with Ernie Calandrelli
My favorite way to bowhunt deer is with a grunt call, because I like to see how the bucks react to it. If you talk to an avid duck hunter, you know that his biggest thrill is seeing a flight of ducks high in the air, being able to call those birds out of the sky and having them come into gun range as they prepare to land in the decoys. This feeling is the same one I get when I blow a grunt call, and a buck comes to me.
I've never taken a monster buck in Illinois, but I've taken quite a few bucks that would score 140 in Illinois. The biggest buck I've ever taken in Illinois was the thirteenth buck I had seen on an early-morning hunt. I don’t care who you are or where you hunt. When you see that many nice bucks in a single morning’s hunt, you’ve had a great day, regardless of what happens the rest of the day.
The place I found to put up my tree stand had what I call a “main hub scrape.” Each one of the bucks that came in that morning went to that scrape about 30 yards from me and worked it. It was up the hill on the edge of an old logging road from me. I had placed my tree stand in this same area the year before, and I had seen some bucks there. When I was walking in to my stand site the first morning, I spotted a big, fresh scrape. The ground was torn-up and was about the circumference of half the hood of a pickup truck. I walked well around the scrape, so I wouldn’t leave my scent. Then I got in my stand. As soon as I got settled in my stand, I started seeing a parade of bucks.
I was only in the stand for about an hour or two before this big-bodied, 140-class buck arrived. He was almost right under me when I took the shot. I always aim in the lower third of the deer, since a buck often will drop down if he hears a bow fire. By aiming at the lower third of the deer’s body, if he doesn’t drop down to spring or jump, the arrow still will hit him in the kill zone. If the buck does drop down to jump, I’ll generally center punch him with my arrow.
I could tell by the body language of this buck that he was somewhat nervous and unsure of what was going on before I took the shot. I didn’t know whether he would drop down at the sound of the bow or not. But for me, aiming at the lower third of a buck has always paid off. My arrow hit the deer perfectly, and the buck only went 30 or 40 yards after I hit him.
Of the 13 bucks I saw that morning, this buck was the biggest one. In most other states, several of the bucks I passed on would have been shooters.