Tales from the timber
All across Illinois, deer hunters have commented on the lack of shooting during the first firearm season.
Jamie Farr (pictured above) is not among them. A native of Table Grove, Farr now lives in Junction City, Kansas, near where he killed one of the largest typical bucks shot so far this fall.
But after returning home to hunt in Fulton County for the first firearm season, Farr joked he was hiding behind a tree through the weekend.
“Picking up a shotgun and coming home to hunt on the family farm is fun, but man it seems like there’s a lot of hunters,” Farr said. “A lot of the locals were saying there weren’t as many guns going off, but I was still a little nervous.”
Then again, Farr is used to bowhunting in Kansas, where hunting pressure is lighter and deer are more spread out.
There are plenty of trophies in Kansas, though, including the buck he arrowed on Oct. 22. The 12-pointer grossed 208 inches when green scored and is expected to net around 190 inches. Deer like that make it hard for Farr to return home often.
“I would love to come back here to bowhunt, but it really conflicts with the rut in Kansas,” said Farr, who shot a doe during his Illinois gun hunt. “It’s hard to leave Kansas to go somewhere else and bowhunt. Even Illinois.”
Sometimes it pays to hesitate before shooting. Just ask Tizoc Novoa (pictured above) of Creve Coeur. Hunting in Fulton County at 1 p.m. on opening day, Novoa was poised to shoot a large doe when he hesitated.
“I had my finger on the trigger, but it was my lucky day. For some reason I looked to my right and I saw something moving in the timber. Then I saw antlers,” Novoa said. “So I waited a little more and he came out. That’s when I started shaking in my tree stand.”
With good reason. The buck that walked out just 25 yards from Novoa’s stand was a massive 18-pointer that weighed an estimated 280 pounds field dressed.
“I got real nervous and made a lucky shot,” said Novoa, who hit the buck in the neck and dropped him immediately.
Taxidermist John Williams of Delavan green-scored the buck at 210 inches.
Cell phones sure help pass time in the tree stand, but they nearly cost Curtis Postin a wall-hanger.
Postin was busy sending a text message to his girlfriend on opening day when a buck suddenly appeared in range. Postin barely had time to put his phone away, pick up his gun and shoot.
Only after shooting did he get a chance to look at the rack. What he saw made him smile. The big Fulton County buck had a thick, 16-point rack with a palmated brow tine and a kicker point on the left side.
Interestingly enough, the buck appeared to be a newcomer who had not been spotted in the area since bow season started on Oct. 1.
For the past four years, Grace Frederick of Pekin (pictured above at left) has had to answer the question. “Are you the girl who was in the paper with that nice buck?”
Until last weekend, her answer was always, “No, that’s my sister Betty.”
But no longer. Grace, 17, shot a 127-inch 9-point Knox County buck on opening morning. One day later her father, Richard Frederick, shot a 140-inch 10-pointer to cap another memorable family weekend.
Richard and Betty were featured in that memorable 2004 photograph in the Journal Star — an honor now duplicated by Grace and her father.
As always there were many other big-buck stories to tell.
On opening day in Marshall County, Mick Mannon of Varna shot an impressive 18-pointer. That same morning, Josh Smith of Galesburg downed another trophy in Knox County. Smith’s 19-point buck field dressed at a whopping 284 pounds.
“I’ve got four on the wall, but this is my best ever for sure,” he said.
Bragging rights in the Thome family go not to major leaguer Jim or his brother Chuck, but rather to brother Randy (pictured above). On Nov. 22 he shot an 183-inch Fulton County 12-pointer that was captured on video by Drury Outdoors.
Farther afield, Ransom Brooks, 19, of Olney shot a 23-pointer in Richland County that ranks as the top-scoring gun kill reported to date. Brooks’ buck was green scored at 234 inches. Tales of a 238-inch buck shot by a 15-year-old, but so far no proof to back up the stories.
For all the talk about the commercialization of deer hunting, every year brings a story that proves all hope is not yet lost. The latest is from Jerry Belcher, who shot a 9-point buck opening day but then
watched as his deer ran onto property owned by neighbors he had not met.
Friendly neighbors, as it turned out. After shooting hours Jim McIntyre and two other hunters helped Belcher retrieve his buck from a deep thicket. “After telling my city-raised, non-hunting wife what happened, I think she now truly understands why I enjoy hunting and the people you meet while enjoying the sport,” Belcher said.