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Jim Hermann’s 11- and 13-pointers

November 16, 2007

Illinois Outdoors

Trophy Tidbits

Scorable Points: 11 and 13

Kill Date: Nov. 17, 2006 and Nov. 16, 2007

County: Shelby

Season: Shotgun

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s a story from Jim Hermann of Decatur.

I have read many articles on your Web site about hunters and their stories of getting the buck of their dreams. I would like to share with you my story of how it happened two years in a row, on the same day, out of the same stand with the same muzzleloader. My 2006 buck was an 11-pointer that scored 162 0/8 inches and my 2007 13-point buck measured 168 7/8 inches and won Best of Show at the Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic for muzzleloaders.

First, a little about my self. I am a 42-year-old Detective with the Macon County Sheriff’s Department in Decatur, Illinois. I have been with the department now for 18 1/2 years. About 11 years ago I happened to be training a new deputy named Matt and we became good friends. Matt had two older brothers who I also became friends with. During Matt’s training he asked me if I wanted to go deer hunting with him down on his father’s farm in Shelbyville.

At this point in time in my life I had never hunter before. I grew up in Webster Groves, Mo., just out side of St. Louis, then spent a year in Philadelphia, Pa, and my father was never an outdoors person. But I decided to give it a try. My first couple of years shotgun hunting were more about deer camp then it was about hunting but I soon realized that deer hunting was something I really enjoyed. I soon began to bow hunt and eventually abandoned the shotgun for a muzzleloader. Over the course of the following years I was fortunate enough to remain good friends with Matt and his brothers, Mike and Mark. Soon the three brothers owned a little over 100 acres of land in Herrick and I was blessed to be able to deer hunt on their farm.

Each year I hunted during archery and firearm season I would usually fill my tags, but had yet to get a buck worth mounting on the wall. I had several chances, but for whatever reason, was not able to get the job done until opening day of firearm season, Nov. 16, 2006.

I have about five bow and firearm stands placed around the farm. Three of the stands are located up on top where the 20 acres of tillable ground is, and two stands were placed on what we refer to as the bottom, which has a creek that runs around the entire property. The stand in question is a typical 15-foot ladder stand that I placed in between three trees that were very close together, and gave me some good cover. The stand is about 10 feet from the creek with a several hundred-acre field on the other side. In front of the stand is a hill that forms a natural funnel. I previously had the stand in another location, but had recently moved it to its present location.

On opening day, I had hunted all morning up on top where their was some standing corn and stayed out until noon. I went back to the cabin to grab a bite to eat and headed back out about 1:30 p.m. or so and made it to my bottom stand at about 1:45. Once in my stand, I got all my gear and my Thompson-Center Black Diamond 45 caliber muzzleloader hung on their hooks and got comfortable. I knew from previous years that the field I was on did not get much action until about 3:00 pm or so. At about 3:15 does and some small bucks started to walk out into the field to feed. I stood up and turned around in my stand to start glassing the field and watch the deer as they ate. During this time, more and more does came out in the field and soon there were over 40 to 50 does in the field at various sections.

At about 4:10 I saw two very large deer about 200 yards away on the other side of a long finger of trees that went out into the field. I could tell that both deer were huge, but could not see any antlers, so I did not pay them much more attention. I then spotted a nice ten point buck about 250 yards straight out in the field from my stand. The buck was busy chasing some does, but I could see that he had a nice tall white rack.

I started to grunt in hopes of getting his attention and moving him within 200 yards so I could get a shot but he had nothing but the does on his mind. After grunting at him a few times and watching him in my binoculars I noticed that the two large does that were behind the finger were walking towards me and were now on my side of the point and about 70 yards from me. Both deer were walking with their heads down and I could clearly see that the second deer was a very large doe; I’d say about 200 pounds. I put my binoculars on the first deer at the same time he raised his head and saw that he was the biggest racked deer that I had ever seen. I did a double take with the binoculars just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things and then grabbed my rifle. Of course by now I was shaking with excitement, and telling myself not to blow it at the same time.

I put my muzzleloader up against the tree and put the cross hairs on the big buck that was still walking towards me, slightly at an angle. I only have a few shooting lanes across the creek so I put the cross hairs on his lower right neck, in front of his shoulder blade and squeezed the trigger.

