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it was a crisp november day. the deep dry leaves crunched loudly as i walked the top on a long narrow ridge.

i was looking for signs of "old golden". that's an old term that i have come across meaning the biggest buck in the woods.

easing along slowly, i carried my bow. the climbing portable tree stand rode on my back.

getting to the top of the ridge with the equipment had taken a while. i took it in squirts so as not to get heated and break into a sweat which would give the advantage to the deer.

old golden has been a quest of mine for many years. hunting public ground, though, he is an extremely rare sight. i have been lucky enough to slap eyes on him a couple of times but never was able to get a "he's mine" kind of shot at him.

i have taken some bucks with the bow but "old golden" is old for a reason. sometimes the reason is luck, but then luck works both ways.

i was scouting in the shawnee national forest. this large expanse of timber lies in southern illinois and contains the last wilderness remaining in our state.

we have been going there for most of 20 years. every year knottybumpo, deadeye, their cousin steve and i would hunt there the week before the gun deer season. this particular year my brother dave had come along. we were going to have a great time.

i had been on this particular ridge only a couple of times in my life. the previous spring, during the turkey season, i had spotted some impressive rubs from the previous fall. at that time, i made plans to return and see if i could find signs of this particular buck.

so, here i was easing along looking for big buck sign.

i came to a dip in the ridge. one hundred yards further as the ridge climbed up again it tee'd into another long ridge.

there were several deer trails that were obvious and 4 or five scrapes. the scrapes were a sure sign of activity but what kind of bucks were checking them?

dropping the treestand from my back, i took a long look around. slowly, i cast my eyes around the brush looking at how the trails meandered through and for that white fresh peeled bark of a rub. there were some small trees in sight with rubs. i then turned around and looked back in the direction i had come. there it was. on a tree about 10" through was the large skinned marks i had been searching for.

there was thick brush on each side of this ridge with only the top being fairly clear. i did not want to sit on top of the ridge. it is the best place as far as the wind conditions go but stinks for offering broadside shots. the deer also has a good chance of spotting you on the skyline when they are coming up.

15 yards off the top of the ridge, there stood a tall straight pignut tree. the first branch was about 30 feet off the ground.

i walked to it and had a look around. most of the trails were above me. this was the best place i could see for an ambush.

i hung the treestand on the pignut tree. it being a climbing stand, i judged the diameter of the trunk up where i thought i would sit and then adjusted the band diameter accordingly.

as i looked toward the ridgetop, i could see that there was only one place i would be able to shoot an arrow through. i walked that direction and as i went i bent small trees to one side or another to widen the only shooting lane i had. the deer would have to walk through this lane or i couldn't shoot.

i hooked my bow to the reel on the climbing stand. as i climbed the huge pignut, the strap played out to the bow and arrows still on the ground.

i made it to the first limb and stopped to look around. i was about 30 feet over my bow and 15 feet over the ridgetop.

that would take care of the wind and the skylighting problems.

anchoring the stand, i then put on my safety belt and lastly pulled the bow and arrows up the tree. the fanny pack was strapped to the limb above me and i settled to wait for deer or darkness. the darkness came first.

in the dry crisp leaves, i could hear squirrels off in the distance. old golden would not be sneaking up on me without my knowing of it. i heard nothing that resembled a deer noise.

leaving the fanny pack up the tree i came down. my bow and quiver were placed under the platform to keep from having to lug all that stuff back up the hill in the morning. it was a least a mile back out to the road. as it was already dark, it was highly unlikely that anybody would stumble across my equipment before morning.

i hiked back to the truck in the darkness. when i got back, i was suprised to see a truck with arkansas plates parked next to mine. nobody was around so i decided to wait to see which direction the other hunter came in from. in a little while i saw a light coming from the same direction from which i had walked in from. shucks!

a lone hunter walked in. i introduced myself. he said he had seen me earlier in the day walking the ridge top and that he had a stand down on the bottom of the hollow.

as there was no vehicle parked there when i came in, i had no idea somebody else was hunting back there. also, as my stuff was still back there, i would have to go back in there in the morning. i made apologees for having messed up his hunting.

he replied that i was a long ways from him and he had been hoping i might run a big deer to him. he had been seeing a large buck but it kept avoiding him. sitting in that bottom, with all those shifting wind currents, i could see the problem.

i ask if he was coming back in the morning. he repled in the affirmative. his treestand was still back there. i informed him that i also had a stand back there and so must also return in the morning. he stated that we had no problems. the place is huge an i really had no idea how far our stands were from each other.

