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The Back 40

The Ups & Downs of a 2013 Deer Hunter

Mon, January 20, 2014

The Ups and Downs of a 2013 Illinois Deer Hunter

What a season this has been.  A real roller coaster ride.  Late summer began great.  After placing only one trail camera, I immediately began getting pictures of some real nice bucks…and plenty of them…for my place anyway.  I had four nice bucks that seemed to be very camera friendly.  I almost named them the Kardashian bucks because of the amount of photo ops they appeared in.  And just that quick, the lows set in.  While switching out SD cards in the camera one day, about a dozen turkey vultures busted out of my timber.  My heart sank.  I didn’t even want to enter the timber to look, so I didn’t.  About that same time, my two biggest bucks disappeared from the camera, including one I called the High Brow 8.  Two weeks later, I went back to switch cards again and safety check some stands, and that same group of vultures busted again.  This time I had to look.  Sure enough, one of my bucks was dead in the creek.  EHD I’m sure.  The only good news was that it wasn’t one of the two big guys I had feared it was.  Still, the loss of a real nice 2-1/2 year-old up and comer.  Upon checking the SD card that day, my two big boys were still missing.  Could it be that they had also become victims of EHD?  Down in the dumps went my spirits again.

Early September brought back the highs.  The biggest of the bucks, the High Bow 8, was back again.  He wasn’t just back, he seemed to live and bed very near the camera.  On a couple occasions, he appeared on camera a very short time after I switched SD cards.  I know he heard me, I used my tractor as my means of travel to check the camera.  Now if only he would stay in the area and on his same travel patterns till opening day. 

If you read my post in early October about this buck, I won’t bore you with it again.  Suffice it to say that I was able to connect with the High Brow 8 on October 2nd after being in the stand for ten short minutes.  After my early kill, I turned my full attention to helping my daughter get the buck she wanted.  A wide 8 with a small crab claw. 

Late October found me hunting with my daughter.  As always, I let her choose where she wanted to hunt before choosing my own stand for the afternoon.  I wish we would have switched stands that afternoon.  I wasn’t in my stand more than 30 minutes when I heard a deer behind me.  Not wanting to turn around, I sat quietly and waited.  Minutes later the deer was under me, and I mean under me.  Three feet from the base of my tree stood a wide 8 with a small crab claw.  I reached for my phone and took several pictures and videos of the buck.  The first picture was sent to my daughter with the text, “Your buck under me right now.”  Her buck spent almost 45 minutes within 15 yards of me.  Oh, how I wished we would have reversed our stand selections that afternoon.  That’s hunting I guess.  Her buck got a pass that night. 

Much to my surprise, my son was able to get in more hunts than I thought he would this season.  He’s away at school, but really had the heart of a bowhunter this year.  So much that he traveled back and forth quite a bit in order to hunt with me.  Talk about putting a smile on a Dad’s face.  November 9th was a hunt with my boy that I will not soon forget.  It was a morning hunt.  He chose the stand he wanted to hunt, and I chose a location that wouldn’t interfere with his hunt.  Just before our predetermined time to quit hunting and meet up, my phone rang.  It was Jake, telling me that he just shot a tight 8 and the buck was already down just 25 yards behind his stand.  I love the excitement in a kid’s voice when they score on a deer.  I told him to stay in his stand and that I would go get the truck and drive to his area.  Just before reaching my truck, I got another call from Jake.  “I just jumped him, Dad!”  Me…”How did you jump him?  I thought you were still in the stand?”  Jake…”I thought he was dead.  I got to within a few feet of him and he just took off.  He’s still right here and he’s down again.  He’s dying right now.  There he goes.  He’s dead.  This time I’m sure.  He’s dead, Dad.”  Me…”Don’t move this time.  Stay right where you are.  Don’t meet me in the field.  I’ll meet you in the woods.  Don’t move.”  I started the truck and drove to his area.  Much to my surprise, there was Jake, standing in the field waiting for me.  I guess you just can’t stop excitement.  We high-fived, hugged, and laughed our butts off.

