Skip to main content

A Buck's Ultimate Sacrifice

During the rut, a big Illinois buck makes a fatal mistake.



THE BUCK STOOD STATUE-LIKE between two groups of woods-wise does. There I was, standing on the steep, rocky hill leading to the farm. This Indian was caught completely unprepared for the situation that was unfolding before her eyes. My mind raced as I watched the buck and does. It seemed to be a standoff, with neither party willing to make the next move. The massive-racked buck's eyes left his does for a very brief moment as he looked to his back trail. Then I saw it. The moment -- that precious time when a buck's natural hesitancy is overridden. The buck was now committed. He'd made his choice. The next move was up to me.




My day had started badly, and the 25-30 mph wind gusts didn't help my bowhunting plans whatsoever. It wasn't until my husband, Herm, and our friend Lou Onorato had headed out to run some errands that I made the late decision to go hunting at all. So I decided to drive over to our farm. But that wasn't going to be easy either. I ended up waiting 30 minutes at a lift-span bridge, and then, when I turned into our narrow hollow, I found the road leading to the farm blocked by a neighbor's truck. The truck had a flat tire, and the owner was nowhere in sight. Disgusted, I kicked the farm's unlocked gate and slid back into the driver's seat. I'd taken the time and gas to drive over here; the least I could do was check the fields and our trail cameras.

Gazing up the steep gravel road I saw a small, dead elm tree that had fallen on the hill. I set the parking brake and left the Explorer running. The dry elm had broken into four long limbs. I grabbed the longest limb and threw it into a ravine that had always been a bottomless pit. It was like watching a slow-motion replay, because when the limb hit, it cracked and busted into more pieces. Suddenly, deer exploded in all directions down below. I stood there, astonished. Five huge does stood up and stretched to my left, another three smaller does did the same to my right, and directly in the middle of this romantic forest harem stood a tremendous buck.


Still standing in the wide-open, my mind raced with questions and no answers. Could I make something happen out of this mess? I wondered.

THE BUCK AND ALL eight does just stood there, and it looked like the ball was now in my court. I had to try something. What's the worst that could happen? They could run, but they hadn't yet. Slowly, never turning my back to the buck, I opened my driver's side door. With my right hand, I pushed the 4x4 button, shifted the transmission to drive, and ever so gently released the parking brake.

My plan -- albeit somewhat shaky -- was to drive to the top of the hill, but NOT over it. At my last glance, the harem was still intact and hadn't spooked at all. Upon reaching the spot on the gravel hill, I parked and left the Explorer running. I then opened my door and crawled out onto the gravel. Still on hands and knees, I crawled around the front and then to the passenger's rear door. Now, let me tell you people, crawling around on jagged gravel at my age is NOT an easy feat. My hands reached for my Martin bow, and I started crawling again. My goal was a cut-away that the rural power company had cleared when installing new lines. If I could make it to that pole, I'd be above the buck, and I'd figure out a plan as I proceeded.

Continued -- click on page link below.

That first power pole was a good 75-yard crawl through briars and jagged gravel, and my knees and elbows throbbed with every inch that I crawled. Arriving at the first pole, I eased up ever so gently and sneaked a peek. There, standing in the same position, was the buck, his eyes fixed on the parked Explorer. With the wind gusting and swirling, will it be possible for me to stalk within bow range? I asked myself.

Again I chanced a quick glance. The buck and his does were in the same place, their eyes still fixed on my Explorer. This would be a 100-percent pure stalk! My plan was either going to work or fall apart quickly as the does held all the chips and the ante was about to be called.

My bow kept getting tangled in the thick briars, and my elbows and knees had numerous briars broken off under the skin. By my estimates, I should now be less than 25 yards from the buck. I needed to sneak another peek, though, just to be sure. I rose to my knees and steadied myself with my bow. There, before my eyes, was the buck -- broadside and still staring at the parked Explorer on the hill. Most of the does had bedded down again or were watching the Explorer. I used my bow to push myself upright.

Nocking an arrow, I came to full draw and centered the pin on the buck's vitals. While at full draw I shuffled my feet under the leaves and mentally calculated the yardage at less than 20 yards. I just couldn't chance another step. My finger touched off the Tru-Fire release, and I watched the pink-fur-tracer arrow disappear into the buck. Before my eyes the buck crumpled into a heap, and the does ran in every direction. Two of the smaller does even ran to the buck and stood looking at him as if they were waiting for him to make a decision. Well gals, that buck made his decision a while back, a decision that literally cost him his life. If he'd run when he had the chance, my story would never have made it to the pages of this magazine.