i went back to camp. the others were back and we related our observations relating to scouting for sign. as we were discussing the plans for the next morning, it became apparent that the others needed my truck. the plan was for them to drop me off and go on. that meant me getting there really early so they could get to where they needed to go early enough.

the next morning it was clear skies, windless and the temperature was in the teens. a perfect and rare ocurrance hunting whitetails in southern illinois.

knottybumpo and dave dropped me off at my hike in point. the other fella was there and had brought a friend. they walked off into the timber as i got out. now i was hunting with 2 people around me. i told the guys that if i wasn't back out to the pick up point by 12:00 noon that i would not be coming out until dark. they left.

i had all my really warm clothes in my arms. hunting in the cold means you must stay dry. walking back as far as i had to go with those clothes on would have sweated me up. so i carried them instead. walking slowly along, i tried to remain chilled. after getting back in the woods far enough, i started to climb to the ridge. walking slowly and stopping frequently i managed to keep cool. at one resting point , i spotted a light off in the distance. the light remained stationary so i figured to have somebody hunting within 200-300 yards from me. i was kind of put out that there were 2 of them. it's one of the reasons i like hunting this area. there is enough ground that nobody has to hunt close to one another. i made up my mind. i was pulling my stuff when i came out. i knew of other good places to hunt.

i took my time getting to my stand. when i did get there i rested up some. i then piled the clothes on the platform and took my sweet time climbing that tree as quietly as possible. at the top, i put on my warm clothes and got into my safety belt. that's easier said than done while 30 feet off the ground while on a small platform in the pitch dark.

when i was completely ready, i settled in to wait. there was absolutely no wind and any noise at all carried a great distance. when legal shooting time arrived i pulled the bow up the tree, nocked an arrow, put the bow in it's holder and clipped the bow quiver into it's clip on the side of the stand.

i sat perfectly still and could not hear a thing.the leaves were frosty. nothing could make a move on the ground without my hearing it.

knowing this , i sat up there with my eyes closed and straining my ears for the sounds of deer. squirrels went down to the ground and made bulldozer like sounds in those dry frosty leaves. i filtered those sounds out.

7:30 came. faintly, i heard a rhythmed cadence in the leaves. i couldn't tell the direction yet but the antennae were twitching!

i put the bow in my hand. the riser was freezing cold. the sound was steady and got louder. it was covering a lot of ground. this was no squirrel. it was a large 4 legged animal. the sound got louder still.

i stood and knocked the seat back out of the way. time to get anything noise related or any movement out of the way. i could now tell that the noise was working it's way up the back of the hill that came to the top of the ridge of the one that the one i was sitting on tee'd into. that meant that it was directly behind me.the treetrunk was between us. there would be no skylighting me.

i adjusted my safety belt so i could move and got into position to shoot to the only place i could. i still had not seen a deer but the conditions working against this animal would be working against me if i waited to identify it before getting ready.

the noise stopped only occasionally but was still getting louder and still coming in my directions. i had made up my mind it was a deer of some sort...but what sort.

when it broke the ridge line, i knew what sort. the beams were way out past its ears and there were "enough" points. it was "OLD GOLDEN" at long last. i have been waiting many a long year to make you acquaintence. please come closer.

he stopped at the top of the tee'd ridge and had a long look around. i knew the next step he made would decide the outcome. he had no way of knowing that i existed and i knew it. all now depended on yesterdays assumptions of what he might do if he showed up and some luck. watching him in the sunlight , it donned upon me that he was a perfectly symetrical 10 point with lots of mass. that's when the shakes started! oh...shucks!

he started toward me. it was apparent that if he kept coming, somewhere out in front of me i would have a shot at under 15 yards. i was in position to shoot but had not yet drawn the bow. the deer might stop for another look around and even though i was using a compound bow, i could not hold the thing at full draw indefinitely. the act of letting the bow down would flag the buck.

he started towards me slowly then switched trails. at 50 yards, i could tell he was going to come really close! there was one large tree between us at about 25 yards and when he passed behind it i came to full draw.

he started to walk more quickly as if he had made up his mind about something. i was looking at the only spot i had to shoot. if he got through there with out my shooting i would not get another chance. i caught him in my peripheral vision and thought that he was moving more quickly. he was going to pass only five yards from the base of the tree and broadside to boot! the shakes were gone. determination had set in. i held on the interception point. the shot angle was very steep and the buck never stopped. he was going to pass very quickly through my shooting lane.

as his chest cavity came into the opening, i put my sight pin on the appropriate spot and released. it being a five yard shot from 30 feet up, the arrow had very little flight time. i could only catch a blurred movement.