I know this sounds typical of a hunting parent, but I really do have the best two hunting partners a Dad could ask for.  With all the ups and downs that come with a deer season, it’s my kids that make me smile the most. 

Ups and downs.  That’s what this year has been.  I shot the one deer that I wanted to shoot and I got it done early while hunting with my daughter, Stefani.  I got to hunt with my daughter and see her buck up close.  I was with my son on his successful rut hunt.  I found my first EHD buck and fear the same fate for other missing bucks.

Next year will certainly be interesting.  It is undeniable that the Illinois deer herd is severely down in numbers.  That’s why I only killed one deer this year.  I don’t dare shoot a doe until things change.  I urge all deer hunters to take this into your own hands.  Depend on no one for help.  If your deer numbers are down, hold off on your shots.  Do what you know is the right thing to do.  Hunting with my kids makes me want to improve our deer herd as soon as possible.  It doesn’t seem fair that I hunted the good old days while my kids pick up scraps left in our wake.  I want them to have the same opportunities I had.  The fix is simple, we just have to get enough of us on the same page. 

I hope you had at least half the fun I did this season.  No matter what happens, I look forward to many more deer seasons with my kids…even if they aren’t really “kids” any more. 

In my fanny pack remains…

-one antlerless landowner tag.
-one antlerless over-the-counter tag.
-one either sex over-the-counter tag.
-one antlerless landowner firearm tag.
-one either sex landowner firearm tag.
-fall turkey permit.

John Soehn


Congrats John on a great season!  Congrats on all the tags you ate too!  I did the same.  Probably gonna have to for a couple years.

Posted by Andy Meador on January 20

Maybe hanging unused tags from our hats will replace deer pins as the new cool thing to do.

Posted by Treehugger on January 20

Thankfully, this trainwreck of a season is over. Will be tag soup instead of deer brats for the super bowl party though.

Posted by eyeswideopen on January 20

Tag soup is most likely wise…Although I am wondering what will join tag soup. I am thinking with that State of Washington being represented (Seatle) vs the state of Colorado (Denver) it’s going to give the “SuperBOWL” a whole new meaning. Perhaps a lot of people with the munchies….

Posted by enjycreation on January 20

Sounds like you had a better season than most, I ate 2 tags also, could have filled one of them but chose not to. What bothers me most is our youth hunters, will the have the patience to sit hours on end and not see anything? Or just give up and do something else.

Posted by cuttnstrut on January 20

Going to be eating my two tags as well.  Could have shot a couple of small bucks during first season, but my goal this year was to have my son get his first deer, which he did, a button buck during first gun.  Didn’t even go out 2nd season (first in a long time) or either antlerless seasons. Most deer I saw at one sitting was 8.  Better than some, but not as good as last year. May have to go out to sit in the next couple of weekends to see how they came through. 
Now to find a good marinade to break down the toughness of those tags wink

Posted by bradcrisco on January 20

Brad, I understand coyote blood is a great tenderizing marinade for unused deer tags.  Get out and get yourself some.  I tried unsuccessfully tonight.

Posted by Treehugger on January 20

That would certainly act as a satisfying marinade!  Just bought a Ruger American a couple of weeks ago and hope to introduce some coyotes too the business end of it, especially once goose season closes out.  Jake enjoying his first year at college?

Posted by bradcrisco on January 20

Jake loves it.  It took him a couple weeks to adjust which I think is normal, but he’s doing great and likes it a lot.  He may play ball for them next year.  He’s coming home for the day Sunday to get after the coyotes.  He REALLY got into shooting guns with me this summer.

Posted by Treehugger on January 20

That’s great!  Yeah, the adjustment period seems to be true for a lot of students.  That’d be awesome if plays next year.  Tell him hi.

Posted by bradcrisco on January 20

I think I ate 5 tags this year.  Oh well, I can’t complain.  Sounds like the author had a pretty good year!

Posted by Bigb on January 21

BIGB…I only got the one deer this year…though it was the one I was after.  It was a fairly week season for me too.  Not many deer sightings, especially too few doe sightings.  That said, I still had a great time and made some great memories.

Posted by Treehugger on January 21

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