It was 3:05 p.m. and I had my eighth Pope and Young buck on the ground. The whole act, from stopping on the hill to the release of my arrow, took only 90 minutes. A cell phone call to Herm and Lou soon had help on the way. Lou wanted to hear the story, so as we proceeded to the buck I explained how it had happened. Lou just shook his head and said, "What a horse! Herm, look at that buck!"

"Lou, did the Indian do good?" I asked.

"The Indian did just fine," he replied.

After numerous pictures and stories, we loaded the buck and checked him in at the archery station. Herm, being Herm, told Lou that the Kovars were going to start production on a new buck call and rattling bag all wrapped into one. Puzzled, Lou asked Herm what he meant? "We're going to take bags, throw in pieces of dead elm and other natural junk," Herm said. "And then, to call bucks in, all you have to do is throw the bag into a ravine."

AUTHOR'S NOTES: The buck, a "clean" 8-pointer, weighed a hefty 280 pounds live and green-scored 150. After the 60-day drying period, the buck was officially scored at 145 1/8 inches. My equipment consisted of a Martin Cougar set at 57 pounds, Muzzy Phantom broadheads, Tru-Fire release, Predator Camo, and Scent-Lok clothing.

The author is a regular Contributor from Hardin, Illinois. A Northern Cheyenne, this Indian has a real knack for getting close to game -- sometimes too close.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

High Country Colorado Turkey Hunt

High Country Colorado Turkey Hunt

Danny Farris and Doyle Worbington of J&D Outfitters are hunting turkeys in Colorado.

Better Bow Practice: Pick a Spot When Aiming

Better Bow Practice: Pick a Spot When Aiming

On this edition of "Dead On," Hall-of-Fame bowhunter Randy Ulmer shares advice on picking a spot to aim at when practicing with your bow.

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

New for 2021: Hoyt RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum 30 and Ventum 33

ATA 2021 NeDuring this video from the Archery Trade Association's New Product Premiere showcase, Bowhunter's TV Mike Carney visited with Evan Williams, pro staff manager for Hoyt Archery, to learn about the new RX-5, RX-5 Ultra, Ventum and Ventum 33 bows.w Product - Hoyt

Daybreak Whitetail Bowhunt

Daybreak Whitetail Bowhunt

Bowhunter TV Editor Derek Mleynek has a chance to fill his buck tag on a mixed bag hunt in Texas.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

It's important for bowhunters to adapt to the ever-changing scenarios & shot angles on the fly. Treestand Shot Selection for Bowhunters How-To

Treestand Shot Selection for Bowhunters

Tony J. Peterson

It's important for bowhunters to adapt to the ever-changing scenarios & shot angles on the...

Seeing is believing with this year's crop of exciting new optics.New Optics for 2021 ATA Show

New Optics for 2021

Taylor Pardue - January 12, 2021

Seeing is believing with this year's crop of exciting new optics.

Scouting is critical to consistent success and these trail cameras put you on the right path to big-game success.New Trail Cameras for 2021 ATA Show

New Trail Cameras for 2021

Brian K. Strickland - January 08, 2021

Scouting is critical to consistent success and these trail cameras put you on the right path...

There are many benefits to putting a lighted nock on your hunting arrows. Let's break them down. Are Lighted Nocks Worth the Expense? Arrows & Broadheads

Are Lighted Nocks Worth the Expense?

Curt Wells

There are many benefits to putting a lighted nock on your hunting arrows. Let's break them...

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

Dwight Schuh explains why it's okay to be serious about bowhunting - but not too serious!Hunting for the Fun of It Stories

Hunting for the Fun of It

Dwight Schuh

Dwight Schuh explains why it's okay to be serious about bowhunting - but not too serious!

Bowhunter Magazine is turning 45 years old! My, how time flies! I began bowhunting not long afterBowhunting: Passion, Obsession or Addiction? Stories

Bowhunting: Passion, Obsession or Addiction?

Randy Ulmer - October 21, 2016

Bowhunter Magazine is turning 45 years old! My, how time flies! I began bowhunting not long...

On a cold day in December 2014, I had the pleasure of viewing an incredibly special whitetail deer.A DIY Quest for a 200-Class Whitetail Stories

A DIY Quest for a 200-Class Whitetail

Dayne Majeau - July 27, 2016

On a cold day in December 2014, I had the pleasure of viewing an incredibly special whitetail...

As hunters, we need to give the respect we want to receive from others.Respect for the Hunt & Other Hunters Stories

Respect for the Hunt & Other Hunters

Dwight Schuh

As hunters, we need to give the respect we want to receive from others.

See More Stories

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Bowhunter App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Bowhunter subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now