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Illinois hunting and fishing

Tales from the Timber: Brewer buck

July 14, 2009 at 10:45 PM

Barb Brewer owns a unique distinction in Illinois.

In 1997 she shot the largest non-typical buck ever killed by a woman.

And for Brewer, killing her 253 3/8-inch buck on Dec. 7 with a 16-gauge shotgun was no lucky thing.

She worked hard for the 24-point Hamilton County buck she killed on property owned by her brother, Brad. Also hunting that weekend was Barb’s husband, Jim.

“Brad and Jim had hunted the year before on this property and had seen two huge bucks,” Barb said. “One of the bucks got into some heavy brush and had to back out, swinging his head trying to get its antlers loose from the brush.”

Little did she know she would encounter the same deer—more than once.

First came a big doe, though, around 8:30 a.m. of opening morning of the first shotgun season.

“She was just running around, making a circle in the woods near the stand I had trouble getting into,” Barb said. “Then, she suddenly ran out of the woods and immediately came back in — running all around, crazy. I thought maybe she had winded me and couldn’t figure out where I was. Then she disappeared. About 45 minutes later, I heard a buck grunt.”

Since it was time to head back to camp, Barb opted to pass through the timber from where she had heard the grunt. Then she saw a huge buck, headed down a gully.

“I thought I would be able to get a shot if I just stepped out a little bit,” Barb said. “He came right to the edge of the gully and spotted me. He stopped, dead in his tracks, and went into a sneak position with his head down real low.”

Though the deer’s head and neck were all she could see, Barb shot. After tracking and finding no blood or hair, Barb and Jim decided she had missed.

For the rest of first season, others hunted the same stand, but nobody encountered Barb’s buck.

And for the first three days of second season, Barb did not have much luck either. But then, as the shotgun season was drawing to a close, Barb went out at about 1 p.m. for a final hunt. She blew a few times on her grunt call and quickly attracted attention.

“Off to my left, I saw the top of a buck’s rack,” she said. “But I couldn’t get a clear shot. He was there for about 10 minutes, and I was just sick. After a few minutes, he turned his head and I could see the drop tines. Then I really got nervous. I just kept thinking, I’ve got to get myself together and not blow this.”

“When I raised my gun a big, I bumped the grunt call around my neck. I thought, Well, I’ve ruined it now. He threw his head up and tried to wind me, but he couldn’t.”

Instead, the buck started rubbing antlers, took a few steps forward and gave Barb a clear shot.

After she shot, the buck ran off—at first making her think she had missed him. Then she remembered seeing steam coming from the buck’s sides.

“Then I was pretty sure I had gotten him, and then I really started shaking!” she said. “My Dad taught me never to get down right away, because you might push the deer and never get it. So I sat there for about 20 minutes. It was the longest wait of my life. As I climbed down, the stand was really shaking from my legs quivering so badly. I went out to where I thought I had first hit him and couldn’t find anything. Then, after another 10 yards, I found a drop of blood. Then it started to spray the grass red and was an easy trail to follow.

“As I peeked over the hill, I could see him lying there with that rack sticking up. I waited to make sure he was dead before I went over to him. When I saw he was dead for sure, I let out the biggest ‘war whoop’ you’ve ever heard in your life!”

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