Dream Buck- By Randy Templeton

September 2005

Here’s the story about a magnificent Illinois monster buck.

Bow & Arrow Hunting September 2005

When Dan Nordstrom of Coal Valley, Illinois. crept into the woods one afternoon last November, he had no idea what was in store for him. For sure Dan didn’t know what he’d see, much less shoot one of the largest bucks, killed by any archer in the state during the 2004 season.When Dan started bowhunting 14 years ago, he had a dream of someday shooting a buck that would break the 200-inch barrier. That dream became reality when a giant non-typical stepped into a clearing this past fall. Let’s take a look at the exciting events that led up to Dan scoring on this buck of a lifetime.

Post season Scouting Pays Off

“I spend a considerable amount of time in the woods during the post-season, and I don’t worry too much about spooking deer since the season is still several months away, and any intrusion will be forgotten Dan explained. ‘That’s why the off season is a good time to thoroughly dissect a piece of land. I typically search for rubs, rublines, old scrapes, bedding areas and trails that lead to and from feeding and bedding locations.”

In the late winter and early spring, Dan also spends time hunting for shed antlers. In fact, in the spring of 2003 he picked up a set with striking similarities to those on the buck he shot this past season” Although Dan said he can’t be certain, it’s quite possible the sheds are from the same deer or perhaps from another in the same gene pool.

In addition to scouting, Dan utilizes the post-season to clear shooting lanes or drop trees to create a funnel. By the time the season rolls around the deer are pretty much programmed to travel where he wants them. For example, if a buck is traveling just out of bow range, Dan says, dropping a tree in the trail can shift his travel pattern enough to put him within range.

Dan continued; ‘Late winter is also a good rime to identify potential locations for food plots. When planting time arrives in April or May, I’m ready to get started. I’m still experimenting with food plots, like clover, alfalfa and recently chicory.

“Several years ago I purchased 90 acres from a friend of mine who’s a logger by trade. The property is unique- there’s about 25 acres of creek-bottom marsh that borders 65 acres of hardwood timber. The big, mature trees were logged off, but it sparked a lot of new growth, and it’s gotten pretty thick since. It’s become real deer habitat.

“A couple of years later I bought an additional 10 acres that butts up to the other” Dan added. “That piece consists of 20 acres of pasture and 10 acres of timber. It might be only 120 acres total but it’s got a little bit of everything to offer in terms of habitat. When considering how the land is laid out, plus all the improvements I’ve made with adding food plots, it’s a hunter’s dream come true .”

Dan’s Bowhunting Strategy

“Face it, in the Midwest we’re not hunting Large-timber whitetails. The woods are typically small ranging from 25 to l00 acres. We have the upper hand after harvest, mainly because most of the deer are funneled into and concentrated in these small wood lots, and we’re able to take advantage of that. Our biggest challenge is getting to and from stands undetected. I do a lot of edge hunting to avoid burning out my timbers.

When it comes to hunting big deer I think we’ve all got different opinions on how to go about it. Likewise, I’m confident that we can all pretty much agree on what not to do. For example, if I already know there’s a big deer running on my property, it doesn’t make any sense to penetrate his bedroom or private area and risk bumping him out altogether. Throughout the summer and until the season starts, I stay completely out of the woods. Instead, I spend a lot of time glassing crops from a safe distance to learn where and when deer enter the fields to feed. “My favorite time to hunt whitetails is during the hard pre-rut, which begins about Oct. 25 and ends around Nov. 10 in Illinois. I think it’s the best time to identify a big buck’s pattern, which makes it possible to
close the distance.”

Scent Control A Must

Although I’d like to believe most hunters throw caution to the wind and take measures to avoid detection, Dan suspects that some hunters are more concerned about what the wind is doing at their stand, rather than what it’s doing as they go to and from it. The savvy hunters feel that it’s important to know and understand what the wind is doing all the time. Like many, Dan takes all the necessary precautions before a
hunt, showering with unscented soap and storing his outer clothes in a scent-free bag or container. Most important, Nordstrom claims that wearing a full-length Scent-Lok suit, rubber boots, and spraying himself down and gear with HS Scent-A-Way spray has been the key to bearing a whitetail’s keen sense of smell.

