Clyde Winkler, 88, of Washburn shot this 21-point Marshall County buck during the first firearm season in 2005.
Fate winks at 88-year-old deer hunter
Clyde Winkler figures at this point in his life, every hunting season is a good one.
No question some are better than others, though. And none can match the latest for this Washburn resident, who could easily pass for a decade younger than his 88 years.
Winkler capped an awesome autumn by shooting a 21-point, trophy buck two weeks ago during the first firearm season. The buck wound up being even more exciting than a Canada goose Winkler shot in September that had metal leg bands on both legs and that earned him a $100 reward (which he spent on shotgun shells).
So while he didn’t fill another tag during last weekend’s second firearm deer season, Winkler has no complaints.
“Somebody told me I ought to buy a lottery ticket. The good Lord really blessed me with that trophy,” Winkler said of his deer, whose wide rack spanned 29 inches. “That’s a lot of ivory.”
A lot of antler, actually. More than Winkler has seen in nearly 50 years of stalking whitetails through timber in Woodford and Marshall County.
The retired farmer has hunted deer since Illinois’ first modern season in 1957. Longer than that if you count war-time experience.
Winkler will tell you he was among the troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy on his June 6 birthday in 1944. But he’d rather discuss post-war experiences like a memorable big-game hunt in Germany.
“We were tired of K rations and were hungry for fresh meat. So a buddy from North Dakota said, ‘Wink, let’s go out and shoot a deer or elk.’” Winkler said. “I drove the jeep and he held onto a .50-caliber machine gun. And by God we got a big elk.
“You know, that was pretty good eating.”
Winkler has been hunting ever since, chasing ducks, gray squirrels, coyotes, wild turkeys and deer. Though he tires more easily these days, Winkler still prefers walking to his tree stand. And he still puts in his time.
On opening day he stayed up a tree all morning, passing up a marginal shot at a doe. Winkler returned for an afternoon hunt and was rewarded when a big buck suddenly materialized in a clearing 75 yards away.
“I could hardly believe my eyes. At first it looked like a big moose or elk,” he said. “I thought ‘Clyde, if you’re ever going to get a trophy you’d better get him now.’”
With one shot Winkler did just that, downing his Marshall County buck at about 3:45 p.m. on opening day. Before long, hunting buddies Tom and John Phillips had spread word that “Clyde got a great big deer.”
“By the time we got him down to the road, there were 10-12 vehicles there wanting to see that big deer,” Winkler said.
The scene had to be reminiscent for Winkler, a life-long outdoorsman who trapped for spending money in high school, started duck hunting before that and was sprayed with 17 shotgun pellets while turkey hunting in 1990. After all, he lived through the days when sighting any deer was big news.
“Way back when I was a kid, there was one deer around here near Cazenovia. It was in pasture with some cattle and my dad and the game warden would spend time watching it,” Winkler said. “They figured it must have got out of a zoo in Chicago.”
Hard to imagine that now, since deer carcasses piled up along roadsides barely warrant a glance anymore.
Some deer still make headlines, though. Deer like the buck that will someday hang in Winkler’s living room.
“I don’t suspect,” he said, “I’ll ever shoot one bigger.”