Gene Figge’s Whitetail Deer Hunt

November 19, 2004

I am a life long hunter who comes from a long line of hunters. It is simply something that has always been a part of my life. You name it and my family and me hunt it. Deer hunting is just something we do. We are not as serious about it as we are our waterfowl hunting, but myself, my father, my brother and a group of friends all put our time in on deer stand each season.
After moving away from my home area upon completion of college I still make time to take periodic hunting trips in my home area. Opening day of the Illinois 2004 firearm deer season was an occasion for just such a trip. I traveled to Jersey County in the early hours of November 19 and met my father and several friends for the opening morning hunt. A couple of the guys in our party were looking for big bucks and letting the little deer walk. My dad and I have never been that into trophy hunting and just look for deer to put in the freezer.

During the morning hunt I spotted a small basket racked buck, but could not get a shot at it. After my dad killed a doe later in the day we found a scrape line while dragging it out and I picked a tree and hung my Hunter View climber stand on it for the evening hunt. We ate lunch and I was back on stand at about 2 in the afternoon.

The first two hours passed with nothing of excitement other than a couple squirrels scurrying around. It had been a long drive and a long day and I was starting to doze off, but still needed a deer for the freezer and had an unfilled doe tag as well as an unfilled either sex tag. At about 4:15 it was starting to get dark and there was only a half hour of legal shooting light left. At that point I heard a deer blowing way off down the valley.

The deer sounded like it was closing the distance to me so I stood up in my stand and got ready as the sound of snorting and crashing steadily grew closer. About that time a doe topped the hill at about 10 yards with a nice buck that looked to be about 10 points hot on her tail. They were running flat out and screamed through right under my stand and up the side hill. I whistled and even yelled, but the deer would not stop and offer a shot. After the deer were gone I stood there shaking and muttering to myself about the lost opportunity.

Then I heard yet another deer approaching from the same direction. I got ready once more thinking a doe might be trailing the pair of deer that just ran through or maybe a smaller buck. About then a rack like you see on the cover of magazines topped the hill at the same point as the other deer had. Soon the massive buck’s whole body appeared and he was grunting with every step hot on the trail of the smaller buck and doe.

He ran the same path right under my stand and would not stop or slow up at my whistle either. Out of options and having the deer of a lifetime in front of me I swung my shotgun until I saw blurred hair in the scope and then swung past it as the buck topped the side hill at 40 yards. I squeezed the trigger and the buck did not go down, but he stopped broad side. I swung the cross hairs onto his shoulder as the well-worn slide on the Mossberg ejected the hull and sent a fresh Lightfield Commander into the chamber and as soon as the cross hairs settled I squeezed the trigger again.

At the shot the buck bolted the whole incident from appearance of the first deer to the last shot lasted a matter of seconds. Then I stood there shaking thinking I had missed the shot. But from a side hill in the direction the deer had ran came the sound of crashing and a big body tumbling making me dare to hope that my once in a lifetime deer was down. After a few minutes I climbed down as light was fading fast and went to follow up the shot. Two steps from where I shot at the deer I found a nice spray of good red blood indicating a pass through shot. Two more steps and the blood turned pink and had bubbles in it and I knew it was the buck I heard crash.

Marking the trail with some tissue paper I had I yelled for my dad to come help. He soon arrived and set to work calming me down because all I kept saying over and over was “Big deer!, Big, big deer!” Dad calmed me down and looked at the trail and said take it easy he did not go far. Dad was right of course we found him 40 or 50 yards from where the slug took him. The Lightfield slug had gone in the front of his left shoulder and passed out the back of his rib cage on the right side leaving a nice entrance and exit wounds that made blood trailing easy. The first shot at him on the run had just grazed his left front leg and caused him to stop long enough for me to put the second round where it needed to go.

My dad just shook his head and said, “That’s the deer of a lifetime.” Then the real worked started in getting the big buck field dressed and off of the side of a big hill in brush and to the truck. But it was all worth it. The deer aged at 6 years old with 18 points and an 18-inch inside spread. I am waiting for the drying period to pass to get it scored, but he has been estimated at 200 B&C. For a confirmed meat hunter taking a trophy like this was not something I was expecting and I have been on cloud nine since.

Details of the Hunt
Shot Distance: 40 Yards
Measured Score: an estimated 200 B&C
Size Of Animal: 18 Point Non-Typical
Hunting Method: Tree Stand
Weapon Used: Mossberg Model 835 with Deer Barrel and Tasco Scope
Ammunition Used: Lightfield Commander 3-1/2
Length Of Hunt: 1 Day
Guide Outfitter: Private Land
Camo Preference: Blaze Orange