There's nothing quite like getting access to a hunting property and finding out it has a big buck on it.
Last August when John Totzke received permission to hunt a private chunk 40 miles south of Chicago in Will County, he had no idea he'd just awoken a sleeping giant.
The landowner said his 70-acre property hadn't been hunted in years and was overgrown in areas, but the three standing cornfields stretching most of the northern Illinois tract were music to John's ears.
He set up trail cameras throughout a 30-acre block of woods on the southwest portion of the property, but it was two months before this mainframe 10-pointer, nicknamed Blade because of the jagged P2s and 3s, showed up in the wee hours of the morning on October 18, and regularly thereafter between 2 and 3 am.
“I was talking to a customer in August, and he asked what my plans were for the weekend,” John said. “I told him I was headed to my farm to plant food plots, and he mentioned he'd bought some ground in a particular area.
“I actually used to live a half-mile from this spot. He said nobody has hunted there for a long time. When I got there you could tell nobody had been hunting it. It was thick, and I found a huge 60-inch 4-point shed that looks like it was there for five years or more.”
John set up a lock-on overlooking the intersection of two grass fields and a cornfield. He said the stand was perfect during a south wind, which would blow his scent back across the cornfield and provide a good view to the entire woods in front of him.
At the time, John was in between archery rigs, so he borrowed a Hoyt RX-4 from his friend, Anthony, who isn't a hunter and uses it strictly for 3D-target competitions.
“I sold my bow last year and was revamping my whole setup because things weren't going right my first two seasons bowhunting,” John said. “I had some stupid misses, but I still got some good-size deer. I had no bow equipment, but my buddy Anthony had a fully-loaded RX-4. It's a nice bow, and I didn't want to borrow it at first. We have the same exact draw length and everything; all I had to do was adjust the peep sight because his was a little lower.”
Without a daylight photo of Blade and using a borrowed bow, John still knew he needed to be in a stand. The temperature had dropped slightly, and the change brought a favorable wind.
John crept along in a 5-foot ditch that runs the length of the cornfield to access the stand almost a football field away. He hunted five days straight with no luck.
Then, on Sunday, Nov. 6, he snuck in just before 1 p.m. and prepared a mock scrape 21 yards south of the stand. A few hours later, he heard a grunt before seeing a doe cut across the field.
“At first, all I saw was the doe. When I looked again, there was a wall of tines,” he said. “I turned around, and as I was drawing the bow, he's coming close. I was thinking, ‘Holy cow, that's a giant.' I settled the top pin and squeezed. He was chasing a doe hard with his mouth open, cruising. It was the first time I ever saw him daylight, and I shot him at 3:27 p.m.”
John rough-scored the mainframe 10-pointer at 199 1/8 inches, and both main beams measured 27 inches. It's his personal best buck, and certainly one to be proud of.
“I live for mature bucks, so for this to happen with this caliber of deer, I'm still speechless.”