August 21, 2023
Chris and Matt Clark live and hunt in the now-famous Edgar County, Illinois, which is where Luke Brewster’s world-record buck was killed. Both brothers passionately pursue trophy whitetails, and during the 2022 hunting season, Matt and Chris each killed world-class bucks just days apart in their home state. What follows is the story of how these brothers accomplished the unimaginable.
THE SURPRISE GIANT
Matt’s story starts on Aug. 14, 2022, when he received a notification from his cell camera. Just one look was all he needed to know the velvet buck was already a great deer. Matt couldn’t see exactly how big the buck was since it wasn’t a good picture, but he knew it was a buck that he’d never seen or gotten pictures of before.
Matt went home and picked up one of his Spartan cameras, hoping to put it out and get a better picture of the buck, but he never received another photo of him again until Oct. 17. Then, on the 19th, the buck started hitting a mock rope scrape that Matt had hung in his food plot; that is when he got a video of the deer on the Spartan camera, revealing exactly how big he was!
After that, Matt was constantly checking his phone for notifications to see if the heavy non-typical had come by. The buck never showed again until Oct. 30, and Matt learned of two neighbors who were receiving photos of the big deer as well. The buck was also a stranger to the neighbors, convincing the hunters that this was a new-arrival buck.
All the pictures Matt had received were taken after dark. The next photo of the non-typical came through on Nov. 6, and again he was hitting the rope scrape. By then Matt had made his mind up: it was the non-typical or bust. The next day he checked another scrape that Matt had a Spartan camera on, giving Matt a great video of the buck right at dusk! Matt felt his opportunity at the buck would be soon, and even the neighbors had the deer on camera in daylight on Nov. 8.
Matt began hunting the non-typical hard on the 10th. Chris, his brother, had seen numerous bucks cruising on the 10th and 11th. Still, Matt felt he needed to get away from the food plot and go back into the timber if he wanted to spot the giant during daylight. On the afternoon of Nov. 14, he did just that.
Matt hunted a stand about 200 yards off the food plot, sitting on the side of a ravine that led down to the food plot where a lot of does bed. Early that afternoon, he had a nice 8-point come by dogging two does. Roughly an hour later, he came by again dogging the same does. And an hour after that, Matt heard a deer coming from behind him in the same area he had last seen the 8-point, so he assumed it was the 8-point again. However, when he turned to look, there was no doubt what deer he was looking at.
The tall, heavy non-typical walked to within 15 yards of him broadside, and Matt was shaken and trying to calm himself for the shot. Matt had the giant in the scope and squeezed the trigger on his Raven crossbow. He heard the bolt hit, but even with his lighted nock he couldn’t tell where he had struck the buck. The giant deer ran about 50 yards to the field edge and stopped before slowly walking off. Matt only caught glimpses of him through the brush as he sauntered off.
As it was getting dark about an hour after the shot, Matt got a picture of the deer on a camera 120 yards away. Matt was sick knowing it had been an hour and he was still alive and on his feet. Matt climbed down and found his bolt; the blood seemed to be a brown color, which didn’t give him much hope. So, he slipped out and decided to wait 24 hours before going to search for him. Matt couldn’t eat or sleep, wondering if he would ever see the big buck again.
Matt called a friend who owns a tracking dog, and he agreed it would be best to wait 24 hours. However, he couldn’t track the deer for Matt because he had been injured while tracking a deer for someone else a few days earlier. So Matt was calling anyone he could find on the internet who had a tracking dog during those 24 hours.
Unfortunately, it had snowed a half-inch, melted off and rained during that period. Matt felt his chances of recovering the buck were very low and getting worse. Finally, Matt got in touch with a gentleman that would meet him with a dog; but after 30 minutes of his dog failing to pick up the trail, he decided to get him out of there. They knew he wasn’t on the deer because he wasn’t going anywhere near the camera that had gotten a photo of the buck after the shot. After the long drive home, Matt pulled into his driveway to find a guy he had contacted with a dog.
Matt had called him earlier in the day, but the gentleman had been tracking deer for other hunters. Matt says he begged the man to come and track his buck and told him what he had gone through, so the tracker agreed he would meet Matt. The pair headed straight to the property. After taking the dog to where the shot had taken place, it immediately took off and led them to the camera. Matt was gaining some confidence now because he knew they were on the correct trail. It had been 30 hours since the shot, and this was the first confidence Matt had felt about the recovery. They ended up going about 600 yards to a big CRP field. The dog led them straight to the deer!
“It would have been impossible for me to have found the buck after the weather and other dog,” Matt recalls. After hugging and fist-bumping his buddies and the dog owner, Matt could finally put his hands on the non-typical for the first time. The buck green scores 195 4/8 gross.
Matt got home early Wednesday morning and slept-in, knowing his season was a success. Matt’s chase for the buck that appeared out of nowhere had ended, but as all this was happening, Chris was on his own chase for a different giant buck.
CHRIS AND DOUBLE-D
Chris Clark’s story begins in 2020 when he started seeing a young buck with great potential. He had a couple encounters with the buck, and he had seen him multiple times from the road. In 2021, he got his first pictures of the deer for that year in velvet. Chris estimated the deer to be a great 3-year-old that would score in the 160s, so he was naturally very excited. That fall he had several encounters with the buck while hunting, but the deer never presented Chris with a shot.
