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Frank Lyerla’s 11-pointer

January 17, 2008

Illinois hunting and fishing

Trophy Tidbits

Scorable Points: 11

Kill Date: January 17, 2008

County: Greene

Season: Bow

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here in the words of Bethalto bowhunter Frank Lyerla is the story of his hunt for an 11-point Greene County buck.

It was the last day of the 2007 archery season (Thursday, January 17th) and I had planned on one last evening hunt in Greene County.

However, things were working against me making out that night. A meeting that was scheduled in the morning was delayed until noon. Luckily it ended early and I was able to rush home trying to beat the sun.

I made it to the private farm I had permission to hunt on with about three hours of light left. It was cold and windy. I had hunted this exact spot the week prior and did not see a single deer. The tree my climber was in was an oak about 10 yards form the corner edge of a corn field. I was set up 30 feet high and had a perfect wind. 

After a few practice shots I was dialed in and ready! After two and one half hours the sun began to set. I was extremely cold, my legs and feet were numb. I was worried that my last day of the 2007 season would end without even seeing a deer. 

I said a quick prayer asking God to send a doe, or something my way (I really wanted an encounter if not a shot). Well as it got darker I began to think about getting down. However, my legs were so numb I was afraid I would fall if I tried to stand. I started wiggling my toes trying to get some blood to them before starting my descent. 

Then minutes before losing legal shooting light I spotted a doe (or possibly two) on the ridge walking towards me. They were about 50 yards away and would not come closer if they stayed on the trail they were on. I often use my climber in a tree that is on the trail the does were on and began to think I had selected the wrong tree! 

I know deer have a way of sneaking up on you and I knew deer often walked up from the valley my stand was positioned near. I also knew from experience that when you see one deer there are often several other deer in the immediate area. I looked all around and saw nothing. Then one of the does began to walk towards me very slowly and then stopped 45 yards away. 

As I hoped for a shot I suddenly heard something coming from the valley that caused the doe to stop. I turned and saw a big buck walking up the hill towards the does about 30 yards from the base of my tree stand. I remember noticing that the buck’s antlers were thick at the bases. I remember thinking he’s a shooter, possibly Pope and Young even though his tines appeared short. 

I expected them to be larger since his bases were so large. Being this late in the season I figured some tines might have been broke from fighting. As I positioned myself for the shot the buck continued to walk up the hill presenting me a broadside shot. As I began to lift my bow the buck stopped and turned his head in my direction. 

The wind and my elevation prohibited him from smelling me. After a few seconds the buck lowered his head and started walking up the hill. The shot was now or never. There was a bunch of thick brush that would prevent an ethical shot after a couple more steps. 

Given the low light level I knew every second counted. 

I could not stand since my legs were still numb, so I pulled the string and acquired the buck in my sights as he was quartering away from me up the hill and out of range. My eyes had teared up from the wind causing a blur as I looked through my glasses and peep sight. I didn’t have time to clear my eyes, so I blinked fast giving me just enough sight to place my first pin on the buck’s vitals and release the arrow just before the buck disappeared behind the thick brush.

I remember seeing the arrow hit the deer in the crease just in front of the back leg. I distinctly remember hearing the thwack an arrow makes as it penetrates a deer’s body. The deer jumped and ran up the hill (past the brush) and then back down the hill toward the valley. He slowed as he reached the bottom, that’s where I lost sight of him. 

I knew the shot was not one of my best, but hoped the quartering away angle played to my advantage. Strangely the feeling had returned to my legs and I was able to climb down the tree.

I quickly walked to the site of the shot to look for my arrow before all light was gone. I was so excited to see the arrow sticking out of the ground covered in what I assumed to be dark liver blood. Knowing it was better to back out I returned to my truck and went home for a sleepless night.

The next morning I returned with my cousin and found the largest buck of my life about 150 yards from my stand. After the adrenaline surge I began to get very worried!  What would happen when I checked in my buck the day after the season ended!

After tagging it I returned home and called the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to explain my situation. I spoke with an official and offered to bring the deer to their office so he could verify the deer had been shot the previous day (the deer was frozen solid). He commended my ethics but stated that it was not necessary. 

I wrote down his name and the specifics of our conversation any way. The magnificent buck grossed 171 2/8 inches and netted 162 2/8.  His tines were not broke or short they only appeared that way during the hunt because he had such great mass!

He will now live forever on my wall and in the Pope and Young and Boone and Crockett record books.

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