A chance meeting with a fellow sportsman in Illinois last season led this avid bowhunter from Tennessee on a journey that would yield one of his best bucks ever!
Tennessee firefighter Jackie Smith proudly shows off his ultra-wide "Huck Buck," taken last Nov. 13 in Franklin County, Illinois. The 13-point brute sported a 25 4/8-inch inside spread and a 9 4/8-inch drop tine. The big Illinois bruiser green-scored 184 7/8 inches.
Jackie Smith is an avid bowhunter from Dayton, Tennessee. Jackie, like most dedicated family men, is a devoted husband and father and places his family over anything else, including bowhunting. Jackie's two sons, Cody and Casey, are both U.S. Marines and are also avid outdoorsmen.
Living in neighboring counties, Jackie and I always seemed to run into each other at deer shows, and we occasionally crossed paths in the Midwest while bowhunting. Jackie is very dedicated and works extremely hard at his beloved sport of bowhunting.
Jackie is fortunate to have a job that allows him a lot of versatility with his schedule. He's a firefighter and loves his work. His fellow firefighters refer to the month of November as "Jack-vember" because that's when he schedules his vacation and is often absent from work.
Jackie always tries to spend the first two weeks of November hunting in Illinois. However, 2008 was different. Because of his sons' military duty, the family had not been together since early in 2007. In 2008, it just so happened that both men came home on leave at the end of October and stayed through Nov. 10. Jackie understandably delayed his trip to Illinois. Even though he realized the best part of the Illinois hunting would be over by the time he left on his annual trip north, the decision was not a hard one.
A CHANCE MEETING
Jackie's 2008 hunting season actually began in early October when he traveled to Illinois ahead of his usual rut hunt. However, he saw very little deer movement on this trip. He felt like the area was over-hunted and did not have the trophy potential that he was seeking. While on his way home from that disappointing October hunt, Jackie stopped by a Huck convenience store. There he struck up a conversation with a fellow sportsman pulling a bass boat. Jackie mentioned that he was an avid fisherman and that he lived close to the Tennessee River. The man's name was Greg Campbell, and he told Jackie to give him a call if he wanted to go fishing in Illinois. The two men stayed in touch for the next few weeks.
After thinking about his situation, Jackie became even more disenchanted with the location in Illinois where he'd been hunting. He decided to contact his new friend and ask him if he knew of any good places to hunt. Greg told Jackie that he, in fact, owned some prime property in Franklin County. What's more, he told Jackie, he'd been seeing a big buck on his land -- one that his children had nicknamed "Big Boy."
NEW HUNTING HORIZONS
As soon as Jackie's sons left home on Nov. 10 to resume their military duties, Jackie headed north. The critical first two weeks of the rut were over, but he hoped that some rutting activity might still be taking place in Illinois. After a quick scouting trip through his new property, Jackie hung a couple of stands near two well-used funnels. Even though he did not find any good sign on his initial scouting trip, he was not discouraged.
He had a lot of confidence in what his host had told him.
On Jackie's first day out, he saw very little buck movement. The next morning, he woke up to a downpour of rain. However, on his way to his stand, he came across a huge thigh-sized rub on a hardwood tree 35 yards from his stand. Suddenly the spirits of this avid hunter shot through the roof because he knew the rub had not been there the day before!
Jackie got his first glance of a monster buck at 7 a.m. during a heavy rainstorm. He had been surveying the area behind his stand. When he turned around, "There he stood." The buck was 12 yards away, looking in Jackie's direction. Jackie was astonished by the buck's spread. This seasoned hunter knew he was looking at a once-in-a-lifetime animal.
The huge main-frame 5x5 (with two small stickers) was exceptionally wide and sported a long drop tine. Because of the heavy rain, Jackie decided not to attempt a shot at the deer.
After Jackie got his impressive mount back, he was able to spend Christmas 2008 with his two sons, Casey and Chad, both U.S. Marines and avid outdoorsmen. Semper Fi, men!
He was afraid that if he made a marginal hit, he would have a difficult time tracking the big buck in the rain.
Jackie saw the same buck again that evening at 60 yards. At that point, experience told him to move his stand a few yards closer to where he believed the buck was bedding.
This he did, but the next day he did not see the deer.
A RARE OPPORTUNITY
The next morning (Nov. 13), Jackie entered his stand with much anticipation. After sitting all day, though, he had seen little deer movement by 4 p.m. He did his best to stay alert and to stay aware of all activity around his stand. At 4:30, a small buck exited the thicket where Jackie believed the big deer was bedding. A few seconds later, Jackie heard a pop in the thicket!
Jackie looked back to study the thicket. When he turned around, the huge drop-tine buck was standing in front of him 12 yards away, eating leaves. As he slowly raised his Mathews bow, Jackie thought, This is the chance of a lifetime!
Jackie's experience quickly kicked in. He decided to wait until the buck started to move before drawing his bow. As soon as the monster started walking, Jackie came to full draw and anchored. The buck took a few steps and stopped, but its vitals were hidden behind some saw-briars. The buck walked about three more yards and stopped again. It was now in an opening 15 yards away, quartering away. Jackie settled his top pin behind the massive shoulder and released. The excited hunter watched his arrow pass completely through the big buck's vitals. The buck jumped and was gone in a flash.
A TEXTBOOK RECOVERY
After taking a few minutes to settle down, Jackie called his friend Greg with the good news. Greg said he would be there in a few minutes. On his way out of the house, Greg decided it might be a good idea to pick up his
neighbor, Chad Blades, to help with the recovery. By the time the two men arrived, Jackie was already on the ground and had located his blood-soaked arrow.
By now it was dark. About 250 yards up the trail, Greg's light hit something shiny. He made an abrupt stop. "There he is!" Greg said excitedly as his light illuminated a massive set of horns sticking far above the saw-briars. The three avid outdoorsmen were amazed at the sight of the majestic whitetail.
The most impressive features of Jackie's great buck were its 25 4/8-inch-wide inside spread and a 9 4/8-inch drop tine that added much character. The monster 13-pointer also had great mass. The rack was later green-scored at 184 7/8 inches.
When the three men returned to the Campbell house with the buck in the back of the truck, Greg's children said, "That's not Big Boy, because Big Boy doesn't have a drop tine."
Needless to say, Jackie immediately started thinking about returning in 2009 to hunt for Big Boy. Greg named Jackie's deer the "Huck Buck," because of his chance meeting with Jackie at the Huck convenience store.
Editor's note: To purchase a copy of the author's outstanding book Bowhunting Trophy Whitetails, An Advanced Approach To Taking Mature Bucks, and to stay abreast of the publishing date of his new book, visit www.bobbyworthington.com.