"Wait a minute," Brian Bard stopped, his face a rainbow of emotion. "You're not going to believe this … My bow's back in the truck!"
Brian and Andrew French were so preoccupied by thoughts of what their afternoon hunt would bring that neither thought it odd - at least at first - that Brian wasn't carrying his bow. He was carrying his hunting clothes, which he wasn't accustomed to doing, so his hands were full.
Nov. 28, 2000, was uncharacteristically warm, and Brian decided to dress light for the hike to his stand.
Andrew's normally acute powers of observation were more focused on the terrain, since that was the first time for him to hunt that plot (at Brian's urging). He'd been hunting elsewhere on the property, but Brian had seen a very large buck in a cut bean field and suggested that they team up to cover more of it.
While Brian went to retrieve his weapon, Andrew went to the field's edge and sat down at the base of a tree. Moments later, a doe zipped past him. Behind her was a monstrous buck. Andrew didn't have time to count points and he wasn't prepared to shoot (though the buck passed within 20 yards), but the image of those long tines was burned into his brain!
When Brian returned, Andrew told him about the buck, and Brian was convinced that it was the same brute that he'd seen feeding upon leftover beans.
With high hopes, the two bid each other good luck and took their respective positions. Brian's stand was across the field from Andrew's - probably 200 yards away.
Around 3:30, Andrew spotted the huge buck on Brian's side, but about 200 yards from his buddy's hiding place. Later, a little 4-pointer stepped into the field from his side. When the bucks saw each other, they started for the middle of the field. When they met, they almost touched noses. After the how-do-you-dos, the 4-pointer turned and came back to Andrew, passing within bow range as it left the field.
The big buck came within 50 yards, close enough for Andrew to stand, but it had no intention of following the young buck before filling its belly. Andrew drew his bow at one point, but he didn't shoot. The deer was just too far!
Brian had been watching the show through his binoculars. He could tell that the feeding buck was beyond Andrew's range, so he decided to fix things.
Since darkness was approaching, Brian decided to try pushing the monster buck toward Andrew. As he slowly angled across the field, the buck raised its head and looked at him, but resumed feeding. When Brian was within 100 yards, the buck looked up again - this time to see Brian waving his hands. But it still paid no attention to him.
Brian didn't push the buck or his luck. He worked his way back toward the woods and sat down to watch.
Before dark, the wind changed. And when the buck got a nose full of Brian, it took the same path that the 4-pointer followed earlier. When it was within 30 yards, Andrew drew. But the buck turned into a drainage ditch.
Switching his attention to the woods, where he expected the buck to reappear, Andrew turned in his API stand and began looking for the deer. He saw the rack first, before the buck's body materialized inside of 20 yards. Within seconds, an Easton sliced through the unsuspecting animal's midsection, causing it to charge off into the trees.
A little while later, Andrew yelled for Brian to join him. When they couldn't find a blood trail, they decided to leave and recruit another friend, Tommy.
(Incidentally, on the way to the woods, an 8-pointer ran into the driver's-side door of Tommy's pickup.)
The threesome finally found blood about 75 yards from where the deer was hit. They followed it to where the buck had obviously bedded down and then to a second place - 20 yards farther. After that, the trail ceased. They reluctantly gave up the search around 9 p.m.
Andrew and Brian were back at the field before daybreak, and they immediately followed the paper trail they had left a few hours earlier. At the last one, they split. The river bottom was like a jungle, and Andrew wondered if the task was hopeless ... until he heard Brian yell: "I found it!"
Andrew ran as fast as his 42-year-old legs would carry him toward Brian. When he got to the deer, he almost didn't recognize it. The buck was undoubtedly the biggest he'd arrowed in 16 years of bowhunting. It's also the second-largest Irregular ever arrowed in Illinois!
Andrew has no problem with being the runner-up.
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Hunter: Andrew French
BTR Official Score: 238 6/8
BTR Composite Score: 259 4/8
Weapon: Compound Bow
Location: Alexander Co., Illinois
Date: November 28, 2000