 yards. "I tried to let out a 'meh' to get him to stop, but I was shaking so bad, I couldn't get it to come out."

But the buck paused on his own, presenting a perfect broadside shot. "I double-lunged him," said Barrera. "He ran maybe 50, 60 yards."


Barrera called his dad with the good news. "He could hear in my voice how much I was shaking, but I wanted my dad to get a deer, too, so we waited a bit more." He called his girlfriend to tell her, and before he could finish the story, more does headed in.

After waiting a half hour, Barrera couldn't wait any longer to get his buck. "I was so excited on how big it was so I drove down two hunting areas to pick up my dad," he said. "Then we found him right away and couldn't believe how big he was."




The hunters dragged the buck to the road, and while Barrera is a 6-foot-2, 325-pound weightlifter, he needed his father's help getting the buck onto the bed of his truck. Barrera's buck was green-scored at 173 inches.

"I talked to a lot of guys afterward and showed them pictures," Barrera said. "Guys who had been hunting this area for 20, 30 years and they had never seen deer that big on public land."

NEW INFO: Region Rut Update

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Barrera, a dedicated public-land hunter who started hunting at the age of 10, said he owes the big harvest to his boldness to hunt strategies some might think are counter-intuitive, a willingness to challenge what others consider common sense.

Had he arrived earlier, instead of debating the windy conditions with his dad, he might not have had the cover from the exiting combine. Or he might have just shot a mature doe and called it a day. Or he might taken a longer hike and have set up further into the woods.

Everything seemed to have fallen perfectly into place.

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