As a bowhunter, there are a few places that ignite my imagination upon hearing their names. One area that strikes me to the core and immediately puts the daydream of a giant buck ripping up a ground scrape on the edge of a cut cornfield is Pike County, Illinois. The legendary county, known for producing many record-book bucks, has grown in popularity over the last 30 years. The confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers provide incredibly fertile soil, leading to the transfer of optimal nutrition for bucks to develop racks superior to most places across North America.
In addition to particular places being well known for hunting big deer, there are also current and past names known for targeting big bucks. One of those names that have been well known, but is still increasing in popularity is “Lindsey.” David and Jeff Lindsey, that is, well known as the hosts of their show, “The Lindsey Way,” (Sportsman Channel) and from their massive success while filming for several seasons of “Dream Season,” produced by Drury Outdoors. The father-son duo made their marks as winners of that show multiple years.
The Lindseys have created an incredible reputation in the outdoors industry for growing and holding giant deer on their properties in multiple states. Their discipline as hunters in passing countless amounts of bucks that haven’t reached their potential is displayed year after year on their show. Their effort as GameKeepers often produces luscious fruits of their labor in the form of growing and holding giant bucks. They know dirt and deer as well as anyone in the industry.
I had the personal and professional pleasure of sharing a Mossy Oak turkey camp with Jeff in May of 2018. Jeff and I were hunting the beautiful state of Wyoming, near Devil’s tower. During our time together, Jeff and I were able to strengthen the relationship we already had. We each had a great hunt. After the hunt, we went our separate ways. We touched base again in September when Jeff proposed I join him and David on Jeff’s farm in Pike County. It was one of those invitations that didn’t require checking the calendar or requesting anyone’s permission. Bowhunting in late October in Pike County on Jeff Lindsey’s dirt, I’m there.
We were hunting Jeff’s farm, well known by airline pilots and Illinois River ferry captains as Pilot Bluff. This landmark serves as a geographical reference point for navigation as it is the highest point between Chicago and St. Louis. The farm is 1300 acres of the prettiest combination of grain fields, hardwood trees, and creek bottoms. It serves as the perfect blend of habitat for the many whitetail deer and turkeys that call it home.
I arrived at Jeff’s camp on Tuesday, October 22. The leaves were near the peak of their color change. The sights would've served for the perfect of Outside magazine. I did my best to greet my host with gifts I hoped would express my appreciation. Anyone that follows the Lindseys on social media knows that they have become “experts” in the category of hunting snacks, or as they have coined it, #snacksforracks. What started as a joke has gone viral for most hunters on social media. My gifts included a massive tray, loaded with several cookie varieties, a hefty lunchmeat tray, and a box full of chips. My gifts were well received, and my access to his best hunting spots was granted. The way to Jeff Lindsey’s heart is #snacksforracks.
After making a few adjustments to my bow following my 8-hour drive, we didn’t waste much time before we were strategizing for that evening’s hunt. Jeff was going to put me over a food plot planted in BioLogic’s Deer Radish. I saw 12 deer, including a mature 8-point, and a beautiful 3.5-year old 10-point with incredible potential. My hopes were high with colder weather on the way.
The next morning was a bit on the slow side for deer movement, but I did shoot a doe to take home and make my wife and daughter their favorite venison recipe. I also wanted to help Jeff out with the relatively high deer density on his farm. Jeff also shot a doe that morning, so we celebrated each other’s success and shared our individual stories.
The second evening, on the way to our spots, I told Jeff I had a feeling one of us was going to kill one during the upcoming sit. I had a superstitious belief I’ll explain in a future story and felt an overwhelming sensation that great things were to come.
Jeff had me sitting over what was remaining of a BioLogic Final Forage food plot. It was very apparent that Jeff’s herd highly preferred the blend. There wasn’t much forage left of the 3-acre food source as the deer had already eaten most of it. The secluded food plot is located below two hardwood ridges. The long and narrow (50 yards wide) field served as a staging area for the deer before they went to their primary destination field of standing corn to my south in the Illinois river bottoms. The northwest wind made it to where any deer on the field would have to walk past my location, well within my bow range, before possibly being able to smell me. It was perfect!
