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Rewinding back to December 2012, Jim and I had finished hunting for a few weeks because he was fortunate enough to harvest two great bucks in November. At that point, looking forward we sat down to address the things that needed to be accomplished in the off-season to maximize the opportunity for Jim to harvest a giant Illinois whitetail in the fall of 2013. With this being the first season that Jim wouldn’t play baseball, it would give him the time and ability to really focus on his farm and take all of the steps necessary to get ready. As the months rolled on the crops were planted, stands were hung, biologic fields were planted, and the Reconyx cameras were put out. A few weeks later, the first round on the cameras were checked. Much to our surprise there were only a few good bucks using the area. July came and passed and at this point we were starting to contemplate whether or not EHD had hit the area or if the bucks had fed somewhere else during the previous summer months.

October came and we were extremely excited to start sitting in some of the new big game tree stands Jim and I had hung over the summer. The Reconyx began lighting up and gave us hope that a monster buck would show himself and give Jim a shot opportunity. The deer movement was very slow from October to November. If it hadn’t been for the constant Reconyx photos of mature deer we would have lost our confidence, preventing us from heading to the stands as often as we did. The bucks were definitely on their feet, although most of the photos had been taken at night. The rut had come and gone, as well as first gun, without an opportunity for a mature whitetail. Second gun came in and with an extreme drop in temperature we felt that the deer would be on the food sources. Saturday, December 7th we were sitting in a blind overlooking a winter bulb and sugar beat field that was starting to show a lot of browse pressure. Early in the evening several deer began to pour onto the field and began feeding. At about 3:15 a mature buck stepped out of the corn following a doe. As soon as I laid eyes on him I knew he was a mature shooter. After a quick shuffle in the blind to turn on all of the cameras, Jim got positioned for the shot. The deer was broadside at about 40 yards and Jim settled in and made a perfect shot. The buck left the biologic field, only making it about 60 yards.

After a few quick phone calls the celebration began. Terry had left his stand to come join us for the recovery of Jim’s deer. It was great to have everybody in camp to share the excitement of harvesting a big mature Illinois whitetail like this one. The Illinois season has been extremely tough and with the kill numbers way down it was great to finally connect with a deer that had not been visible all year. With only one Reconyx photo of this particular buck, he was the last deer we expected to step out on that Biologic field that evening. All in all it was a great week of second shotgun in Illinois. With the late season still ahead, I hope our luck continues and Jim is able to connect with another giant. Good luck and safe hunting!

As told by cameraman: Ryan Narup

I was very excited for my fourth hunting trip to Illinois! My dad had put out a Reconyx camera right by my blind and we are able to get some great photos. We didn’t get as many pictures as we usually do this year, so seeing some movement right before my trip was awesome. The weather forecast was an entirely different story. I knew it was going to be COLD and those early morning hunts were going to be tough. With my dad’s busy schedule, I only get so much time to hunt each year. The pressure is always on when it’s my turn to go.

The first morning was definitely slow with not much happening. But the evening was much better. I was hunting over a freshly cut corn field, so the deer were ready to eat! Far off at the edge of the field I saw a deer that I have named Bullwinkle. He was BIG, but decided he wasn’t ready to step out and really show himself just yet. There was also a nice 2 ½ year old that came out, but we decided to pass and let him mature. Even though I didn’t see a shooter, having the opportunity to see so many deer definitely helped me stay positive. The next morning was slow again with just one little spike. I always ask dad why we keep getting up to see nothing, but he insists that you just never know.

On my second evening the deer started moving early. I had a good feeling as more and more deer came out. At the back corner of the field, I saw a great buck coming out of the woods and he was moving! I got my Thompson Center Dream Season Muzzle Loader up right away and was able to get a perfect shot.

