Dave Emken’s 17-pointer
Scorable Points: 17
Kill Date: Nov. 3, 2007
Dave Emken had an ache in his gut for weeks last fall.
While bowhunting the evening of Oct. 12, Emken watched eagerly as a huge buck walked within 20 yards of his tree stand. A veteran archer, Emken pulled back on his compound bow and loosed an arrow.
“It was a perfect shot,” he said.
Then all that was right went wrong. Emken’s shot hit too high in the shoulder and the big deer bolted. The Yates City taxidermist tracked all night until light failed. Then he rose early and tracked again, enlisting friends to help in the effort.
But the blood trail ended. The biggest buck he’d ever shot was gone.
“I figured he was going to die in a cornfield,” Emken said. “I was depressed. Then I thought maybe he was still alive.”
Through all the pondering, Emken lost some of his urge to hunt. Briefly. Then in a few days bow season went from depressing to outstanding.
First, Emken’s son Ed saw a massive non-typical buck with a wound on its shoulder walk past in the timber.
The big buck was alive.
Better yet, a few days later on the morning of Nov. 3, Emken came face to face with another Knox County monster.
“I never thought I would get a shot,” he said. “They were just out there for about a half-hour and too far to shoot. Finally, a group of five does came by, chased by a young buck. They came right by my stand, and eventually the doe came in off the cornfield. The big buck followed her, and eventually he worked in close enough for a 15-yard shot. I got a great hit and watched him go down.”
“He was dogging a doe and the little sweetheart decided to walk past my stand for no reason other than chance,” Emken said. “And he followed right by just 15 yards away.”
This time Emken’s shot was perfect. The buck ran 30 yards before falling — culminating a long process of scouting and then hunting.
Emken had become aware of this buck by finding shed antlers that grossed 199 inches. Those sheds actually prompted him to buy the 30-acre farm on which he thought the deer lived.
“I just bought the farm last winter,” Dave said. “I spent the late winter and early spring walking it, hanging stands and figuring out how I was going to hunt it come fall. And then I stayed out of there until late October.”
“The main reason I bought the ground is because I knew he was there,” said Emken, who has both sides of shed antlers from the buck for the past two years. Last year’s sheds netted 199 6/8 inches and in 2005 they were 178 inches
“My son had seen him in each of the last two seasons, and so had a couple of other guys,” Emken said. “But I couldn’t lay eyes on him for anything.”
Sightings continued all summer and fall until Emken finally felled the brute, which was one of at least four Boone and Crockett Club qualifiers killed in Knox County last fall — an amazing total when you consider all 102 Illinois counties typically produce 40-50 Booners that are measured at the Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic.
Emken’s big 17-pointer field dressed at 255 pounds, grossed 209 6/8 inches and earned an official score of 201 5/8 inches.
After years of working on trophy bucks for other hunters, Emken, 59, finally had a Booner of his own to mount.
But what if his other shot had been true? Had he downed both bucks, Emken would have become possibly the first bowhunter in Boone and Crockett annals to shoot two 200-inch bucks in one season.
While that chance is gone, the opportunity for back-to-back Booners is very alive. This winter Emken found one shed from the 20-pointer he missed and a farmer found another.
Those non-typical sheds netted 210 inches. One side was 101 inches on its own, up from 78 inches the year before. Given another year of similar antler growth, the buck could easily reach 230 inches.
And he’s been spotted back in his original territory. No wonder the Oct. 1 archery opener can’t come soon enough for Emken.
“I have a good chance at him,” he said. “But so do other people near me. That’s the game you play every fall.”