A Buck Called Black Feet

On Nov. 5 last year during the peak of the rut, 17-year-old Illinois bowhunter Bryce Frieden jokingly told his hunting buddy that he planned to arrow a 200-incher that afternoon. Unbelievably, he left his high school at 3:30 p.m. and made it happen!

The massive 18-point buck, known locally as "Black Feet," was being hunted by a number of bowhunters in Pike County, but the hunting gods bestowed their blessings on this high school senior. In addition to being an avid bowhunter, Bryce Frieden is a gifted athlete who excelled in both football and baseball in his high school career.

The huge-antlered buck ambled slowly along a ridge leading gradually up from a valley. He was only 60 yards out when Bryce first spotted him. There was little doubt that this Pike County bruiser was a shooter. The only question in the young archer's mind was: Will I get a shot?


As Bryce watched, the buck rubbed two small trees and headed for a larger tree with a 6-inch diameter. This tree came out of the forest floor at a 45-degree angle and turned upward about 18 inches off the ground. Oddly, the big whitetail eased toward the tree and knelt down on his knees. With focused aggression, he methodically scarred the bark on the bend in the trunk. Bryce remained calm, hoping to get a close shot at this magnificent whitetail.


Returning to a standing position, the big deer continued walking up the ridge. It soon became evident to Bryce that the buck was going to parallel his position at a respectable distance. A 50-yard broadside shot might well be the best he'd earn at the animal. He drew his Mathews Drenalin, put the 50-yard pin on the buck's chest, and hoped that the animal would stop naturally for a standing shot.

A PIKE COUNTY BRUISER
Bryce had no way of knowing that this monster whitetail had just chased a doe past another archer on the adjoining farm. The hunter filmed the rutting buck after making every effort to pull him off the doe. This hunter and seven others were patiently tree-stand hunting on that same neighboring farm. They all had the specific goal of trying to harvest the buck that was now in Bryce's sights -- a buck known to them as "Black Feet."


Black Feet had been named by Tom Ware, owner of Bucks BeWare Outfitters in Pike County, Illinois. While reviewing trail camera film in late September 2007, Tom's mouth dropped open upon viewing a big-bodied buck with a towering rack. The deer appeared to have black feet, which Tom soon realized was nothing more than pond mud. Tom's cameras clicked several more shots of the huge buck, dubbed Black Feet that very day, over the next few weeks. Tom desperately wanted one of his hunters to arrow this colossal whitetail.

Though this Pike County outfitter kept quiet about the buck, other area hunters had also spotted the big whitetail. Rumors were soon rampant. Bryce and his stepfather, Scott Andress, heard stories about a monster buck being seen near the land where they hunted. They hoped that the rumors were true.

HUNTER IN THE MAKING
When Scott married Bryce's mother, Anita, Bryce was only 7 years old. By age 9, Bryce and his stepfather Scott were the best of hunting buddies. Bryce's first deer was a 3-point buck taken with a shotgun. He announced to Scott that day, "I think I shot a doe."

Being very excited over the prospects of his first deer harvest, Bryce had not even noticed that his "doe" was in fact a young buck with antlers. Today the 3-point's skull plate is mounted on a plaque that Scott proudly hung in his business, The Archery Shop, which is in Pittsfield, Illinois.

Scott's fascination with archery soon rubbed off on Bryce. By 15, Bryce could fully set up a compound bow and tune it as well as Scott can. Bryce enjoyed regularly helping at The Archery Shop when school and sports allowed. By the fall of 2007, this well-liked 17-year-old high school senior had made captain of the football team and was being scouted for a baseball scholarship. Football awards included "most valuable defensive player," "all-area linebacker" and "all conference linebacker." As catcher on the baseball team, Bryce's batting average held at around .380.

Shortly after Bryce first spotted the 212 1/8-inch-grossing Illinois giant known as Black Feet, he was offered a 50-yard shot but chose not to take it. Moments later, Bryce used a Primos can call to turn the buck around and lure him in for a much easier 15-yard shot.

Regardless of his busy schedule, Bryce always made time for bowhunting whitetails, especially during the November rut. On Monday, Nov. 5, Bryce jokingly proclaimed to his hunting buddy, Garrett Howland, "I'm going to kill a 200-inch buck this afternoon."

