Public Land Sleeper

Public Land Sleeper

Although many whitetail hunters firmly believe that hunting on public land is a waste of time, Greg Wilson would probably disagree. In 2007, he shot an absolute giant while hunting on public land in Illinois.

While drinking coffee with various family members after the morning hunt on Nov. 18, 2007, the author's nephew told him about a spot on public hunting land where he had seen several "good" bucks. Greg went to this singular spot that afternoon and ended up shooting this 222 5/8-inch monster!

When the 2007 firearms season rolled around in Illinois in mid-November, I had no idea what lay in store for me. I live in Litchfield, Illinois, and I come from a long line of deer hunters. I've been deer hunting for some 28 years, and I've taken some nice bucks in my time. These days I often hunt with my son Rob. He's been hunting since he was 12 years old. He, too, has taken a few nice bucks with both bow and shotgun. Many of our bucks have scored between 140 and 170 points.

In 2005 my youngest daughter, Nicole, started hunting. She enjoys the sport as much as we do. She has taken a few does with bow and shotgun, but she had yet to take an antlered deer. My other daughter, Jamie, doesn't enjoy the sport as we do, but she and my wife always enjoy the good venison we bring home every year.

On Nov. 16, 2007, the first morning of the firearms season, we all packed our gear and headed out before first light. We hunted public ground all day with no luck. The following day, Saturday, we went back to the same public area, and again no luck. We returned home for lunch and decided to make another plan. On the evening of the 17th, Nicole had other arrangements and didn't go with us. My son harvested a good doe that evening, but I came home empty-handed.

On Sunday, Nov. 18, the third and final day of the first firearms season, I hunted a different spot owned by my nephew Randy. He and his father had already filled their tags with good deer, including a nice 10-pointer and a 7-pointer. That morning I hunted one of my nephew's ladder stands and saw one small spike. Again I went home empty-handed.

In our family, after the morning's hunt is over we usually head back to town and gather at my parents' house to see who in the family has filled their tag. My father Chuck had harvested a really nice 10-pointer. My brother-in-law also filled both of his tags with a doe and a nice 7-pointer. While we were all sitting around drinking coffee and talking about our various hunts, my nephew David started telling me about several bucks that he had been seeing. He had already harvested two nice bucks with his bow before firearm season started.

David bugged me about going to his "honeyhole" with the idea that maybe I could tag one of the nice deer he had seen. The area he was talking about was familiar to me because it's public ground and I used to hunt it with my father and brother when I was younger. However, I had stopped hunting there several years ago because it had become overpopulated with hunters.

David assured me that he hadn't seen many hunters there during bow season. That evening I agreed to go with him. My son Rob took my daughter Nicole to my nephew's place while I went with David. I had no idea that this spur-of-the-moment hunt would soon turn into a life-changing experience.

David and I arrived at our spot at around 2 p.m., and we walked a pretty good distance. We said our goodbyes and good lucks and split up. (David had a doe tag). I cut off the main path, and he went on to his stand farther into the timber. I scouted around a little and found an area that looked good. I ended up near an old dried-up creekbed with weeds about chest high. I found a place to sit on the ground and settled in for the evening.

During the first hour, I saw a few squirrels and a ground hog. Around 3:10 p.m., out of nowhere a doe came bursting up out of the creek bottom. I drew up my gun with the intention of shooting her when all of a sudden I spotted antlers down in the weeds. Needless to say, I turned my sights on whatever was about to appear. He finally stepped out from behind a big oak tree. Oh my gosh, what a buck!

I immediately noticed a very huge rack. I tried to focus on making the shot, and I put my sights on his right shoulder. He was quartering toward me as I fired. It all happened very quickly. I knew I had made a good 20-yard shot as the deer whirled around and fell back down the creek bank. I didn't hesitate to jump up and run to where I had watched him go down. I was ready for the second shot if need be.

As I slid down the bank of the creek to the fallen deer, all I could see was a white belly and a head full of antlers. I pulled his head from the twisted weeds. Then, as some might say, I became "unglued." I couldn't believe I had just shot a 200-class trophy.

By the time I found David, I realized I hadn't even counted the buck's points, although I knew there were quite a few. David immediately asked me what I had shot. I told him the deer had to be at least a 200-class buck. He acted like he thought I was exaggerating. Later, when I lifted the buck's head for the second time, we were both amazed. We started to count the points. The monster had 23 points.

Scorable Points:21 (10R, 11L)TOTAL LENGTH OF ABNORMAL POINTS: 52 3/8
Tip-To-Tip Spread:17 2/8
Greatest Spread:25 6/8
Inside Spread:19 4/8
Main Beam26 7/824 5/82 2/8
1st Point (G-1)8 0/86 0/82 0/8
2nd Point (G-2)11 4/810 1/81 3/8
3rd Point (G-3)11 6/810 1/81 5/8
4th Point (G-4)9 3/86 3/83 0/8
1st circ. (H-1)5 5/85 5/8--
2nd circ. (H-2)4 3/84 6/83/8
3rd circ. (H-3)4 4/84 3/81/8
4th circ. (H-4)3 6/83 7/81/8
TOTALS:85 6/875 7/810 7/8
Gross Typical Score:181 1/8
Subtract side-to-side differences:-10 7/8
Add abnormal points+52 3/8
TAKEN BY: Greg Wilson, DATE: November 18, 2007, LOCATION: Montgomery County, Illinois

Twenty-one of those points were scorable, while two others were broken off. After a lot of celebrating and a few high-fives, we shook hands and thanked the good Lord for such a perfect day. We loaded up and headed for town. I only wish my son and daughter had been there for the excitement.

We arrived at my parents' house around 4 p.m. No one could believe the size of my buck! By the time everyone we knew had come by and talked, congratulated us, and taken many, many pictures, the time had slipped to around 11:30 p.m. After that, it was time for some supper and a little relaxing.

My public land monster gross-scored 230 non-typical inches and had a net score of 222 5/8. He was a basic 5x5 with a total of 11 abnormal points that added up to 52 3/8 inches. He had a 19 4/8-inch inside spread, and his gross typical score added up to 181 1/8 inches. He definitely was a mature buck -- probably either 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 years old. He field-dressed at 220 pounds. Not bad for an afternoon of hunting on public land!

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