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240-class Non-typical Targeted on 40-acre Plot and Patience

Illinois bowhunter Michael Paige arrowed this 240-class non-typical after years of waiting for one final, heart-pounding encounter.

240-class Non-typical Targeted on 40-acre Plot and Patience

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Michael Paige has been bowhunting for 10 years. Fortunately, he has had close friend Jason Pollock (JP) to help him along the way, speeding up the learning curve associated with being a new bowhunter. Michael has been very successful, as evidenced by him taking 10 bucks and numerous does in his first decade of hunting.

On Nov. 12, 2022, all those bowhunting lessons were about to culminate in one shot. Michael stood in his 20-foot ladder stand and whispered to himself: “It’s my only shot, and I know I can make it.” When you, as a hunter, begin to focus on one individual deer, be prepared. You are about to learn the meaning of the word “patience.”

In 2019, Michael got a trail camera photo that really got his attention. The photo showed a really nice non-typical buck that he guessed would score around 180 inches. The buck had a lot of “trash,” which made it difficult to estimate his score. Michael hunts in an area with sparse cover, and the bucks in that area can move a long way between various properties. Michael hunted 40 acres of private land that year, but never saw the non-typical from his stand the entire season. Under these circumstances, Michael couldn’t help but think to himself: Is he still alive? Maybe he got killed by someone else. When the season ended, there was no word of a buck that size being taken, so Michael at least had hope that the deer was still alive.

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Sunday, Nov. 13, was Michael’s day off work. He left his house at 1:15 p.m. Michael approached his ladder stand by walking through a backwater area, making no noise and leaving no scent. Later that afternoon, this giant buck appeared in a food plot filled with several does. The curious buck entered the plot, giving the bowhunter a clean shot. Photo courtesy of Michael Paige

When the trail cameras were set out in 2020, anticipation was high as Michael started looking for the big non-typical. When a giant buck may be moving through several properties, it’s often amazing how “silent” the local hunters become in communicating any sightings. Once again, Michael got a trail camera photo of the giant buck. The new estimate of his rack size was slightly over 200 inches. Again, the elusive buck was never seen from Michael’s tree stand the entire season! This was becoming a reoccurring theme, and it seemed the buck was just not spending that much time on the 40 acres Michael could hunt.

Fast forward to 2021. Michael and JP were trying to come up with a new strategy to get the buck to spend more time in their area. Each year, Jason puts in food plots for various people, and they decided to try a food plot at the 40-acre area Michael hunts. The 2021 season was in full swing with rut activity increasing when Michael got his first opportunity at the giant non-typical.

While hunting one afternoon, the buck he had been dreaming about for three years suddenly showed up to check the food plot for does. Michael is an excellent shot with his bow, frequently practicing out to 80 yards. His philosophy is that if you can become proficient at 80 yards, you can feel confident of any shot at a distance less than that. On that afternoon in 2021, Michael had ranged a couple of trees ahead of time. The big buck was close to one of his marker trees at 40 yards. When Michael came to full draw, the buck needed to take two or three more steps to clear the brush he stood behind.

Whether it is luck or a sixth sense, big bucks frequently make the right turn to keep themselves out of trouble. The giant non-typical simply turned and walked away, keeping the brush between himself and Michael, resulting in no shot. That was the last time Michael saw the buck that season!

In 2022, once again Michael and JP established a good food plot on the 40 acres Michael hunts. The deer seemed to have discovered the second-year food plot. On Oct. 7, Michael got a photo of the giant non-typical at the food plot. He got additional photos of the buck on Nov. 11 and 12. Michael already had a ladder stand in place near the food plot.