the arrow struck and in less time than i can write it down, the buck turned straight away running over the ridge top and out of sight. that's when the shakes returned.

it was supposed to be perfect. it wasn't. i had not lead the deer at all, it being so close. an arrow is nowhere as fast as a bullet. the arrow had hit about 6" further back than i had planned. the shaft was sticking in the ground below me. i tried to tell myself that it was alright, being pretty sure it was good enough for a liver hit. the shot as i could remember it had hit at the back of the ribs.

i eventually got to the ground. on examining the shaft, i found it covered in dark red blood with grease readily apparent. there was also a spray of white belly hair all over the ground.

i eased over slowly to the other side of the ridge. there were drops of red blood on the leaves. the buck had run down into the hollow which contained the other hunter. i stood at the edge and listened. pure silence is all i heard.

had the other hunter seen the buck? he would have been deaf not to have heard it if the deer ran down toward him. was the other hunter even still down there?

the country i was hunting was tough with lots of high ridges. at this point, i suspected the deer was laying down or dead in the bottom of that hollow. the flat bottom of the hollow went all the way out to the road. finding it dead down there sure would make getting it back to the road much easier.

the problem was that i wasn't absolutely sure what kind of hit i had made. it was definitely a lethal hit. but how soon would it get to the lethal point. if i was correct about the liver shot then the buck was already dead. failing in that, it would be much better to wait 3-4 hours. if i jump a gut-shot deer , he may not lay up again, would cross several ridges that i would have to drag it back over, or may get away from me altogether.

i was in a fix. the buck would be laying close by no matter which hit i made. i had serious doubts that he was more than 150 yards from where i now stood and if i started down that hill, he may jump and run.

i was tempted to shout down to see if the other hunter was there and might have seen it. i thought better of it. it was early yet and if he was still there, i didn't like the idea of spoiling his morning hunt. again, the buck might spook at the shout.

thinking of all the things i knew for sure with 20 years of bowhunting experience, i knew what i must do. what i had to do was not even close to what i wanted to do. seldom are those two things the same.

i had to sit and wait. i had waited many years to get a chance at a buck like this and it was important to do it right.

i assumed the worst scenario to be on the safe side and alotted 3 hours of waiting. 3 hours of waiting would be tough but i had spent 100's of hours sitting in treestands waiting for this moment.

i eased back up to my treestand and just sat on the platform with my feet on the ground.

after an hour a little 6 pointer came to the scrapes. he came in, freshened them and left. he was awful close but never spotted me.

the 3 hours finally crawled by. i eased over the hill and started tracking. going slowly along on one side of the bloodtrail, i started down the steep hill toward the bottom.

the buck was sliding a lot on the way down. there were drops of blood here and there. it was not as much blood as i had expected. there were bits of fat on occasion. i realised that some of the internals had probably gotten down in there and plugged the exit hole and that most of the blood was going to remain inside.
that was going to make tracking tougher. that fact made me glad i waited the 3 hours.

i went very slowly and kept watching way out in front of me hoping to spot the buck, if it's head was up, before it might jump and run.

the buck made it to the bottom of the hill and started down the hollow toward the road. i would have felt much better about that fact, if i hadn't known that, that is where i knew one of the other hunters was. i tried to track a little faster.

another 150 yards from the bottom of the hill, i found it. there was a perfect 3 blade cut through the center of the liver from my wasp high tech broadhead. problem was, the carcass was missing! i was only looking at the gutpile. the largely noticable drag marks were headed for the road.

i had never felt so disgusted with another human being in my life as i did at that moment.

i knew where they were heading and that they had a good head start thanks to all that waiting i had done.

i took of at a dog trot heading for the road. to say i was upset would be understating it.
when i got out to the road it happened to be 12:00 noon. knottybumpo and dave were still there waiting for me.

"you just missed seeing a big old buck", they told me.

no. i saw it this morning at 5 yards. it's just that after i shot it i never saw it again! those guys stole it from me.

they had a hard time with that. they had offered to drag it the last several hundred yards to the truck and the thieves were more than happy for the help.

the people i hunted with had an extremely difficult time believing that somebody would want a deer that they didn't shoot. that's why i hunt with them. they are honorable men. they have nothing to be sorry for. they were being helpful to what they thought were decent bowhunters.

the thieves took the deer to the check station and legally registered it. our dnr informed me that their rules say that the deer belongs to whoever tags it.

the check station took a picture of the thief with the buck. there is no excitement or smile on his face. there is no pride of accomplishment there. just some sleazy guy holding some dead deer horns.

knottybumpo told me he thought the bucks rack might have scored in the 170's and a perfect 10 points. i envy his getting to handle them.

i will never forget how he looked on that crisp november morning with the sun glinting off those white tipped antlers and the steam blowing from his nose.

i have written this story for myself. i consider it a sort of exorcism. it's been several years since this occurance and i have lost the great desire i used to have for deer hunting. i have gone back to hunting squirrels. nobody wants your squirrels.

