After a lifetime of fantasizing about hunting deer in far-flung places, Arkansas hunter Mike Novak lived the dream twice in 2017.
Friends invited him to hunt in both Illinois and Ohio. He originally declined the latter because the proposed dates overlapped, but he didn’t count on filling his first tag an hour and a half into his Illinois stint.
After barely a week of spending more time in a vehicle than in a tree, Mike gained two future taxidermy bills.
“The southern Illinois property has been managed for deer for at least 20 years,” Mike told Lisa Price, who’s writing the story for Rack magazine. “It’s got everything: swamp, river bottom, oak flats, and bucks have to be 150 (inches) or better. When I got the invite, I couldn’t wait to go.”
Because it was raining, his first assigned hunting spot was a 15-foot-high box blind that he hated because the stand was more suitable for rifle than bowhunting.
He eventually heard bucks fighting behind a wall of vegetation.
“When I hit the grunt tube, this buck jumped out and came right toward me,” he said. “It literally bounded out of a thicket, got on a trail, and walked right to me.”
Within seconds, it was no longer walking.
Mission accomplished, Mike went back home to work for a couple of days – he’s a maintenance man – before driving the 12 hours to Ohio.
When he headed afield shortly after daylight on Saturday, he was carrying his climber. He saw several does and small bucks that day.
“On Sunday morning, I moved about 300 or 400 yards from where I’d been to where I’d seen most of the deer moving,” he said.”
It was straight-up 1:00 when he spotted a huge buck.
“It was by itself, nose to the ground. It just came walking out of a thicket along the edge of a field,” Mike said. “The buck was definitely in pre-rut mode; just checking the doe trail.”
Mike drew his bow and made the shot as soon as opportunity knocked.
The Illinois buck has a BTR score of 190. The one from Ohio tallies 170 2/8.
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