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Frank Lyerla’s 8-pointer

November 21, 2008

Illinois hunting and fishing

Trophy Tidbits

Scorable Points: 8

Kill Date: Nov. 21, 2008

County: Union

Season: Shotgun

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here in the words of Bethalto gun hunter Frank Lyerla is the story of his hunt for a big 8-point buck.

In 2007 I had scouted out an area on a hilltop about three-quarters of a mile from the nearest road in the Shawnee National Forest. I saw a young 3-pointer during the second season and figured it would be a great spot for an all day first shotgun season hunt in 2008, which is exactly what I did. 

Planning to stay on stand all day I packed heavy. I packed in my old comfortable but heavy 30-pound Summit Viper, my backpack stuffed with a change of clothes, lunch and water, and my Remington 870 Express slug gun with rifled sights. 

The pre-dawn hike was really tough with all my gear and at one point I just about decided to set up short of my intended location. Getting an early start and the cold temperatures (25 degrees) was the key to my persistent march into the depths of the forest. 

Finally, after a 45-minute hike I arrived at the heavily wooded hilltop that overlooked a large, marshy valley. I was glad I had made it to the spot just as the sun started showing a glow in the eastern sky. By the time I changed out of my sweaty clothes, climbed the tree, and got set up it was daylight at 6:30 a.m.

After letting the woods settle for about 15 minutes I used my deer call and blew a few light grunts. At 7 I again grunted and threw in about five pops. Fifteen minutes later I heard something coming to my south. I stood up and saw a deer at about 100 yards headed towards me. It would walk about 10 yards, stop and lick the air (trying to catch a scent). The deer was downwind of me, but had not detected me. 

I was glad I had changed out of my sweaty clothes and that I had placed doe estrus scent on the forest floor all around my stand. Due to the thick brush I used my binoculars to determine if the deer was a shooter. I had already made up my mind to only shoot a big buck since dragging it out would be a major undertaking. 

One I acquired the buck in the binoculars I knew immediately he was a shooter. He was a beautiful 8-pointer that had symmetry, thick antlers and the widest rack I had ever seen in the wild. After hunting on public ground for 20 plus years I had only seen a deer of this caliber once before and missed the shot. 

As the buck walked closer I hung the binoculars up and shouldered my shotgun. At 75 yards the buck stopped and presented me with a quartering-to shot. Remembering my miss from a previous year I decided to wait for him to get a little closer. 

At 50 yards he stopped again but was behind a fallen tree and I had no shot. I started to get worried because he was still scent checking a lot. He took one more step presenting me again with a quartering-to shot. I squeezed the trigger and was pleasantly surprised to see him fall straight down. 

I stood silent for a couple minutes taking in the moment. I remember looking at the fall colors, the beautiful blue sky, feeling the cold wind blow against my face and a mature whitetail buck lying 50 yards from me. Finally, I had my first trophy public ground buck! 

After tagging and examining this magnificent animal I called my wife using my cell phone and informed her of my successful morning. I then thanked God, field dressed the deer and began what would be a six-hour drag back to deer camp. The other members of my hunting party would not arrive until later that night which meant I was on my own. 

This hunt was by far my most physically taxing, but also one of my most memorable. 

The field dressed weight of the buck was 205 pounds. His bases were over 5 inches thick and his inside spread was just over 20 inches. The buck’s official Boone and Crocket score was 131 inches (gross) and 129 & 2/8 inches (net).

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