July 21, 2011
There are certain moments in a hunter's lifetime they will never forget. The reasons vary from person to person, situation-to-situation but for me it all started with a pack of coyotes and a 202-inch buck in Illinois.
Granted, a 200-inch buck would be a memory most people would never forget, but believe it or not his antler size wasn't what made this hunt. I had been hunting all fall in search of a big whitetail and had several close encounters and even a miss. After 47-days of sitting on stand, my dedication and patience was starting to wear thin. I was literally spending every waking moment that I wasn't working in a tree begging people to film me during their free time.
It was mid-December, the snow had arrived and temps had dropped into the teens. In other words, it was a deer hunters paradise! I can't think of better conditions to lure a big old buck out of cover than with cold temps and a mouth watering soybean field. Tired, cold, and rundown from the rut, several deer started filtering into the bean field nearly 150-yards out. 1 led to 2, 2 led to 20 and the next thing I knew the entire field was crawling with deer. Seems perfect but there was one problem. All the deer were bunched up on the other side of the field, way outside of bow range.
I'll be honest, my initial thought was to get out of the tree stand and attempt to stalk the entire group. Of course, it seemed like a good idea at first but I knew it was not my best option. As much as I wanted to get aggressive and make a move, I also knew that my highest chance of success would be to remain in the tree. Sitting still at this particular moment was one of the hardest things I've ever done! Not only did I feel unbelievably nervous but there was also an intense feeling of helplessness.
That helplessness turned to severe anxiety as I spotted a pack of coyotes making their move on my big buck and the entire group! Instead of spooking the deer back into the woods they actually surprised them from behind and the entire field exploded with deer and they all came running right toward me.
If you think my heart was pounding the first time I laid eyes on his giant rack, it was no comparison to the feeling I had when that entire group came running right toward me. The coyotes pushed the deer to 70-yards and started circling the field. The big buck acted as if he were going to hold his ground with the coyotes, but at the last minute he decided to go with the safety in numbers idea and joined the others as they migrated toward my stand.
The coyotes had pushed this big buck and the entire group twice, both times to my advantage but I wasn't sure when my luck would run thin. I could see another coyote circling around from the other direction and I knew time was not on my side. These coyotes were determined to bring one of these deer down and they had the numbers to get it done.
I'm not sure if you've ever had a chance to be in the middle of a situation like this but I quickly picked up on one huge advantage. All the deer in the field had their eyes glued to the circling coyote's giving me a perfect opportunity to draw without getting busted with all those eyes.
This massive buck was now eating only 52-yards in front of my stand! I knew this was a shot I had practiced and was confident with but I also knew a closer shot would be better. It become apparent that this was the only shot I would get and the buck started quartering away and slowly heading in the opposite direction. My instincts took over and within a blink of an eye I was at full draw holding right on his chest. As my arrow the buck he kicked his back legs up in the air and looked as if he might drop right in the field.
When I walked up on him all I could see was points! 15-points to be exact and 202-inches of antler. This just goes to show how putting your time into a quality location can really pay off. Hunting the Golden Triangle is one of the best places in the world for giant bucks. You can be the best hunter out there, but if the big bucks aren't there, you're out of luck.
Not only was this an amazing buck, but how people can say they've had a pack of coyotes actually help them harvest a deer? My friendship with the coyotes only lasted a short time and as a thank you present I showed them what could be done with a few predator calls and a gun in my hand.