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I left out for the Shawnee with the two other guys I go with on Thursday evening, and after a 9.5 hour drive we rolled into Metropolis Illinois about midnight Central time. We stayed in a motel and was up early Friday morning to head to the campground to set up our little home for the next 10 days. With camp set up and everything in place by about 10:30 am it was time to get down to business. Friday afternoon, a little time to scout, I picked out a general area, packed my climber, and headed into a familiar area. Quickly I seen there was a bumper crop of red oaks, and they were falling. I headed to the edge of a pine and honey suckle thicket where I knew there were several big red oaks, and set up for the first evenings hunt. I seen a 1.5 year old spike and a nice little 2.5 year old 7pt on the first evening, so things were looking promising. On Saturday morning, I chose a new sit that we had scouted last February about 1.4 miles into a large block of Shawnee that backed up to a large agriculture area. There are also many big red oaks in that area, and is about 400 yards off the crop fields. The action was hot, there was a chase going on around me in the dark as I was getting into my stand, shortly after daylight I spotted a doe and a little one as they moved through, and a 2.5 year old 8pt moved through a little later. Shortly after sun rise, the wind kicked a bit making it difficult at best to hear anything, and at about 9:00am I looked over my right shoulder to see a very large bodied deer moving down the ridge. I got my binos on him and seen.....even on day one for me, he was a no doubt shooter. He was moving away from me at about 40 yards. I grabbed my grunt call and hit him a few times.....he just kept walking, maybe with the wind he didn't hear me I thought to myself. Now at 70-80 yards, he was going to go over the end of the ridge, and I quickly grabbed my rattling bag, and done a clash/roll. He stopped dead in his tracks and looked, I done another clash/roll, and he broke into a trot in my direction and immediately started circling to the downwind side. To get directly downwind he was going to have to fall off the ridge and into a rough, thick drainage. The same drainage I used as access to the stand. I knew if he did that the gig would be over, but I hoped he would maybe hit the edge of the rough stuff and follow it.....and that he did. Stopping a time or two to survey the situation, he kept coming on a path that would put him directly behind the stand and CLOSE! It all happened in a matter of 25-30 seconds, but it felt like an eternity as I held my breath the entire time. At 8 yards, I drew as he was behind some stuff, he stopped just before the opening, and thankfully he didn't hesitate long before stepping broadsided into the opening at 6 yards! I stopped him, and took one more quick peek around my peep to survey him to make sure I wanted him, then settled my 25 yard pin at the top of the bottom 1/3 of his vitals.....which almost cost me! My arrow found its mark, but was a little low. He didn't react to the release, and at 6 yards my impact is a couple inches low when using my 25 yard pin.....in the excitement of the moment, I didn't remember to use my 40 yard pin for that close of a shot. He bounded out about 50 yards and stopped, as I watched through the binos expecting him to stagger and fall, he began walking, and walked into a very big thicket and out of sight. I thought, ok.....a couple hours and he will be right there in that thicket. As I sat there and surveyed the situation and played everything back in my head for a few minutes, the darnedest chase broke loose in that thicket that I'd ever seen out there. Multiple bucks were on a doe, which in any other situation I would have enjoyed to the fullest....but in this one it worried me BAD. I figured they would jump my buck if he weren't dead. I really didn't know either, there were racks going in every direction in that thicket, and all I could see was bits and pieces of deer and antlers going everywhere. When it settled, I eased down and headed the opposite direction to hit the trail I had walked in on. The trail was a good 300 yards from the stand, and in the opposite direction of the thicket the deer was in, however, when I hit the trail I immediately seen blood in the trail. My heart stopped! Confused, I deciphered the situation, and decided to follow the blood in the trail until it left it, then walk on out and wait. Still not knowing if it was my deer or not, it followed the trail for 80 yards or so then turned off into another thicket, and I eased on out. At 3:00pm we headed back in and picked up the trial, followed it to a bed, and then nothing. Clearly, the chase had disturbed the buck and he had left in a hurry. We circled and circled trying to cut a blood trial with zero success, and at that point, the ONLY thing we had left was the blood trail in the walking trail, and still no clue if it was my buck, or maybe an injured buck from a fight, or another hunter. On public ground during the rut, there were a lot of possibilities making the odds of it actually being my deer slim. We picked up the trial, tracked it into the thicket another 100 yards or so and found another bed. We hadn't jumped it, the blood was dry, but we did decide to go ahead and back out again until morning. The following morning, I picked the trial up myself while the other two guys hunted, the blood was sparse at best, and very difficult to follow....but 200 yards later, I smelled him! I used my nose another 60 yards or so and there he was in a tangled up lap! The entire series of events was full of both fortune and misfortune. Fortunate to have an opportunity at such a fine animal, unfortunate I made less than a perfect shot, unfortunate that the chase broke out and bumped him, and VERY VERY fortunate that I happened across the blood trail in the main trial while trying to sneak out in the opposite direction! Not a great scoring buck, but a great framed 4.5 year old 8pt, with good width, main beams, decent mass, and a great G2 on one side and a great G3 on the other! 8 years in a row I've been blessed with a great public land buck with a bow from the Shawnee!
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