When the smoke cleared, I saw that he had run towards the woods, but that wasn’t an issue. The Thompson Center Shock Wave bullet did its job and we had a great blood trail. It didn’t take long to find my buck and I was so thrilled!! What was even better is that we have a Reconyx photo of him in velvet. Hunting with my dad is always a great experience and I’m thankful I get to spend time with both of my parents. I also have a great buck that I will definitely be checking those cameras for next year. I’m coming for you Bullwinkle!! A big THANK YOU to Joe for letting me hunt his farm and harvest another great deer. Go Team Mad!!

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My dad had put out a Reconyx camera right by my blind and we are able to get some great photos. We didn’t get as many pictures as we usually do this year, so seeing some movement right before my trip was awesome. The weather forecast was an entirely different story. I knew it was going to be COLD and those early morning hunts were going to be tough. With my dad’s busy schedule, I only get so much time to hunt each year. The pressure is always on when it’s my turn to go. 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"Patience is a Virtue"

Been a tough season as I eluded to in my previous journal entry back in November!  You would have thought with colder temps ushering in that it might have changed the deer movement, but for the larger part it really hasn't.  Of course there is the exception...a Giant here or there may fall.  But for the most part the movment hasn't been quite what we had hoped for.  Just not seeing the deer numbers in general.  

Illinois has continued to be a tough state to figure out.  By all accounts (talking to other teams and reading articles regarding the topic) the state is down as a whole from year to date on harvest numbers.  With the 2nd Illinois shotgun season coming into play last week we were aiming to get even! 

This year we got in on a lease in Fulton Co IL and were extremely excited about the potential based on the Reconyx pics and sheds picked up.  The unfortunate part happened once EHD set in to the area during late summer.  Two years in a row pretty much wiped out the deer herd.  We still had a couple of "Jim Dandy's" as dad would say.  But just nockturnal as could be.  Main movement on the Reconyx cams was from 1-4am.  

What can you do, but go out and sit and hope that one decides to move daylight and feed with the extremely brutal temps.  They have to eat.  Just hope that it happens during daylight while you have a gun in hand :)  So we sat a Big Game Redemption Ground Blind on a picked corn field the farmer harvested about a week earlier and waited.....and waited.....and froze.....and waited.  See a pattern?  Lol.  Tough sits when you aren't seeing deer.  We had hunted our spot for 3 days of the 4 day season and saw next to zero deer.  

Meanwhile, over at Jim Thome's place he had killed an absolute giant on Saturday afternoon...giving us all hope that it might start kicking in!  The big cold front brought in snow on Sunday so dad and I decided to change plans and both sit on a 60 acre piece he owns (instead of me sitting the lease).  He had been hunting his 60 acres for the previous 3 days and hadn't really saw much.  But it was our last afternoon hunt so he took the box blind in the bottom field on the cut corn...and I got the top field on the picked beans and Biologic.  

It wasn't long and we started seeing deer as the snow was coming down.  I could tell it was going to be a good night.  We ended up seeing 25 or 30 deer between 2pm and last light...just happened to be in the right spot!  Well at 4:30pm this guy showed up with some does at the end of the field slowly feeding and as soon as I put my Nikon ProStaff's on him I knew he was a legitemit shooter!  Something I don't often get to say :)  I put the bino's down and picked up the Thompson Center Omega and proceeded to find him in my scope.  As soon as he stepped onto the field a little further and gave me a good broad side shot I stopped him and let the TC do the rest!  Dropped him right there and the rest was history.  

He had 13" G2's.  25" main beams, close to 20" spread and great mass measurments all the way through!  We kept adding and adding and I honestly couldn't beleive it when it all stopped.  A main frame 8 point that reaches the 160's is a giant.  I was ecstatic! 

My best deer to date by far and to do it after a fun weekend over at Lodge Two Five with dad, Dillon, Jim, Ryan, Koop and Timmy....was fun for all involved!  A lot of eating....a lot of strategizing....a ton of laughing and at the end of the 4 days we had two Illinois studs on the ground.  Couldn't ask for much more.  

Safe hunting to those of you still grinding it out!  Patience is a virtue...it can certainly happen.  Just try not to get too discouraged.  It can always turn around at any minute!  

-Matthew W. Drury 

 

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