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Matt Westendorf’s 8-pointer

November 29, 2010

Illinois hunting and fishing Illinois hunting and fishing

Trophy Tidbits

Scorable Points: 8

Kill Date: Nov. 20, 2010

County: Pike

Season: Shotgun

My brother and I headed down to the cabin in Pike County on Thursday evening in preparation for Opening Day for the Illinois firearm season. We got a late start and didn’t make it down to the cabin until about 10:45 PM. We unloaded our gear set out the clothes for the morning hunt and then attempted to lay down for a good night’s rest. We both are like little kids the night before Christmas when it comes to the night before opening day. It was after midnight before we both fell asleep.

We woke up to a chilly 26 degree cabin. We were so caught up in thinking about hunting that neither of us realized we hadn’t fired up the LP heater prior to laying down! I’ve got a pair of army sleeping bags that kept us plenty warm in the cabin even when the temperatures dip pretty low. We geared up quickly and headed to the timber. Within minutes of getting into the stand my brother saw two nice bucks in the field behind the draw we were in. One was 30-40 yards directly behind me and the other was 40-50 yards behind my brother’s stand. It wasn’t shooting hours yet so he watch the silhouettes of the two bucks move off out of sight. We had hopes that they’d move back through the area later on. Friday morning also brought one of the most gorgeous sun rises I’ve seen. I wished I had my camera in the stand with me.

Shortly after 7:00 AM, I spotted a dandy coyote moving down the draw in front of me. I’ve never seen a coyote while out deer hunting and decided right away if he came close enough I was going to give him hell. He must have seen a rabbit or something because he darted into the trees on a dead run and was out of sight. The rest of the morning passed without any more deer sightings but the squirrels and woodpeckers were out in full force.

We headed back to the truck for lunch and talked about the afternoon hunt. We decided to try the other piece of the property. I set up my dad’s ground blind and my brother moved further north through the timber to find a place to park for the afternoon. On the north end of the draw he jumped a nice buck, followed by a smaller forkie. While those two bucks were busting out of the draw, another doe was running in the field towards the draw. That made 5 deer the first day with 3 dandy bucks. Friday night we went back to the cabin empty handed but happy to see deer in the area including some nice bucks.

Friday evening my dad showed up with my 10 year old niece. She was going to hunt the rest of the weekend with us. Saturday morning we all woke up at 4:30, ate breakfast and geared up. I was going back to my stand, my dad to his ground blind and my brother was going to set up another blind for him and Taylor (my niece). Like clockwork that coyote showed up about 7 AM. He came from the West (my left) moving along at a pretty good pace. I quickly pulled up on him and hollered to get him to stop, but he didn’t slow down at all. I then gave a little squeal that got his attention, but he stopped behind some brush and didn’t give me a shot. He was 18 yards away and no way to get a good shot, bummer! About 15 minutes after seeing the coyote again, I saw two nice doe running across the field toward my brother. They didn’t offer a shot, but Taylor got to see a couple deer. We hunted the rest of the morning, grabbed a bite to eat and then it was back to the stand for the afternoon/evening hunt.
The afternoon passed with only two more deer showing up. Another nice buck and a doe that moved out of range of my brother’s blind. As the sun began to set, I got a hankering to move out of my stand and hunt on the ground. I moved off to the West about 30 yards and found a nice tree to sit under, right on the backside of what we call the horseshoe.

Illinois hunting and fishingWith the sun setting fast and about 15 minutes of light left, I caught motion off to my right. I turned my head slightly to see a nice 8 pointer coming out of the timber. He also caught the slight motion of my head turning. We stared at each other for what felt like forever, I didn’t move, blink or come to think of it breathe. He then started to feed and I thought to myself I got past the first hurdle. Now I had to figure out how to get my mitten off, take the safety off and then swing the gun into position to get a shot, all with the deer 12 yards in front of me. He took a few more steps to the West and I was able to wiggle my fingers out of the mitten and switch the safety off. He heard the click and looked right at me ... right then I thought it was over and I was going to lose him. We had the stare off again and within a bit he was back to feeding. About then, he heard by brother and niece, who were off to the West about 600 -700 yards. He locked on them and started to crouch like he was going to bolt to the North.
I figured it was now or never, so I pulled up on him. He caught the movement of my gun and instantly turned to run to the North. My first shot missed as he spun 90 degrees right as I squeezed the trigger off. By the time I got the crosshairs on him again, he was 40 yards away. I squeezed the trigger again and dropped him dead in his tracks.

My dad showed up shortly after, coming over from the other property. He had no idea what just happened and couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t talk and was all out of breath. I told him what had just happened and he thought I was kidding him.  We jumped in the truck, drove down to the spot my deer had dropped and he couldn’t believe it. It was all the two of us could do to get him in the truck!

Illinois hunting and fishing

Right after we got him in the truck my brother and niece showed up. I think my niece was more pumped than any of us. It was her first experience seeing a deer that close. That night she got a lesson in field dressing and she hung in there like a champ. I had an old Coleman lantern running providing light and Taylor held the flashlight for us. She had lots of questions and helped until we had finished the job. It didn’t phase her much because soon as we finished up she said “well I don’t know about you guys but I’m ready to eat!”

All in all it was a fantastic weekend. We have meat in the freezer, my niece got a lot of new experiences, I had a coyote closer to me than I have ever had and the sun rises and sun sets were amazing. I couldn’t ask for anything else in a hunt. My niece couldn’t stop talking about the weekend and can’t wait to go back out!

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