One of the best things about deer hunting in the United States is that it is often a "family tradition." Deer hunting is frequently an activity that is taught by a father or grandfather and passed on from one generation to another.
The Sisson family from central Illinois is a prime example of this philosophy. The father, Dick, and sons, Kaleb and Noah, consider themselves very fortunate in the fact that their grandfather owns land in Illinois, one of the best places in the world when it comes to finding -- and killing -- giant whitetail deer. All three hunters participate in the bowhunting season, but their real focus is the Illinois gun season.
On the evening of November 18, 2010, the entire family gathered to plot their strategy for the next morning. Friday, November 19, was the first day of the 2010 Illinois gun season for deer. Everyone in the family had previously placed treestands in their favorite spots, anxious for the start of the latest chapter in the family hunting tradition. Little did they know how interesting this particular chapter would be.
On Friday morning, everyone was up before 4 a.m. and headed out the door in time to reach their respective stands well before daylight. The last words they usually say before entering the woods are "dream big."
The timber that the Sisson family hunts acts as a travel route for deer, and the family usually takes whatever whitetail happens to come by, though they're always hoping for a giant buck.
The plan for Friday's hunt was to stay in their stands until 10:30 a.m., but around 8:30, Kaleb saw what looked like a really good buck. By the time he got turned around and had his gun ready, the buck had already passed through any possible shooting lanes, and it never came out of the thick brush.
The buck eventually moved away and crossed a fence to an adjoining piece of property. A short time later, a couple of does came by and Kaleb shot one of the does. When they
got the doe out of the timber, he found out that no one else had even seen a deer. The whole family, including Kaleb's cousins, met at lunchtime in the local small town café and discussed the early deer hunting results.
They all headed back into the woods around 1:30 p.m. Kaleb decided to change stands, and as he approached the new location he saw a buck. The buck took off before he could get a shot and ran toward his dad. No one managed to get a shot. Kaleb's younger brother saw three does that afternoon, but didn't have a shot opportunity either.
When Saturday morning arrived, once again everyone was out the door early. They were surprised to find it was extremely foggy that morning.
The father and two sons went their separate ways to their respective stands. Noah, the youngest son, managed to get turned around in the fog and ended up going to a completely different stand than originally planned. Kaleb was in a stand overlooking a power line easement. At 9 a.m., he saw two does running across the property but did not have a shot. There was not a lot of shooting in the surrounding area, possibly due to the fog. A few minutes after the does were spotted, Kaleb saw one of the neighbors walk by and figured that was what had spooked the deer.
When the neighbor got out of sight, Kaleb thought, I need to stay in the stand longer than usual because the neighbor might run something to me.
A short time later, Kaleb looked over his shoulder and from the opposite direction he had been watching, a really good buck appeared. The buck was not spooked and appeared to be cruising for does.
Get ready, and don't let this one get past you like you did yesterday, Kaleb thought to himself.
He started looking ahead of the buck for any type of an opening. He found a small opening at 50 yards and lined up his Remington 1187 12-gauge on the spot. When the buck hit the opening, he stopped broadside. Kaleb was ready and immediately fired. He had aimed right behind the shoulder and the buck dropped on the spot.
"I was not expecting him to just drop right there," Kaleb said. The great buck fell behind some brush and tried to get up.
Kaleb had the buck in his scope and watched it until the buck stopped moving and very quietly got out of the stand. When he was within a few yards of the buck, he finished him off with another shot.
Frequently, when your entire focus is on getting the shot, you don't have time to study the antlers. When Kaleb was convinced the buck was dead, he walked up and put his hands on the antlers. It was about this time that the realization of what he had done started to settle in. He began counting points and came up with 12. The first thing that caught his eye was the extremely impressive tine length. He quickly realized this buck "had everything."
Kaleb grabbed his cell phone and tried to call his dad. He later discovered that his dad had forgotten to bring his phone with him. He then tried to call his younger brother and found out that his brother's phone was not working. Finally, he tried to call his mom (Stephanie).
"By the way he was breathing, I thought he had fallen out of a tree," Stephanie recalled. Kaleb finally calmed down enough to tell her he had shot a giant 12-point buck.
After hearing the shots, Noah came over to check out what Kaleb had shot. When Noah saw the buck, he stopped in his tracks. He was pretty much speechless. Noah stayed with the buck while Kaleb went to get their dad.
When he got to his dad's stand, Dick said, "I thought we were going to hunt until 11:00 because of the full moon last night." Kaleb's response was, "I shot a big one." His dad responded, "How big?" With the typical response of a 21-year-old that all parents just love, he said "big enough," as he held out his arms to indicate the width and tine length.
When they approached the deer, Noah held up the antlers and at this point, their dad knew what "big enough" really meant.
Dick went to get the four-wheeler while Kaleb and Noah tagged and gutted the deer. On the way out of the woods, they noticed a sapling that had been shot in half. Apparently the first shot had cut the sapling in half before hitting the deer. Kaleb was so focused on making the shot, that he looked right through the sapling and never saw it.
They cut the sapling and took it with them as an additional reminder of the day's hunting experience.
The first thing they did was stop by grandpa's house (who owned the land) to show him the giant buck. Noah, Kaleb and their dad, Dick, all tried to guess what they thought the buck would score. They all guessed around the mid-160s. Later, Noah got on the Boone and Crockett web site and, following their directions, green-scored the buck. He ended up being only 1 1/8 inches off of the official Boone and Crockett score.
The buck was officially measured as a typical 10-point with two stickers (12 measurable points) by B&C measurer Tim Walmsley at Nature's Window Taxidermy, where the owner, Chuck Watson, did the mount of the deer. As sometimes happens, the buck had just enough abnormal points and side-to-side deductions to diminish the net score. The gross typical score was 192 4/8 (as a 10-point) with two abnormal points that totaled six inches. When you include the 9 2/8 inches of side-to-side deductions, the total deductions were 15 1/8. The final net score was 177 2/8, which qualified the buck for the all-time Boone and Crockett record book.
The really impressive part of the antlers was the 28 5/8- and 26 4/8-inch main beams and one G-2 that was 14 inches. The G-3s were quite remarkable at 13 4/8 and 14 7/8 inches. The buck had four circumferences measuring over four inches and two over five inches.
The bottom line is that Kaleb did not know or care how big the buck was when he shot. The fact that it turned out to be the "best of show" gun kill at the Illinois Deer Classic at Peoria, Illinois, was simply "icing on the cake" for the whole "family experience." Of course, Kaleb's younger brother, Noah, said, "If I had not gotten lost in the fog, the giant buck would probably have come by my stand first!"
Ironically, the family named the buck "Tiny." They are hoping that some of his offspring, who are equally "tiny," will show up next year!