Every good hunter knows how to translate observational data into a strategy. As the clock wound down on the Illinois muzzleloader season, that’s exactly what JJ did.

Reconyx trail cameras were showing three good deer moving late on a farm belonging to JJ’s buddy Chris. The bucks were coming to a field of standing and cut corn near a creek bottom so JJ focused his time during the short three day muzzleloader season there.

On the evening of the second day of season, JJ saw some does enter the field with one of his target bucks. His Leupold range finder calculated the deer at 220 yards away…a little further than he’d consistently shot his Traditions muzzleloader at the time. The night ended without any other opportunities, so JJ made plans to hit the range (his backyard) the next and final day of the season to stretch out his effective distance with the gun.

His practice session yielded solid results and the confidence to take the longer shot he believed would be required to put a good hit on this deer.

JJ slipped into his blind at 2:45 pm on the last day of season. Waiting and watching, he knew if the buck came out, it would likely be just before dark.  On cue, at 4:55 pm, the buck stepped out.  He ranged him at 220 yards and shouldered his Traditions at the deer.  With the buck quartering away hard, he held just behind his last rib and pulled the trigger.  The sabot slammed into the deer, traveling through the entirety of his chest cavity. He bolted to the cover of the creek bottom 50 yards away then toppled over.

In the short time he had during the season, JJ took the intel he gathered on one sit to prep for his next and final hunt. Instead of simply hoping a scenario would unfold that he could capitalize on, he readied himself for what he believed would be the actual situation. As a result, he notched his tag on a mature buck just before the season closed. The hunt would likely not have been a success without that preparation, or the graciousness and help of his buddy Chris who welcomes him onto his farm.

As told to Tim Kjellesvik.