Bill Ullrich Buck: 220-Inch Peoria County Non-Typical
July 23, 2013
Thirty-five years of bowhunting have taught Bill Ullrich a few things about chasing whitetails. After a few years of making a lot of mistakes, you reach a level of knowledge that moves you as a hunter to a level of wanting to challenge the oldest and smartest buck in the woods.
There is another factor, however, that even experienced hunters all too often overlook — luck. If you haven't said it yourself, chances are you've heard a hunter say, "I'll take luck anytime," or "the harder I work, the luckier I get." Sometimes what we call "luck" is simply slowing down long enough to listen to that small voice in the back of your head that says "turn right" or "turn left."
On October 26, 2012, Bill had made up his mind to take off work early to spend an afternoon in the woods, and he knew exactly which tree he was headed for that afternoon. He was almost to the tree when something told him he needed to turn around and, instead, opt for a tried and true setup he had long-ago named the "good luck tree."
"I had already walked past the tree," Bill said, "and normally the last thing a hunter should do is backtrack. This just puts more scent on the ground past your stand. But it was just one of those feelings you get as a hunter sometimes."
One hour and ten minutes later, he realized that was the best decision he had ever made, as he watched his arrow bury to the nock in the largest whitetail buck he had ever shot at.
The 2011 archery season had been a good one for Bill, and he had managed to harvest two respectable bucks. One of the bucks was a 9-pointer that scored in the 140s, and the other buck, taken later in the season, was a 12-pointer that scored in the 130s. After using both of his buck tags, Bill had resigned the late-season for doe management.
During one particular doe hunt, he just happened to look over his shoulder at the right time and saw a giant buck 50 yards away. He only got a glimpse of the buck as it disappeared into heavy brush, but he immediately knew two things. First, the buck was the biggest deer he had ever seen in the woods, and second, he knew where he would be hunting next season.
When the 2012 archery season arrived, Bill set out a couple of trail cameras on the relatively small piece of property he hunts in Peoria County, Ill. He makes it a habit to stay out of the woods until just before Halloween, and therefore, he had not checked the trail cameras for a couple of weeks. Since Bill hunts a small area, he does not want to spook deer early in the season.
Experience has taught him that on this particular piece of property, the last week of October seems to flip the switch and a lot of the bucks on adjacent properties suddenly start showing up on his hunting area in search of does. By the third week of October, he did not have any "shooter" bucks on his cameras. This did not really bother Bill, since he knew that the older bucks probably wouldn't start showing up until the rut kicked in.
On Friday, October 26, Bill took off work at 2 p.m. He immediately drove to his hunting property and proceeded to go through his normal routine of getting ready to hunt. He knew that the wind was perfect for the area he hunted, and he changed into his hunting clothes, which had been recently washed with scent-free soap. He sprayed everything down with scent-free spray, grabbed his climber treestand and headed for the woods.
Placed strategically within the timber was a small food plot in which Bill had planted turnips in mid-summer. Even though there had been a drought during the summer of 2012, late summer rain had somehow resulted in a pretty good stand of turnips. On this particular day, Bill walked past the food plot and past the "good luck tree" where he had taken other bucks and headed for the back of the property. When he was about halfway to the other tree, he suddenly got the feeling that he needed to return to the "good luck tree."
Paying credence to his instinct, Bill turned around and backtracked to the setup. By about 2:30 p.m., Bill had situated his Lone Wolf climber in the tree and was situated approximately 24 feet off the ground. Needless to say, after walking all that way and ascending the tree, he was soaked with sweat. Bill was so overheated by the time he was set up in the tree that he proceeded to remove a layer of clothing, trying to cool down before prime time arrived that evening.
Even though Bill was set up at the bottom of a ridge, a consistent breeze was blowing that evening, and just as he was considering putting his jacket back on, three does arrived on the scene. They proceeded to bed down 50 yards away, near the foot plot. Bill slowly and quietly managed to put his outer layer of clothing back on without spooking the bedded does. Ten minutes later, another doe appeared about halfway between his stand and the first trio of does. Bill ranged the doe at 35 yards, just for a point of reference. The doe moved away totally unaware of his presence.
It had only been 10-15 minutes since he spotted the last doe when movement caught Bill's eye. A deer was approaching along the same trail the doe had been on, and Bill could barely make out antlers. By the time he had picked up his bow, the buck was close enough that Bill got a good look at him. In a split second, Bill could tell the buck was mature. He immediately reminded himself to ignore the antlers and focus on the shot.
As Bill came to full draw, the buck was quartering towards him and he picked up on the movement. The buck turned to look up at Bill but did not move. Bill lined the sight pin tight against the buck's shoulder and released the arrow. The buck was standing in the exact spot where he had ranged the doe — 35 yards.
The Carbon Express arrow, tipped with a Rocket broadhead, buried to the nock, penetrating the full length of the shaft. The buck turned and ran, then stopped about 30 yards away. Bill tried to find a hole through the brush for a follow-up shot at the buck, but there was too much brush in the way. He quietly watched the buck stand in one spot for 10-15 minutes. Then the buck turned and slowly walked out of sight.
The shot took place around 3:40 p.m., and Bill had made up his mind that he was not getting down from the tree until 5 p.m. As 5 p.m. approached, Bill couldn't stand it any longer. He slowly and quietly got down from the tree and proceeded to where the buck had been standing at the shot. Thirty yards away, he found good blood pooled in the spot where the buck had stood for 10-15 minutes.
At this point it had been approximately an hour and a half since the shot. Bill eased over the crest of the hill where he had last seen the buck and saw a blow-down just below him. Suddenly, he saw movement in the big blow-down. The buck had stood up and was walking uphill very slowly.
With no shot opportunity, Bill watched as the buck crested the top of the hill, stopped and bedded down. Earlier, Bill had called his son, Matt, and as Bill sat quietly watching the bedded buck, Matt arrived. They both sat and watched the bedded buck, determined not to jump him again. After several minutes, the buck got to his feet and slowly moved over the crest of the hill, just out of sight.
Bill and Matt watched the area for another half-hour, then slowly climbed the hill, trying to be as quiet as possible. When they had crested the hill, they saw the buck bedded, and immediately it stood up and slowly moved off. At this point, Bill and his son very quickly backed down the hill and left the woods.
Thus began a long, sleepless night for Bill. By daylight on Saturday morning, Bill and his son were headed back to the spot where they had last seen the buck. They knew the exact spot where they had seen the buck get up just before they left the timber. When they arrived at that spot there was no blood. They slowly began to move down the ridge in the direction the buck had headed. Suddenly, only 60 yards from where they had last seen the buck, they both saw antlers.
Bill eased toward the buck very quietly, with another arrow nocked, but it rapidly became obvious that the buck was down for good this time. "I was in shock," Bill said. "I couldn't believe the size of the antlers."
Not only were the antlers huge, the buck's body was also very large. "By the time we dragged the deer to the base of the hill, and then to the truck, it was amazing how much weight that buck gained," Bill joked.
The buck was officially measured at the Illinois Deer Classic by Boone and Crockett measurer Matt Staser. With 31 measurable points, Bill's buck tallied a net non-typical score of 220 1/8 inches.
"I knew it was a good buck when I shot him," Bill said, "but I had no idea that it would be my buck of a lifetime."