After the big cloud of smoke cleared I could see that the buck had dropped in his tracks and was not moving. I was so excited that the buck was down that I completely forgot to reload. I raised my binoculars and saw that the buck was motionless, and by the time I lowered my glasses and looked back at the buck, he jumped up and sprinted towards the creek, crossed it and was gone.

You can only imagine the words that were coming out of my mouth at this time; I was in total shock and disbelief and mad at myself for not having my muzzleloader reloaded and ready. I looked at my watch and it was 4:20, I went ahead and reloaded and stood in my stand and repeated a few more choice words to myself, then decided I was going to get down, cross the creek and see what type of blood trail, if any there was. It took about 10 minutes for me to find a place to cross the creek, just another reason why I only wear rubber boots. I reached the area I thought the deer was down at and could not see any blood. I was beside my self. I started looking closer, and got down on my knees and was able to locate a small drop of blood on a leaf. At least now I could confirm that I did hit the buck. I knew from my past kills with the muzzleloader that the deer never seem to bleed much.

After finding the small drop of blood, I looked over at the creek and was able to locate the spot that the buck went down the embankment and crossed. I walked over to this spot and, after a few minutes of looking found another small spot of blood. I scanned the small bottom area on the other side of the creek, but saw nothing. I decided to cross back through the creek and check the area where I last saw the buck.

The problem of getting to this area is that the banks were about 8 feet high and their was no way to get up the other side, which meant I had to walk back to where I first crossed, then make my way to this bottom area. The only way to get to this bottom spot was to walk back up a large steep hill, get high enough to by pass a deep drainage ditch, then go back down the hill to the bottom. As every hunter has experienced, all those nice hunting clothes that keep you from freezing can wear you out when doing a lot of walking and climbing, plus caring my rifle and a 50 lb back pack. Eventually I made it to the area where I last saw my buck as it ran away. By this time I had sweat pouring off my head and had every possible zipper and button undone.

I walked over to the edge of the creek to see if I could determine were the buck had come up, but was unable to find any indication of where he may have come up out of the creek. I then turned around and looked over the bottom area, thinking to myself that the biggest buck I had ever seen was gone. Then I saw it, about 15 yards from the creek, sticking up from the ground was half of a huge rack. I started shacking again as I began to walk toward the buck. As I got closer I could see the buck, as he lay motionless, the body on this buck was huge, and was the biggest buck I had ever laid eyes on. I walked up to him and could see in his eyes that he was gone. I sat there for a few minutes admiring my first true trophy, still in a bit of shock.

It was now going on 5 p.n. and was just about dark, so I put my orange hat on top the rack that was sticking up and started my hike up the hill and towards the cabin. When I got to the cabin, Matt, Mike, and Mark were all getting back and everyone was talking about what they saw. I said, well boys, go get the measuring tape, I got a big one.

Mark then drove down on a 4-wheeler and the rest of us loaded up in Mike’s truck and drove down to the top of the hill, where we walked the rest of the way. Everyone was standing around the buck admiring him as I told them how it all happened. It took all four of us to get the buck up on the 4-wheeler and tied off. After several attempts we were able to get the deer up the hill and back to the cabin.

We had a scale in the tree and the buck weighed 250 pounds on the hoof and 205 pounds dressed out. The buck had 11 points and an inside spread of 25 inches. I said to myself, it took me 10 years to get this; I’ll probably never see another one like it.

Illinois Outdoors

I had Mike Nichols of Mount Zion do the mount and he had an unofficial score of 159 3/4 inches. Unfortunately the mount was not done in time to take it to the 2007 Illinois Deer Classic.

The following year I was able to do quiet a lot of bowhunting not far from my house in Decatur, and did not make it down to the farm in Herrick but a few times. Firearm season rolled around and we all met at the farm the day before opening day. As usual we stayed up later then we should have playing cards and telling stories of the previous years, but eventually opening day arrived, Nov. 17, 2007.

I had told everyone that I was going to a new stand I had put up that was the furthest distance from the cabin, I also advised them that I would be getting down and going to my bottom stand around noon. Well at 5:15 a.m. I started across the main field and remembered that I had forgot to grab a foot peg for the tree since it did not have a hook for my backpack. I decided that instead of walking back to the cabin, I would just go to a top stand, not to far from were I was.

