October 25, 2023
Opening day for whitetail hunters is one of the most anticipated times of year, and Joe Sumner of east central Illinois had an opening day that he won’t soon forget.
About three weeks before the opener, a friend of Joe’s was driving down a highway close to where Joe hunts and spotted a giant buck. The friend got a pretty good video of the buck with his cell phone and sent it to Joe.
“When I got the video of the buck, it was around 9:00 p.m.,” Joe says. “I couldn’t believe the size of the buck. I didn’t get any sleep for another four hours, because I was up all night thinking about this deer and watching the video.”
Joe wasn’t able to hunt opening morning, but during mid-day Joe dug out his crossbow to do a little target practice before the evening’s hunt. “I couldn’t get any of my new bolts to group or fly the same,” Joe says. “They were all over the place. I had one bolt that flew well and that’s the one I took with me on this hunt.”
On a wing and a prayer, Joe set out to the same property he shot his first deer on 25 years earlier. He’d told a friend earlier in the day that if Joe called him, it was because he’d gotten the big one.
“The biggest buck I’d ever taken off this land was a 130-class buck,” Joe says.
With the wind out of the east, Joe only had one spot that would work. So with his crossbow, a folding chair and one bolt, Joe set out to hunt. He set up behind a bush on the ground at 3:45 p.m. where a standing cornfield and the treeline met.
“An hour had passed when I looked up and caught movement 45 yards away,” Joe says. “I tried not to look at his rack and to stay calm. I knew if he stayed on course, I’d get a shot at him.”
Joe whistled at the buck to stop him, but it didn’t do any good. So he tried again, and the buck stopped at 20 yards broadside. “I took my shot, and I knew it was a good hit,” Joe recalls. “I watched him take off. He ran a bit and stopped, looked around and disappeared in the woods.”
Joe called his friend that he had spoken to earlier in the day, and the friend’s first response was “no way!” After deciding to leave the deer for a little over an hour, Joe returned with lifelong friends to recover the buck, which had only gone 60 yards. With the massive rack still covered in velvet, Joe and his friends examined the deer’s body and noticed an injury to its right shoulder, which could explain the velvet oddity. Nonetheless, this giant opening-day buck is expected to gross over 200 inches.
Last season, Joe was fortunate enough to tag 150- and 170-class bucks. He thought he’d never top that!