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Michael’s trophy has a green gross score around 244 inches and a net green score around 240 inches. The buck has a gross typical score of 189 inches. All the circumferences are over 5 inches, with two over 6 inches. He also has over 55 inches of abnormal points. The buck was most likely 7 1/2 years old. Photo courtesy of Michael Paige

On Saturday Nov. 12, Michael had a birthday party to attend that afternoon and evening. While at the party, Michael got a trail camera photo of the non-typical standing in front of his ladder stand, in the daylight! An acquaintance of Michael’s, who also knew of the big non-typical, was at the party. When the conversation turned to the non-typical, he told Michael, “I’m going to kill that buck next weekend during gun season.” Michael replied, “No, you’re not! I’m going to kill him tomorrow!”

The next day, Sunday Nov. 13, was Michael’s day off work. He left his house at 1:15 p.m. Michael approached his ladder stand by walking through a backwater area, making no noise and leaving no scent. Michael was in his tree stand by 1:45 p.m. and started seeing deer within 15 minutes. For the next two hours, he watched small bucks pushing does around near the food plot. When he got in his stand, the first order of business was to range several spots and trees for future reference. Michael had just checked his watch. It was 4:10 p.m., and when he looked up, he saw the buck he had been hunting for four years on the corner of the food plot.

After five minutes, the buck started to approach one of the trees he had ranged at 60 yards. Michael slowly stood up and got his bow in his hand. He set his sight at 60 yards and watched as the buck began to walk. When the buck came out from behind some cover, Michael grunted to stop him. Michael could see that the buck was within a few steps of seeing several does in the food plot. He figured when the buck saw the does, he would take off after one of them, putting him out of range for a shot. The buck started to move again as Michael came to full draw with his Matthews VXR.

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Michael’s words of wisdom to anyone else hunting a giant buck on a small tract of land are simple: be patient and take the first good shot opportunity you get. This mega-buck came from a 40-acre parcel in Illinois. Photo courtesy of Michael Paige

Michael took a couple of seconds to calm down and grunted again to stop the buck. He released the Rage Trypan-tipped Axis arrow. The shot was a little back from his aiming point, but it was a pass-through and looked like a good hit. The buck reacted fast and ran several yards away. The buck then stopped at about 40 yards from where he had been shot and started swaying. Then he laid down. About two minutes later, Michael saw him lay his head down.

Not wanting to mess anything up at this point, Michael texted JP that he had shot the giant nontypical. JP was hunting about a mile away. JP’s response was, “No you didn’t.” Then when he realized that Michael had indeed shot the buck, he told him, “Don’t move, stay in your stand and watch the buck.” Michael responded, “I’ll stay in the stand until midnight, if I have to.” Michael then texted his wife, Ashley, and said, “I shot the big one!” He also texted a friend who was bowhunting in another county. That friend’s response was, “I’m on my way.”

Michael stayed in his stand until 5:45p.m., well after dark. Then he snuck out to his truck to meet JP and his other friend. After describing everything that happened, they collectively decided to wait for a while before going to where he thought the buck was down. They went to a gas station and got some snacks and something to drink. At 9:30 p.m., they headed back to look for the buck. Michael told them, “I want to go where the arrow should be first.” They found the arrow, covered with blood. JP had a thermal monocular and saw the buck and said, “He’s down.” The buck was laying right where Michael had seen him go down.

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After four years of chasing this non-typical in Illinois, Michael finally got his opportunity in November 2022. Ultimately, Michael arrowed the buck at 60 yards in a food plot. Photo courtesy of Michael Paige.

When Michael walked up to the buck, the realization of just how big the buck was began to set in. The giant non-typical has a green gross score around 244 inches and a net green score around 240 inches. The buck has a gross typical score of around 189 inches. All the circumferences are over 5 inches, with two over 6 inches. He also has over 55 inches of abnormal points. The buck was most likely 7 1/2 years old.

They were able to drive the truck right to the buck. He was later taken to Whitetails and Wings Taxidermy (Jason Donovan, Chapin, Illinois). Michael’s buck will undoubtedly be one of the largest non-typical deer taken in the state of Illinois during the 2022 season.

Michael’s words of advice? “Patience, patience, patience. And take the first good shot you get.” Great advice, even if the patience part can be a challenge sometimes!

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