Premium Member
596 Posts
Like Gunjunkie would say, thats lower than whale shit for someone to do that. :evil:
Good Story


Premium Member
14,841 Posts

If it is any consolation to you we have lots of poachers and ner-do-wells around where I deer hunt. For some reason most years we seem to acquire another rifle or two. They just hand em over. :mrgreen:. Sometimes there are no rifles because they say they were just looking at the deer. Most of those times we just let them go and we go in and trail where they went and usually find their rifles buried under some leaves. :mrgreen: Freekin scum!!!

Dave :)

Premium Member
440 Posts
I really enjoyed reading your adventure. It makes me feel as though I was right there in the woods with you while I am reading the details.

Your story brought back some unpleasant memories that I had about 15 years ago. Our hunting property is located basically on a lake where the US Corp of Engineers own a border of land around this entire lake and the width of their ownership depends on the lay of the land based on a certain sea-level reading for the lakebed. This lake has over 1200 miles of shoreline and is one of the largest fresh water lakes east of the Mississippi. In certain areas of our property, the lake is only 100 feet from the corner of our property, whereas, on another corner, it is about 1/4 to 1/2 mile to the actual lake. On the back end of our property, there is a powerline right-of-way that splits the Corp property from ours. I knew this was a funnel area for deer to go out to the waters edge during the night and come back and bed down in the swamp on our property during the daytime. Well, I set up a stand on the edge of this powerline and made sure that I was in it well before day break. It was about 20 degrees that morning and I froze my butt off within about 2 hours. I decided to ease down and walk very slowly down the right-of-way just to get my blood pumping again. Well as soon as I got on the ground, I heard a lot of running noises coming right to me from down by the lake area. I then saw several deer coming and by the time I shouldered my 444, a large buck ran across the opening only about 30 yards from me. I used the see through mounts and fired trying to lead the deer just a little. Well, the deer was running full speed but when I fired, it fell forward about 10 feet and immediately came right back up and continued running wildly into the heavy woods. I saw a large blood trail as it began so I thought the deer would not go very far at all. I realized that I had shot lower than I wanted too but because of the large amount of blood, I felt sure that I would find it dead quickly. I decided to wait a little while so I walked back to my truck and got inside to get warmed up. After about 30 minutes, I went back to the spot and began following the blood trail in earnest. I knew that it was a really nice buck with a good set of antlers. As I continued trailing, I found several places where the deer had stopped and bled small puddles. During this time, someones dog jumped the deer and started barking and really spooked it. I actually saw the dog and the deer on two occasions while trailing but I could not get off another killing shot. I trailed this deer through thick woods, across an open pasture, more thick woods, and finally after over 1 1/2 miles, I realized that the deer was going to cross a paved road. I was only about 1/4 mile behind it at the time but I heard the sudden sound of screeching brakes and doors slamming on a vehicle. I didn't realize what had happened at first but when I got the to edge of the woods and the paved road I saw the last bit of blood and saw when someone had dragged "MY" deer out of the ditch and loaded it in a pick-up and made a U-turn in the ditch and Hauled ass once they slammed the doors. I could only tell that it was a very shiny black colored pick-up and I surely didn't know of anyone that had that same truck in the area. I had trailed this deer for 3 hours total and was getting very tired and hot by this time. Needless to say, I never found out who took my deer even though I tried for several years to try to locate the culprit. I guess there was someone out there that may have wanted my deer more than I did. I hunted on that same right-of-way many other times afterwards but I learned a really neat way to get the deer to stop and look around while they were in the opening. I would Whistle as loud as I could and even if the deer were running, they would stop and look for the sound. I learned to whistle VERY LOUD when I was a teenager but I never thought quickly enough on the day above. Over the years, I have killed 25-30 deer because I whistled and made them stop long enough for a shot. I am sure the culprits were lucky that I was still too far behind to see what was really going on. Otherwise, I could probably see the headlines from the courtroom now, "Judge, I swear to you that my 444 just jumped out of my hands and somehow blasted that BIG hole completely through that shiny black truck".

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