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Dave Jones’ 36-pointer

November 05, 2003

Illinois Outdoors

Trophy Tidbits

Scorable Points: 36

Kill Date: Nov. 5, 2003

County: Mason

Season: Bow

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was printed March 2, 2004 in the Peoria Journal Star.


For a state record, the deer is almost unassuming.

For a state-record holder, Dave Jones is definitely unassuming.

There he was Sunday, standing quietly by himself in the barn called the Interstate Center. The Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic was nearing a close and Mason City resident Jones waited patiently for a worker to return his deer head.

Not just any deer head. Jones’ buck is an Illinois record for bowhunters and the fourth-largest of its type ever shot by an archer in North America. Before long, hunters across the U.S. will read about Jones, 43, and ogle pictures of the deer he killed last Nov. 5 near the Sangamon River.

Yet Sunday the trophy buck received no special billing. Jones’ deer was displayed alongside all the others, within smelling distance of a wild-animal display in dire need of fresh straw.

“I love this sport too much to make it a money thing,” Jones said, shrugging.

But he wanted others to see his deer, whose non-typical rack was officially measured at 266 4/8 inches (the buck was later scored at 267 1/8 inches by a panel of Boone and Crockett measurers). And they did get to see the buck. Last weekend’s Classic set records for attendance (18,900) and for deer mounts (621).

Even in that sea of heads, Jones’ stood out. Most spectators stopped to stare. Many took pictures. Still not everyone was overwhelmed by the unusual rack, whose mass of 36 points required extra scoring consultations.

“It’s a monster alright. It must be living too close to the Clinton (nuclear) power plant,” said one passerby, obviously unaware the plant is not in Mason County.

Another muttered to his buddy, “That doesn’t look like a record.”

Maybe not to him. Trust me, though, any hunter would be proud to claim the deer - or to have experienced Jones’ Nov. 5 hunt.

Sitting in a stand that morning, Jones watched two bucks run from a nearby woodlot. Moments later a third buck emerged that caught Jones’ breath. So he rattled a pair of antlers - a common practice during breeding season that can attract dominant bucks.

“He just stood there and glared in my direction, then followed the other deer,” Jones said.

For the second time in as many years the big buck left Jones feeling sick to his stomach. The fall before, Jones had a 25-yard shot at the buck and couldn’t bring him down.

“I lived with that for a year. I didn’t know if I’d see him again.”

He did.

“When he left I just kept rattling as hard as I could. I practically fell out of my stand,” Jones said. “After about 10 minutes, here he came back. He must have woke up in a bad mood because he came to me with an attitude.

“He wanted to kick some butt.”

Instead, the buck wound up dead. And discussed. Kill a trophy deer these days and you’d better be prepared for instant publicity.

Chad Goetten learned that when he shot a 234 7/8-inch buck in Jersey County during shotgun season. In no time, pictures of his buck were posted on Internet sites and Goetten was receiving calls from British Columbia, New York and Pennsylvania.

“The picture got on the Internet and spread like a virus,” said Goetten, whose deer topped firearm kills for the year. “It shocked me how fast it spread.”

Word on Jones’ deer was much more subdued. We didn’t learn until Sunday that he was a longtime bowhunter. We didn’t know his deer was estimated to be 7 1/2 years old or that it field dressed at 205 pounds.

Prior to the show there were few articles or Internet postings about Jones. Just one humble, happy hunter.

“I can’t really explain what this means,” Jones said. “Except that it’s every bowhunter’s dream.”

Bowhunters enjoy second chances at big bucks

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was printed March 14, 2004 in the Peoria Journal Star.


Second chances aren’t common when it comes to deer hunting.

Miss a shot at a trophy buck and you generally have to live with memories of what could have been hanging on your wall.

Hard to believe then that two of the most impressive bucks killed by Illinois hunters last season actually came on second shots.

Dave Jones of Mason City arrowed his Illinois record buck while bowhunting last Nov. 5 - one year after he missed a 25-yard shot at the same deer.

“I couldn’t find my sight pin that day,” Jones said. “I hit the deer but didn’t bring him down. I had to live with that for a year.”

Ironically, the miss actually paid off for Jones. An extra year allowed the 36-point Mason County buck to reach record-book proportions. And hitting the buck on its right side may actually have caused some of the unnatural antler growth on the left side of the rack.

The deer’s non-typical rack was measured at 266 4/8 inches, a record for Illinois archers.

For Jones, 43, getting a second chance at his big buck has proven to be the highlight of his 20-year bowhunting career.

Amazingly, Chad Goetten of Fieldon had a similar story to tell about his Jersey County buck - at 234 7/8 inches the largest firearm non-typical shot last year.

Goetten shot his 23-point buck on the second day of shotgun season. It was the second shot he’d taken in his life at the same deer.

“I’d seen him once before the year before during bow season,” Goetten said. “And I missed him. I didn’t think I’d ever see it again.”

That was true even after Goetten took his 40-yard shot.

“All I knew was it was a big buck. I wasn’t even worked up until I walked up to it,” Goetten said.

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