Garrett had basketball practice that afternoon and just smiled. He knew Bryce was simply taunting him, since it was such a perfect day to be in the woods. Colder temperatures and a rising barometer made conditions ideal.

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME
Tom Ware's hunting operation in Pike County, Illinois, leases 5,000 acres. In 2007 Tom had booked only eight hunters per week during the prime two weeks of peak rutting activity in early November. The 80 acres that Bryce happened to be hunting on were owned by his uncle and were completely surrounded by properties leased by Tom Ware.

In addition to Black Feet, Tom knew about a second megabuck in the area with a 185-inch 10-point frame and double drop tines. On the day of Black Feet's demise, Tom had spread all eight of his archery hunters in the immediate area where he thought Black Feet and the drop-tine buck would be competing for does. Surely, Tom thought, one of my hunters will get an opportunity at one of these Illinois giants.

Bryce climbed aboard his ladder stand at 4:15 on the afternoon that he and Black Feet would meet. One of Tom Ware's hunters videotaped Black Feet dogging a hot doe at 4:40 p.m. The buck showed up near Bryce's stand at about 4:50 without the doe.

Still at full draw and aiming down his 50-yard pin, Bryce elected not to take a walking shot on the massive buck. He'd been taught well by Scott, and he knew the shot would be too risky. He also elected not to try to stop the buck with a mouth grunt. The buck turned onto a hardly noticed secondary trail and headed away from Bryce.

The young archer remained composed and relaxed his draw. He grabbed a Primos doe-bleat can-call and rolled it over. The whining moan stopped Black Feet in his

tracks. Briefly staring in the direction of the call, the massive whitetail about-faced and slowly headed up the ridge on the trail that would lead within 15 yards of Bryce's position. Without a doubt, the mature buck suspected he'd discovered another hot doe.

A HEAVEN-SENT SHOT
Bryce picked a shooting lane between two trees and drew when the buck's head went behind the first tree. As if the hand of Fate had intervened, Black Feet stopped only three steps past the tree. Bryce squared on the back of the deer's shoulder and released a Carbon Express Maxima arrow tipped with a Tight Point T-Lock broadhead. The 350-grain arrow and 125-grain head, thrust by the 74-pound bow, completely blew through both shoulders and stuck in the ground on the other side. The buck let out a death moan and bolted downhill, expiring within 50 yards.

Bryce now became excited for the first time since the start of his seven-minute ordeal/adventure. He stayed in the tree and called Scott. "I think I just shot a 170," he blurted out.

Even though Bryce told Scott that he thought the buck was dead, Scott told Bryce to stay in the tree until he arrived on the scene. "I'll be there in about an hour," Scott assured Bryce.

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THE BRYCE FRIEDEN BUCK

Scorable points....18(9R,9L)
Tip-to-tip spread.... 10 5/8
Greatest spread..... 24 2/8
Inside Spread..... 20 7/8
Total length of abnormal points: 16 3/8
Areas MeasuredRightLeftDifference
<main Beam27 7/828 7/81 0/8
1st point (G-1)4 1/84 6/85/8
2nd point (G-2)13 6/88 3/8 5 3/8
3rd point (G-3)12 3/813 4/8 7/8
4th point (G-4)10 1/8 7 7/8 2 2/8
5th point (G-5) 2 4/8 -- 2 4/8
1st circ. (H-1)5 5/85 4/81/8
2nd circ. (H-2)5 0/84 6/8 2/8
3rd circ. (H-3)5 2/85 0/8 2/8
4th circ. (H-4)5 0/84 3/8 5/8

Totals

91 7/883 0/813 7/8
Gross typical score.........................195 6/8
Subtract side to side differences........... -13 7/8
Add abnormal points......................... +16 3/8
FINAL NET NON-TYPICAL SCORE..................198 2/8
Taken by: Bryce Frieden
Date: Nov. 5, 2007
Location: Pike County, Illinois

Earlier that season, Bryce had arrowed a dandy 10-pointer on a property owned by Scott and Anita. Scott maintains a 140-inch minimum for bucks taken on that property. Walking up to the 10-pointer, both Scott and Bryce realized the buck was at least five inches less than the 140-inch minimum. Nothing was said, and Scott heartily congratulated Bryce.

