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Hunting With A Twist

By Derrick Dewilde

Sharing stories of the hunt with friends is something us hunters are very good at.  We have this uncanny ability to recall every single detail of a particular journey.  As an audience member, we tend to put ourselves in the shoes of the story teller as they begin to unfold the details of the hunt being shared.  And our imagination can sure conjure up some pretty amazing animals when we hear the following, “This buck is bigger than any buck on my wall!”, or, “You should have seen the size of this buck!”, and my favorite, “This buck had points going everywhere!”  I can tell that with my boundless imagination, my friends have encountered some bucks that would make the world record look like a spike! 

It seems like nothing out there can beat a good hunting tale!  Or, is there?  What if I told you I can show you this buck that got away as soon as I am done telling you my story?  That’s right, hunting tales with a twist!
It seems like nowadays, there are a multitude of hunters that take a video camera to the woods as often as they take their grunt call.  I can tell you for me, it has been an experience like no other.  Now, not only can I tell my stories, but I can show my buddies my hunting experience too!  Unlike a good book that has a movie to follow (the books are always better than the movie).  The movie in this case is the “twist” to the hunting tale and almost always just as good, if not better than the story!

I am going to take you back to the 2007/2008 hunting season in Illinois.    I was at a point in my hunting career where I was either going to hunt with a camera man or be the camera man.  Capturing hunts on video to me is the ultimate hunting experience. 

It was one of the hottest and driest years in Illinois that I could remember and it made for an extremely tough year!  I can remember a couple hunts in which my camera man and I headed out into the woods in shorts and no shirt, packing our clothes in our bags, packing in Ziploc bags filled with scent killer soapy water and washcloths and not dressing until we were in our tree and washed down.  One of those evening hunts I think it was 98 degrees and we came extremely close to pulling off a shot on a buck that still had over half his velvet hanging off his rack, which is extremely rare in IL for October!

I also remember another hunt in November during the rut the same year in which we had a super nice 3 year old come from over 300 yards across a corn field and absolutely destroy my decoy that was set out in front of us.

I would have to say my most memorable hunt of that year though was when I was filming my brother during shotgun season.  I had just purchased a piece of ground with some family members and we were all eager to enjoy some great deer hunting!  Again, it was extremely warm for mid November and I actually remember whacking some mosquitoes on this hunt!  We had set up on the edge of our small island that morning hoping to catch a buck cruising.  We had a huge group of turkeys fly down in front of us out on the sand bar and I could not believe they were gobbling and struttin around like it was April!pic_3.jpg

We didn’t have to sit there long when we caught a buck cruising our way across the sandbar.  We recognized this buck off of our trail camera pictures and knew right away it was the “SBB” (SBB for short)!  We had this buck at 80 yards and a doe decoy out 60 yards in front of us.  All he did was look at the decoy and continue on his journey.  Sure, 80 yards is well within the reach of the ole’ 12 gauge shotgun, but too much brush between my brother and the deer prevented a shot.  We both felt fortunate enough just to have this buck within range of our set up, although a fatal shot would have been even better at the time!

I told you the above story to set up the 2008/2009 season.  For me it was the first time I could tell the story of a successful hunt and be able to show it as well.
The SBB was back again for a second round.  I was able to watch this buck on countless evenings and a few mornings during the summer of 2008.  I can’t begin to tell you how many thermacell refills I went through that summer, but I know I watched him for more than 20 hours that summer and recorded some great velvet footage.

We have a unique piece of property that actually has a 600 acre island a few hundred yards across a sand bar, which is actually considered Missouri property.  Our plan was to hunt this buck on that island, since that is where he came from every evening and returned to every morning.  Also, Missouri starts their bow season on Sept 15th, which meant a greater chance of this buck staying on his summer feeding pattern.  Most of us IL hunters know that any day within those last 2 weeks of September can bring upon a food source change.  With that, all your summer scouting efforts and dreams of that perfect stand site along a food source can leave you scratching your head wondering what to do next.

pic_4.jpgThis buck stayed on that feeding pattern right up until the point where hurricane Ike came in and dumped over 10 inches of rain in the Midwest and the Mississippi river was busting at the seams!  It flooded our entire piece of ground, therefore washing away our plan just 2 days before the season opener!  Talk about disappointment!  I had a MO tag burning a hole in pocket and I had this buck on a pattern that even I couldn’t mess up. 

Now it was a waiting game.  The river needed to get back to normal so the deer could do the same. 
On October 19th, my camera man and great friend Trent headed down to the property for an all day hunt.  We saw 12 bucks that morning, but all were a ½ mile away and none looked to be old enough to try and coax into our set up.  By 11am, things slowed down to a snails pace and nothing was moving, so we decided to get down, grab our sack lunch and take a nap on the beach. 

After we awoke and filled our bellies, it was time to seek out a new spot for the afternoon hunt.  On our way back to pick up our stands that we had left near our morning spot, Trent noticed a heavy trail that was full of big tracks.  This was the same trail the bucks were using in the summer so we decided to set up our stand at this location.  I felt a bit sorry for Trent as he had to trim nearly 20 limbs in order for us to get up the only tree we felt would work.
We hadn’t seen a deer until the last 30 minutes of light, when we heard the unmistakable sound of deer walking and out of nowhere, two bucks began to emerge out of the dense cover.  The first buck I recognized right away as a 3 ½ year old 9 point that traveled with the SBB all summer.  Boy was I eager to see what the second deer was that followed.  The bucks head popped out from behind some foliage and I knew immediately that it was the very buck we came in there for. 

Both bucks worked our way to within 5 yards of the tree we were set up in.  SBB made a scrape right underneath us and I swear at one point, our eyes met up as I was at full draw looking down on him.  I hoped I wouldn’t have to take that shot straight down, but if he would have given me a funny look, my pin was in place and my finger was on the trigger.

I couldn’t communicate with my camera man because the deer was just too close to even whisper.  I just had to hope he was getting this all on film. 
After his scrape, he looked over at the 9 point and let out a snort wheeze.  That made the 9 point nervous!  He was already on pins and needles because he was standing right next to all the limbs we cut down and I had stacked behind our tree. 

I was praying the 9 point would not snort and take off because we know mature bucks don’t stick around to find out where the danger is.  They prefer to bolt back to where it was safe and live to see another day!

Well, the 9 point made his way past SBB and down the steep embankment and SBB was getting ready to do the same.  As he took a few steps towards the same embankment, I made a slight grunt with my mouth and he stood in his tracks just 8 yards out and I let the arrow fly! 

With a quartering away shot, I thought this buck would be down within 80 yards of where I shot him.  We waited for a good 20 minutes before climbing back down and both went to check out the arrow.  We had great bright red blood, but I also noticed some liver matter on the arrow.  We picked up the blood trail anyway as we felt very confident in the hit.  It took until the following morning to retrieve him and although the coyotes got to him first, it was a great accomplishment and I was full of mixed emotions.  On one hand, it was a hunt of a lifetime to me and on the other hand I was going to miss this buck and our 2 year journey.



One thing is for sure, this makes for a great story to tell around the camp fire!  I am sure that most of you have been imagining yourself in the tree with me, living out the details as I had lived them.  For those who want the twist, the video turned out great and I imagine you will find it just as good, if not better than the story!  Being on TV was never my goal, sharing my hunting stories with a twist on the other hand is a dream come true!