March 31, 2022
By Tony Kalna Jr.
Breaking News Buck
It wasn’t just by chance that young Matt Lawler bagged a world-class whitetail during the 2021 Illinois gun season. He worked hard to close the deal on this buck of a lifetime.
The quest began in 2019 when Matt gained permission to hunt an Iroquois County farm. The landowner told him about a huge buck that he shot in 2018, but he never found it.
Lawler decided he needed help to zero-in on this deer, so he recruited his friend Matt Herman to help manage the farm. That summer, the pair received trail camera pictures of a huge buck. The landowner verified it was the one he shot previously, and Lawler nicknamed the deer “Old Timer.”
Hello Old Timer
They never saw the buck in person in 2019, but they did find his matching sheds from two years prior in the spring of 2020.
“I never did see him in person in 2019 or 2020, but he would show up on our trail cameras at night,” Lawler says. “It was almost like he was hunting us.”
The next time the buck made an appearance was Sept. 7, 2021, in full velvet captured on a trail camera.
I knew that the only pictures I had of the buck from previous years came before the rut, and I had to capitalize on his early season pattern to tag him. I chose a tree to climb with my saddle between what I thought was his core bedding area and the food plot he loved to visit. I just needed him to rise early one evening and give me a chance. I didn’t see the buck on my first sit, but I did learn valuable information.
The Hunt for Old Timer
Fast forward to Nov. 5, when Lawler finally had a live encounter with Old Timer. The rut was on, and the young hunter had already passed on 12 bucks that morning, some being 150-class bucks. When he first saw Old Timer, the buck was 75 yards away. The sight of the buck took Lawler’s breath away and made his knees knock. The buck got within 42 yards, but he turned and chased another buck away from a hot doe.
On Nov. 19, the opening day of the Illinois gun season, Lawler hunted the same stand that he saw his dream buck from. The rutting action was hot, and Old Timer was chasing a doe 70 yards out, but the buck wouldn’t stop for a clean shot. Lawler took a break at noon but was back in the standby 1:30.
At 3:00 p.m., Lawler spotted Old Timer bedded down with a doe 200 yards away. The young hunter made the bold decision to climb down and head toward the deer. With a 12-mph wind blowing in his face and high weeds to hide him, Lawler sprinted in their direction! He got up on a berm and peaked around some cattails and saw the buck standing broadside at 60 yards.
Lawler decided to get closer, then he sat down and raised his 20-gauge slug gun and fired. Old Timer dropped in his tracks, and a second shot finished him.
Lawler’s trophy sports 21 points and a 23 5/8-inch inside spread. It green-scored 185 7/8-inches.
“All of that hard work and effort paid off,” Lawler says. “It’s the end of an era with Old Timer but the start of a new one.”