Later in the season, Chris was able to find his sheds, one in January and the other in early March. He picked both up in a bedding area where he had been seeing the buck. With an estimated spread, the sheds scored in the mid-150s! Chris was ecstatic the buck had made it, and now all the anticipation for the 2022 season had begun.
The first trail camera picture of the buck in 2022 was on Aug. 11; it was a daylight photo and the first time Chris saw the deer’s double drop tines. Instantly, Chris called the buck Double-D. And he told his wife she was going to be a widow from Oct. 1 until Jan. 1, or at least until he killed Double-D. Chris decided he was all-in; it was Double-D or bust.
Chris received several photos of Double-D, and he ran with a couple other big bucks all summer. This was interesting because Double-D had been very territorial his whole life. Chris moved cameras around the edge of his bedding area, and he had pictures of the buck on five different cameras that surrounded that core area.
Chris stayed out of Double-D’s core area until later in the season. He had been hunting up until that point, but he wasn’t getting aggressive yet. Chris planned to implement this strategy until the buck started showing up in daylight or close to it. Without any daylight photos and the season passing by quickly, Chris decided it was time to push in a little deeper during the first week of November.
Chris hunted Double-D hard for about a week. There was no sign of the buck or trail camera photos of the deer; Double-D had disappeared. On Nov. 14 Chris received a call from a buddy while on stand saying someone had just seen the buck over by Chris’ dad’s place, which would put the buck about two miles south of his core range. Since Double-D had always been very territorial, Chris had his doubts about the intel. However, he decided to get down from his stand for the morning. Driving past his father’s place, Chris saw Double-D standing in the middle of his food plot with four does. Chris parked his truck and tried to put a stalk on the buck, but by the time he got there they were all gone. He decided to spend the rest of the day and the following day sitting in a stand there, but he never saw the buck.
The next morning, Chris had some chores that he needed to catch up on when a truck came flying down the drive, and the driver was yelling to Chris that a life-changing buck was standing in his food plot with 9 does. Chris instantly started getting changed into his hunting gear, because he knew it had to be Double-D to cause that much excitement. Chris again tried to sneak into the food plot, but again they were gone. He placed a decoy in the back of the plot and set up in the stand for the day. Around 1:00 p.m. Chris spotted Double-D.
Double-D saw the decoy and headed straight for it. Chris thought he was finally going to get his opportunity at the deer that he’d spent so much time thinking about. The buck was at 135 yards, and Chris’ heart began racing. Chris recognized every point and kicker he had studied in photos so many times, and suddenly Double-D stopped and looked to the north. Chris looked over at the edge of the field and saw a doe had walked into the plot and caught the buck’s eye and took him away. As quickly as the action started, it ended. And just like that Chris’ dream was crushed.
That night, Chris got a text from his brother, Matt, and he asked: “Have you checked my cameras yet?” Chris instantly checked his Spartan app and saw a photo of Double-D checking a scrape where Matt hunts. Surprisingly, the property is 2 1/2 miles away from where Chris had just seen him the previous day. The next day was Thursday, the day before the opening of gun season. Chris was torn on where to hunt, because Double-D was about a mile south of where Chris needed him. He decided to shift his location on opening day to a spot that was best for the most recent intel. Chris placed a small, one-man blind on the field edge next to his bedding area, trying not to get too close and hoping Double-D will come back to his home range.
Each time that Chris hunts this particular area, he parks his truck at an old farmhouse where the farmer’s dog still lives; and every day this dog barks at Chris for hours after he is in the stand. Chris tries to bribe the dog with treats and food from his lunch to calm it down, but he’s a good watch dog and insists on fulfilling his duties.
On the morning of Friday Nov. 18, the opening day of gun season, the greatest watch dog in Illinois stuck to his habits. Chris had brought extra bones and food with him on that day, but after finishing his treats the dog continued barking non-stop. Chris rushed off to his blind, hoping he would calm down, but the dog didn’t. As Chris was walking up the hill to his spot, he saw something in the corn field: a monster buck. Unfortunately, it was still well before shooting light. But Chris dropped to the ground, pulled out his binoculars and saw the double drop tines. Double-D had come back home, and he was standing 50 yards from where Chris had found his sheds the previous year.
Chris crawled on his hands and knees the rest of the way up the hill to get to a fence post that he could use as a rest. Once in position, Chris saw Double-D wasn’t where he had been. He took another scan of the field and noticed Double-D had moved about 50 yards to the west. Now he had to wait for two things: legal shooting time and a better shot angle. Under his breath, Chris wished the dog would shut up and prayed for the buck not to slip away.
Chris had his sights on the buck as legal shooting time arrived, but Double-D faced straight away from Chris. Finally, the buck took a step to the east, giving Chris a quartering-away shot. Double-D mule-kicked at the shot and ran about 70 yards to the east, giving Chris a perfect follow-up shot, which dropped the buck.
The two-year chase was over, and the big buck down text that goes out to Chris’ family and friends each time he kills was replaced with “DDD.” Although Chris was beyond excited, there was also a sad and bittersweet feeling that washed over him. The chess match he had loved so much had come to an end. Chris was so thrilled about finally tagging Double-D that he just sat there on the ground, pondering what a great experience it had been. Chris Clark’s buck scores 213 4/8 gross and nets 209 3/8 Boone and Crockett.
The Clark brothers struck whitetail gold in Illinois, killing two bucks less than 1/2-mile away from each other in less than a week. I’m sure it’s a moment they’ll be talking about for years to come!