The Season Begins
Here is Dan Nordstrom’s account of the start to his season: “For years, my friend Dan Coons and I have always hunted together on opening weekend. We both try to put a doe in the freezer early so we can then concentrate on hunting a buck. As it turned out, Dan shot a doe
the first afternoon and I killed mine during the second. “l actually hunt several places, but to avoid burning any of them out too early, I typically spend the first three weeks of the season spreading out my days hunting different spots.

“On Halloween my brother, Mike, and my nephew, Ross Nordstrom, came in to town and wanted to do some deer hunting. I took them out and tried to put them on a deer, but it just didn’t happen. ‘A friend, Jonathon Lujan, was up from New Mexico that same week hunting with another friend of ours, Jeff Campagna. It was Nov. 1 and I remember it was raining that day. We all got together for lunch and sat around dis-
cussing whether or not we were going out. The rain let up a little, so I ended up going out that afternoon and it paid off.
“I gathered up my gear and headed for a stand along the edge of a small picked cornfield. About 3:40 that afternoon,
three big bucks entered the secluded corner on the far end of the field to feed. The deer seem to like that corner because
it’s isolated and hidden from any roads. It’s not unusual to see 15 or more does feeding there in the evening. During the pre-rut and rut, the bucks seem to hang around the edges and come out every so often to check on the ladies.
“Unfortunately, I d forgotten my good binocular. Using my small compacts it was difficult to tell just how big the bucks were, but one was exceptionally bigger than the others and definitely a shooter. “The bucks fed for a while, then slipped back into the woods using the same trail. I already had a stand set up close to where the biggest buck went in. In the worst-case scenario, I figured my longest shot would be 30 yards.

The wind was out of the northwest and if it stayed steady, I’d hunt the stand the next evening. If the buck came from the west again, the wind would be at his back, so chances are I’d get a shot off long before he winded me. “The next afternoon, I was running a bit late. When arriving, I quickly slipped into my Scent-Lok suit and sprayed down my outer clothes and gear with Scent-A-Way.

I made way toward the stand and arrived about 3:20. “After getting settled in I bleated a few times on ‘The Can.’ I normally do this because I think it has a calming effect on any deer that might have heard me walking in. Chances are they think it’s just another deer and not a threat.
“Shortly afterward, a doe and button buck cautiously moved through and began feeding. I don’t think they smelled me, but the doe knew something wasn’t quite right. It was exactly 20 minutes after climbing into the stand (3:40) when I spotted a buck walking up the fence
line. He was coming so fast I didn’t have a lot of time to look him over, but he was definitely a shooter! It looked like the same buck I’d seen the afternoon before.

“I got in position to shoot, but just two or three steps short of giving me a broadside shot, he stopped. Only a few seconds passed before he turned and started walking away. I quickly drew the Hoyt UltraTec bow and mouthed a murrp. The buck stopped quartering away, so I tucked the pin behind the last rib and punched the release. The arrowed buried itself to the fletching and the buck charged off with his tail tucked between his legs. I visually marked the location 50 yards away where I’d last seen him. Seconds later I heard a crashing noise that led me to believe he’d gone down.

“I waited maybe 30 minutes or so before climbing down to take up the trail. I went to where I last saw him, but didn’t find any blood right away.
With my binocular I scanned the area ahead and spotted his white belly just 40 yards further down the hill. I approached cautiously, but he was down for good. It wasn’t until I walked up on him and grabbed the antlers that I was able to grasp how big the buck reality was. I’ve been waiting a long time to shoot a buck like this, and words can’t express how I felt at that moment. This was the fourth buck I’ve shot that will qualified for the Pope & Young Club record book, but also my biggest to date and a dream season come true!”

One thing that’s interesting to note is the time of day Dan killed his deer. The giant came meandering down the same trail heading toward the
field to feed and check on the does at exactly the same time as he did the previous day. It goes to show that big bucks can be patterned and killed during the pre-rut.

After the mandatory 60-day drying period, Dan took his Warren County giant to Tim Talmsley and had it officially measured. The buck had 18 scorable points and gross scored 203 6/8 and netted 194 0/8 inches. There were a couple of deer killed in 2004 that scored higher than the Nordstrom buck, but from a personal viewpoint, none were nearly as impressive.

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