By Ron Willmore
Successfully bowhunting trophy whitetails takes extraordinary patience. When you compound the difficulty of short-range hunting tools and self-imposed restrictions, you’ve shifted the odds heavily in favor of the deer. You really have to love the hunt to maintain any semblance of sanity throughout the ups and downs of bow season. On any given day, at any given minute, the emotions of hunting can go from one extreme to another.
During the 2017 season, eastern Illinois bowhunter Adam Crumrin had set his sights pretty high. He was in pursuit of a couple bucks he knew were easily of Boone & Crockett caliber. Using Covert cellular trail cameras, he was able to keep tabs on them without having to frequently be in the woods.
Adam focuses his efforts on bucks he believes are a minimum of 5 1/2 years old. And he’s been able to tag a bunch of them. As longtime readers might recall from a feature in our June ’16 issue, one of his trophies is a deer nicknamed “Elvis.” That beast had a gross B&C score of 224 6/8 inches. The massive deer was just one of nine whitetails Adam has taken have gross scores exceeding B&C minimums. Obviously, this guy is doing something right.
With the track record Adam has, you might get the impression he never fails. But he does, same as everyone else. Most giant bucks are smarter than other deer in the herd. When you add in that Adam self-films his hunts, you’re tilting the scale far in favor of the bucks.
Going into the ’17 season, his trail cameras showed two really good bucks on separate farms. The short version of the story is that during prime time that year, Adam missed shots at both. One miss was due to a setting on the bow coming loose; the other errant shot was just a miss, plain and simple. If you’ve bowhunted long, you probably know how much you beat yourself up over missing a crack at a big buck, and Adam had to live with the frustration for months.
Now let’s fast-forward to ’18. Adam was again getting daylight photos of some good bucks by the end of October. Among them was one of those he’d missed the previous season. He knew the buck didn’t live fulltime on the farm where he’d seen him in ’17, but the year before, trail cameras verified he was moving through the farm between Nov. 5-12. The buck was a basic 10-pointer that had blown up into the 190s range.
Paying attention to as many details as possible, Adam saw Nov. 8 was going to be a coveted “Red Moon” day, based on buck movement predictions in the annual Moon Guide. So just after noon on the 8th, with the right wind for a stand along the edge of a bean field with a grass waterway, Adam headed out on his QuietKat e-bike to hunt the giant.
“The QuietKat is great for getting to your stand quietly,” Adam points out. “However, there’s another equally important aspect. I ride it right to the tree, then stash it in brush or grass next to the tree. By not touching the ground all the way to your tree, you don’t leave any human scent on the ground. That can be a major benefit.It keeps those old does from crossing your scent trail and freaking out.” Adam also uses an Ozonics unit and the Phaze odor-control system to further minimize his scent.
He’d hunted the stand nine times already last fall without seeing the target buck but was hopeful this hunt would be different. Sure enough, after only 20 minutes in the stand, he saw a giant step out of the treeline approximately 100 yards away. Adam immediately recognized the buck as the one he’d missed on that farm the previous season.
The bowhunter let out a couple soft doe calls with his Extinguisher deer call. And the monster buck responded immediately; he started walking along the waterway, quartering into the wind and toward the tree stand.
When the deer was approximately 60 yards away, he turned into the waterway, scent-checking where a doe and small buck had been bedded earlier. After getting the video camera lined up and turned on, Adam ranged the buck at 53 yards. As the monster turned broadside Adam released his arrow, tipped with a RAD-Madman 3-blade broadhead.
It looked like a solid double-lung hit as the buck ran through the grass into the edge of the woods. But even though Adam thought he saw the buck go down, he stayed in the tree for 30 minutes. He then called a friend, Ed Presley, knowing he’d need help getting the deer out. Adam and Ed work together for Whitetail Properties.
Ed showed up with his electric Polaris, and after a short trailing job, they found the giant 10-pointer. They tagged and field-dressed the buck, then loaded him into the UTV and headed for Adam’s truck.
This is already a much better season than last year, Adam recalls thinking. And it’s still early in the season.
The great deer proved to have a gross B&C score of 183 inches, despite a broken brow tine. Based on live photos, the rack would have been right at 190 if the brow hadn’t snapped off. But Adam wasn’t complaining a bit.
After taking care of his buck that evening, the bowhunter caught the weather forecast. With his having just shot a gross B&C whitetail, you’d think he might relax and sleep in the next morning. Not.
“I noticed we were supposed to get the first strong cold front of the season that night,” Adam explains. “Since the next day was Nov. 9, I knew I had to be in the stand the next morning.”
Sure enough, a half-hour before daylight, Adam was perched 25 feet up a tree on the property where he’d been getting photos of the other big buck. Light rain was falling, and the temperature had dropped significantly overnight. As soon as the bowhunter figured there was enough light for his video camera, he rattled with a Black Rack.
There wasn’t even time to put the synthetic antlers down before Adam heard a deer walking.
“I knew with the weather conditions, if I could hear a deer walking, he must be close,” he notes. In this case, “close” was an understatement. The buck was five yards from the base of the tree!
“I got the camera on him, but I did not have a shot,” Adam remembers. The buck then moved past the tree, looking for the fight he thought he’d heard.
The big deer kept walking into the bean field, putting him 50-60 yards past the bowhunter. Adam grabbed his grunt tube and called loudly enough for the buck to hear him. The brute stopped, turned and came running back! Adam didn’t have time to reposition the camera, but he’d already turned on the Go-Pro attached to his Hoy Defiant compound.
When the buck stopped at 20 yards, everything went on automatic. Adam center-punched his lungs and watched him run off. Following his trail revealed him dead beside a pond only 100 yards away.
“My first thought was, ‘Oh, my gosh — I think I just killed my second gross Boone & Crockett buck in less than 18 hours!’” Adam recalls. And, yes, the 12-pointer did gross B&C, at 171 inches.
Adam was in shock. It took awhile for him to come to the full realization that not only had he taken two gross B&C bucks in under 18 hours, he’d self-filmed both hunts!
To pull this off took not only the right land but also being extremely persistent, covering all the bases and, yes, having a little luck. Adam went from the lowest of lows in ’17 to the highest of highs a season later.
“Bowhunting can be a rollercoaster ride,” he says. “Just hang on and don’t give up. Everything happens for a reason.”