After reaching my stand and getting situated, I relaxed, and looked forward to a good morning. I wasn’t having much activity, I saw a small basket buck at about 6:20 a.m. and two small does at about 8:30 a.m. Other then that, nothing. I told myself that I would get down and go to the other side of the field to my other stand around 10 a.m., however 9:30 rolled around and I decided to go ahead and change stand locations.

I got down and began to walk around the outer edge of the field and came to the path entrance that takes me down to my bottom stand. I stopped for a moment, and in a split second decided to go ahead and go down to the bottom now. By the time I got in my stand and set up it was now 10:10 a.m., I thought I would be in for a long wait before seeing anything, so I leaned back and got comfortable.

About 30 minutes went by when I looked out in the field to my left about 150 yards and saw a brown spot in the field. I raised my glasses and saw a doe walking in my direction. The area she was at is where the creek takes a 90-degree turn and forms a natural point. I was pleased to be seeing movement at 10:35 a.m. and continued watching the doe. Then out of nowhere a huge rack came up out of the field behind the doe. A buck had been behind the doe the entire time, but had its head down. I saw the rack on this buck and said to myself, “Here we go again.”

Once again I started shaking as I grabbed my Thompson Center .45 caliber off the hook and prepared for a shot. The doe then ran across the creek and was heading right for me as the buck crossed the creek and stopped next to a tree 60 yards directly to my left. It looked as though he was looking right at me. The doe was now standing 15 yards form my stand. I put the crosshairs on the buck and could see that his rack spread way out and then curled in and had at least 12 points. The buck was still standing next to the tree and the only shot I had was a neck shot. I was worried that if the doe took off running again, I may not have a shot. I decided to go ahead a make the center neck shot, placed the cross hairs dead center and squeezed the trigger.

The bullet hit dead center and the buck toppled backwards and fell. This time I wasted no time, and reloaded immediately. Once I was reloaded I put the scope on the buck and could see that he was not moving. The doe was still standing in front of my stand and would not leave. I thought for a brief second that I could go ahead and take her and have all my tags filled, but decided I should not be greedy. I waited about 10 minutes and the doe never left, so I finally stood up and yelled at her to leave. Once the doe ran up the hill, I got my gear together, climbed down and walked over to my buck.

It was déjà vu all over again. The rack on this buck was bigger then the year before, I counted 13 points, and the body was a little smaller, but not much. I sat there looking at this magnificent animal wondering how lucky I was. I also was thinking about how mad my buddies were going to be. Two years in a row, out of the same stand on opening day. I actually started thinking that they may not ask me back. Once again I put my orange hat on top of the antler and started up the hill. When I got to the top of the hill I heard Mark yell from behind me. Mark was hunting on the bottom about 200 yards from the 90-degree curve where I first saw the buck.

Mark asked me how big he was and I told him that it was bigger then last year. Mark then told me that he had started to get out of his stand, saw the big buck crossing the field and got back in his stand. Mark said that the deer was about 200 yards from him and too far for his shotgun. Mark told me he saw the deer go into the point and cross the field, and he hoped the deer would follow the creek down towards him. He said all of a sudden he heard a loud shot and knew it was me. Mark said he slung his gun over his shoulder and went ahead and got down, cussing me the whole way. Mark kept saying over and over how he couldn’t believe it happened two years in a row. I actually started feeling a little guilty and told him that I was sorry.

We walked back to the cabin and got Matt and we drove the 4-wheeler down, loaded the deer up and brought him back to camp. The deer weighed 225 pounds on the hoof and 195 pounds dressed, had 13 points with an inside spread of 21 3/8 inches. Mike Nichols again did the head mount. This time the mount was finished for the 2008 Illinois Deer and Turkey Classic in Bloomington.

Illinois Outdoors

I decided to go ahead and take both mounts to the classic and enter them in the contest. I was more interested in a professional score then anything. My 2006 buck scored 162 0/8 and took 2nd place in the muzzleloader division for 11 points. The 2007 buck took 1st place in the muzzleloader 13 point and above division and also took Best Of Show for the whole muzzleloader division, with a 168 7/8.

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