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December 1: Doug Hampton

Want proof that Doug is a man of his word? There’s 175 inches of Illinois antler walking around today as a living testament to his integrity.

During the second Illinois firearms season, Doug was on his Illinois lease where there were at least three shooters, but one buck that was on the no-shoot list. That deer was on the list because he was a four year old that had blown up from the 120s in 2015 to near 180 in 2016. This guy was a monster and he wasn’t done growing.

Doug’s lease partners pressed him to pledge a blood oath to not shoot that buck this year. (Okay, maybe it wasn’t a blood oath, but they were serious.) A deer that big would have been Doug’s biggest, so it was no easy thing for him to make that promise, though he ultimately did. Once he gave his word, a sick feeling crept up from his stomach like he’d just made the worst decision of his life.

The first afternoon in the blind, guess who walked into the bean field? Yep, the big guy. In fact, he went in and out of the field three times with the closest encounter being at 80 yards. During the buck’s meanderings, Doug called his lease partner to attempt to convince him to let him off the hook.

“I want you to shoot that buck Doug, but I want you to do it when he’s a 200 incher in the future.”

At that point, Doug vowed to never make a deal like that in the future.

In an effort to avoid tempting fate, he hunted a bottom field the following afternoon. The second rut was on and big bucks were chasing does. While Doug and his cameraman were in the blind, his cameraman offered him a Dum-Dum sucker…since that’s what he felt like for promising to let that buck walk.

Shortly after filming their first interview for that sit, a doe ran through the BioLogic Maximum field chased by a mature buck. The deer walked through Doug’s first shooting lane. Despite Doug’s attempt to stop him in the second, he cruised through that one too. Once he reached the third lane, Doug began to squeeze off the shot, but the buck bolted before the gun fired.

About to jump a fence at 60 yards, Doug hollered and made the shot with his Traditions muzzleloader. The buck jumped the fence and disappeared from sight.

After 15 minutes, Doug went to inspect the area where he shot the deer to look for blood. The buck didn’t go far because it only took Doug hopping the fence to see his deer laying dead on a nearby little hill.   

That buck went 143 1/8 inches, a great animal in anyone’s book, but a little hard to stack up against the monster he let walk. The good news? Reconyx trail cam pictures showed the big one survived Illinois’ gun seasons and could still be in play for the 2017 season.

The other bit of good news is that Doug walked away from this hunt with his good conscience intact.

 

As told to Tim Kjellesvik.