Bryce knew he had not misjudged this second buck as he eyed its lifeless body in the ravine below. Fifty minutes had passed when Scott called Bryce and told him, "If you're sure he's dead, go down to him, but keep an arrow nocked just in case."

Bryce inched down to the giant whitetail and stood there in amazement. A short time later, Scott arrived and sat on a log next to Bryce and the huge deer. He said, "Man, Bryce, I think this is a 180-incher!" Bryce touched the rack and inspected it for the first time. Scott added, "I think this buck might even be a 200-incher." Bryce's only response was, "Th

ere is no ground shrinkage this time!"

Black Feet carried 6 abnormal points on his massive 5x6 frame. His main beams measured an impressive 28 7/8 on the left side and 27 7/8 inches on the right. The hefty Illinois buck's live weight was well over 300 pounds, making it a colossal chore to pull him out of the ravine. The field-dressing chore took place an hour later, when it was decided not to do a full-body mount of the deer.

BLACK FEET IS NO MORE
The following day, Scott made the call to outfitter Tom Ware and announced that Bryce had tagged Black Feet. Although Tom and all of the deer hunting community around Pittsfield could not have been more proud of Bryce, it was amazing to Scott and Bryce how quickly the untrue rumors started getting back to The Archery Shop. Soon people were saying that Bryce had killed a new world record! Welcome to the world of giant whitetails, Scott thought upon hearing the erroneous reports.

While interviewing Scott and Bryce for this article, I could not help but ask Scott what changes he has seen in Pike County hunting over the last decade. His first comment dealt with the price of property and deer hunting leases in the area.

"We've seen property that once sold for $1,000 per acre go for over $5,000," Scott said. "Leases have gone from $10 per acre to over $75. Though this has been great for landowners, it has driven some of the best outfitters out of business."

Scott continued, "If it weren't for private landowners and outfitter/deer managers, there would be no big bucks in west-central Illinois. This state's government is sorely lacking in sound deer management. The politicians need to turn the deer herd back over to hunters. Something needs to change!

"It's incredible how many non-resident deer hunters have come here to hunt big whitetails and eventually pulled up stakes and moved to Illinois or bought hunting property here. My employee, Shannon King from Mississippi, is a good example. Shannon moved his family to Illinois for the express reason of hunting big whitetails."

Shannon tagged a dandy 153-inch buck during the 2007 firearms season. "He is so passionate about whitetail hunting that his eyes welled up when I told him Bryce had taken a 200-incher," Scott's wife Anita said.

Scott also noted that archery whitetail hunters of today are notably more educated about hunting trophy bucks than ever before. "It all has to do with education by the media and with the manufacturing of better bows and archery equipment."

Black Feet's massive rack was officially measured by North Carolina B&C scorer Michael DeAngury. Its gross score tallied up 212 1/8 inches, and the net score made the all-time B&C record book at 198 2/8 non-typical. This great buck was Bryce's fourth whitetail that qualifies for Pope & Young.

Photos of Bryce and his Pike County record buck were taken by professional photographer Eric Suhm. Eric travels from Tucson, Arizona, for seven weeks each year to photograph big bucks in Pike County, Illinois. Eric's advice on taking better deer photos will appear in a later feature in North American Whitetail. North Carolina taxidermist Tom Hall mounted Black Feet for Bryce. Tom guides and hunts with well-known Illinois' Finest outfitter Sam Moore.

While interviewing Bryce, his high school sweetheart, Emily Laux, walked into the office at The Archery Shop in Pittsfield. I couldn't help but jokingly ask, "Bryce, which is more fun, taking a 200-inch buck or being with Emily?" He looked quickly at Emily to see if she had heard the question. Emily was all ears! Bryce glanced back at me with a frightened grin. I bailed him out with, "You don't need to answer that one, Bryce!"

FOR YOUR INFORMATION
To contact Scott Andress at The Archery Shop in Pittsfield, Illinois, phone (217) 285-1610. To contact Tom Ware at Bucks BeWare Outfitters in Pike County, Illinois, phone (217) 473-3025.

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