After settling in and waiting for an hour, the field began to fill with deer. The parade started with several does and a combination of small bucks. With about 90 minutes until dark, the attention of every deer was consumed by the arrival of a mature buck. While some brush obscured my initial view of the buck, I could tell by the behavior of every deer and the respect they gave the buck that he was king of that area. I continued to catch short glimpses of the buck as he worked several ground scrapes on the field’s edge. Once he worked his scrapes, he began scent-checking the does and pushing the younger bucks. At this point, there were about 15 deer on the field, six of which were bucks, and the remainder does.
I watched the Illinois brute for about 30 minutes, but he wasn’t getting any closer than 100 yards. At that point, I heard more deer as they were about to enter the side of the food plot I was on. It was a 3-1/2-year-old 10-point and a 2-1/2-year-old 8-point. These two bucks made their way out into the field and began to feed 30 yards from me. Suddenly, the big buck I was watching followed up two deep and bold grunts with a very aggressive roar and began stomping his way directly at his two new competitors in the field.
The juvenile bucks near me cautiously walked toward the mature buck and met up with him 45 yards from me. The mature buck postured at his inferior rivals, and they wisely honored his dominance over them. I knew the buck was within my effective range. After confirming a quick yardage reading, I quickly gathered my composure by taking a deep breath and visualizing the exact sight picture I wanted. The big buck began calmly eating on the BioLogic blend and stood perfectly broadside to me. I came to full draw and felt a sense of calmness while aiming at a level I had never experienced before shooting an animal. My ideal shot I envisioned was to place my 40-yard pin at the top of the buck’s heart. I figured if he didn’t duck my shot, my arrow would hit his heart, and if he ducked, it would take out his lungs.
My aim was steady, and my shot was clean. My eyes remained focused on the exact spot I wanted to hit, and upon its arrival, I watched my arrow smack into the stationary target. The “Thwack” I heard reinforced the positive impact I saw. I knew the hit was perfect as the buck bolted out of the field. I watched the buck scramble as he ran a quarter of a circle around me and crashed into a ditch. I knew he quickly expired after about a 90-yard chaotic run.
I waited until after dark for Jeff and David to arrive, along with their camera guys, Kyle Karcher and Colin Ortmeier. Knowing exactly where the buck crashed, I took them straight to the prize. Upon recovery, it took me a while to grasp what was happening. I didn’t understand how big the buck was, both in body or rack size. The deer in Pike County are much larger than the southeastern Missouri Ozark deer I grew up hunting. The buck’s total weight was 271 pounds, and Jeff scored him at a gross score of 156 inches, tying him for my biggest buck ever.
I spent the next two days taking two more does. While on my doe mission, I had an excellent encounter with another Pike County stud. My only wish is that one of my hosts was in the blind with me and their unfilled buck tags. The gorgeous buck worked multiple ground scrapes and pushed two does past my blind at 24 yards.
When hunting with David and Jeff Lindsey and spending several days with them in camp, I had several lessons either taught or reinforced to me.
“If you build it, he will come.”
The Lindseys taught me that to effectively grow, hold, and kill mature whitetails, it is crucial to be the best GameKeeper you can be. Every square inch of the Lindseys’ dirt serves a purpose to grow and hold a healthy deer herd. Get to know your land and do what it takes to fulfill its potential.
“It’s God’s land, and he has blessed us to be stewards of it during our time here.”
I have heard words like these come out of the mouths of both David and Jeff. They are God-fearing men that place the Lord and their families before anything else in life. If you don’t have an intimate relationship with your Creator and spend time with the loved ones He has blessed you with, nothing else matters.
Keep it fun!
David and Jeff both have great senses of humor and carry out their respective roles as husbands, dads, being a grandfather (David), and being GameKeepers with spirits of excellence. They reinforced to me that life and hunting are all about making the most out of what you have. They reminded me that surrounding yourself with those you love and those that love you is an essential priority to experiencing pure joy. Also, they taught me that regardless of the circumstances, whether good, bad, or ugly, there is always room for joy and laughter. Keep it fun!
If you don’t already watch “The Lindsey Way,” set your DVR to their Sportsman Channel time slot(s), and stream their videos now on Mossy Oak GO, they will make you a better hunter, better GameKeeper, and a better human.
My most sincere appreciation goes out to Jeff, David, their family, and the team (Kyle and Colin). They all played critical roles in making this bowhunter’s dream come true. They all reinforced the significance of The Golden Rule to me and to be the best I can be in every life role I have and every responsibility I carry.
That’s “The Lindsey Way.”