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Bowhunting Illinois
by Keith Gray

The kick of a rock, in the distance, brought me back on full alert. The sound came from approximately 100 yards down stream, and across the draw. I nocked an arrow and concentrated in that direction. It wasn't long before movement caught my eye. The 140 class nine point stood in the small clearing oblivious to my presence; but unable to control the urge to investigate the four large scrapes I had located and doctored less than an hour earlier.

Being late in the day, when I discovered this location, I chose a large pile of bulldozed timber 75 yards down wind as an observation stand. With a little luck my observation post was about to produce my first book buck.

As the buck followed down the trail, I picked a hole through the brush that would afford me a little over a 30 yard shot at him. When he entered the lane, I clicked at him with my mouth, which froze him in his tracks. I placed the 30 yard pin high on the ten ring and released.

How a perfectly clear shooting hole can suddenly grow a branch through the middle of it, in a split second, is beyond me! But sometimes they do. The arrow glanced harmlessly over the buck's back.

I had heard that deer in Illinois weren't nearly as jumpy as the Hill Country deer I had cut my teeth on in Texas. But what happened next was a real shocker! If this scenario had been played out near my home in Central Texas, that deer would have been long gone. But, this deer took two steps and looked around to see what had just happened. As I sat watching and waiting and wanting to kick myself, all I could do was stay still and hope things got better. Movement to my right caught both of our attention. As I slowly turned my head, I was surprised to see a doe and yearling walking up to the first of the four scrapes. With her tail erect, she urinated in that scrape and then trotted tight legged to the next and repeated the process.

Well, the tension was broke, the buck bee lined to the does and the chase was on. It was entertaining, but as day light faded into night, I never got another shot at that nice buck.

Not to worry, I figured the chase might give me one more chance in the morning.

Back at the truck my hunting partner, Brett Mayes, told a similar story about a book eight point. No hot does, but ending in a missed shot. Brett has several deer to his credit that have booked, so I knew when he said book that he meant it.

The next morning, we awoke to a driving, freezing rain and we both agreed that we didn't drive eighteen hours to sit inside and watch T.V. So, back to the woods we went. I knew I needed to locate closer to the scrapes, but I had no time. I had two hot scrapes a hot doe and a date with a book buck. When I crested the draw in the darkness, I heard deer run off from the scrapes. Moving silently down the hill I approached within 20 yards of 3 of the scrapes, moved some leaves and leaned against a large Boes-D-Arc tree.

The rain softened the sounds of approaching deer, but I had high hopes of a close encounter of the nine point kind. I had the wind in my face blowing from the scrapes to a cornfield behind me.

At gray light, a faint noise behind me caught my attention. I turned to see my nine point standing 18 yards behind me. He jumped a downed fence and quartered past me never giving me a decent shot. Now I noticed how wet and cold I really was. Contemplating going to the warm truck, I took one more look around before I got up. Nothing in the draw, nothing down . . , wait was that movement? An antler? The eight point walked by at 35 yards. No shot. Fifteen minutes later another eight. I had seen this buck before, two days ago. He was small (live weight about 220) and I had passed him up the last time. I let him walk.

Lots of bucks, but where was my hot doe and why wasn't the nine still chasing her? Looking around once more, I thought I detected something on the ridge behind me. It wasn't long before one of the largest racks I had ever seen materialized on the horizon of the draw!

All I could see were antlers over the little rise. With the wind already wrong, I went ahead and stood to try to get a shot. The big 170 class eleven point was walking away. Still all I could see was his head and rack. Walking up the hill finally allowed a look at the whole deer but, once again, no shot. And, of course, he was trailing my doe. Another hour on the stand with only a coyote coming by.

With the fear of hypothermia setting in and a growling stomach, it was time to call it a morning. Back at the truck, Brett was waiting. He had had no action, but my story stoked his hunting fire.

For the second time, I had to listen to Brett claim he would have shot the little eight point. With one and a half days left to hunt, we made a pack to shoot the next deer either of us had a chance at.

The rain let up after lunch, so Brett went his way and with a clip-on stand on my back, I went mine.

About an hour before dark, the same small eight point came back for the third time. He checked the first scrape, rubbed the licking branch with his face and proceeded to the second scrape in line. He never made it. The XX75 out of my trusty P.S.E. dropped him in less than 25 yards. Ironically, I believe he was the only buck I saw that wouldn't book. He was, however, some of the best venison we had ever had.

Back at the truck, Brett reported still another hunt without a single sighting. I offered my spot to him, but he refused. Something about he does his best hunting after the two minute warning.

The last day found me just enjoying the sights and sounds of the woods. I watched birds and squirrels for an hour or so, but decided to go in early and fix breakfast. As I came around the cornfield, I could see the truck. And there was Brett. Waving his arms and jumping around like a wildman. I yelled, asking what he was doing and got the reply, "Haven't you ever seen the Big Buck Dance?".

So much for breakfast. Brett led me down a creek to a place that looked exactly like the place I had been hunting, four scrapes within 20 yards of each other. Brett had moved 20 yards down wind and leaned up against a dead log and basically stayed there until a deer came by. He had hit his grunt tube twice about 7:00 a.m. and within 10 minutes the deer had come in and stuck his nose in the scrape. The carbon shaft had gone through the heart. Bad thing was that coyotes had gotten on the deer and brought him down. At the end of the blood trail, the story was there to see. Hair every where, the hams had been chewed and his tail was ripped off. Brett had scared them off earlier that morning. But, what a deer he was! 227 pounds dressed, 20-1/2" inside spread, 10 points, 158-7/8 inch Pope and Young and only 2-5/8 inches in deductions!

On our drive back to Austin, Texas, Brett and I marveled how this entire hunting trip came to be in the first place. You see, it started with an idea and a post to a newsgroup on the Internet. From there we talked with Hunters from Illinois on everything from techniques, stands to use and clothing to bring. We were even able to locate hunting licence requirements and find sources for hunting tags through the contacts we made. Without these contacts, I doubt that we would have experienced the success that we did. Technology is a wonderful thing!

Click Here to view photos and credits from this Hunting Trip!

Keith Gray is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsmen. He has been bowhunting for 20 years and has been actively involving his children in the sport as well. Watch for his next article on Bowhunting With Children. Keith has a lot of experience with the various places to hunt and fish throughout Texas. Please feel free to visit his website at: www.osweb.com/hunttx/ for more information on hunting in Texas. (Please note that this site is currenlty under construction, information will be continually added.)


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