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When You Lose Count at 17 Points, Get Ready to Shoot

Jay Culpepper drops an Illinois buck worthy of the Boone and Crockett record books.

When You Lose Count at 17 Points, Get Ready to Shoot

After five years of hunting Illinois with an out-of-state license, Jay Culpepper downs a buck of a lifetime. (Photo courtesy of Jay Culpepper) 

Five years ago, I called my dad and said, “Hey, let’s take a trip to the Midwest for a whitetail hunt.” 

Dad agreed, so we started Googling and searching the internet. After a couple of days of research, we decided to go with Illinois Connection, an outfitting business that’s run by Doug Benefield. 

Two of my other hunting buddies joined during the second year, and our trip to Illinois became a hunt we all looked forward to. Over the years I had multiple opportunities, and I took a great whitetail. However, during the fifth year, my dreams came true. 

We arrived in camp on October 23, 2020, for our five-day hunt. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. A cold front was moving through, and we knew there would be increased buck activity. The wind was swirling a little, so my guide, Hayden, told me of two different stand options for my evening hunt. So, everything depended on what the wind direction was when we arrived. 

I got into a stand that overlooks a two-acre turnip field with a large standing cornfield just to the North. After getting set up, I immediately had some does out feeding in the far end of the turnips. Activity died down for about 30 minutes, and then I caught movement on the road that skirts the edge of the standing corn. About 150 yards out, I saw four does working their way down the road toward me. The does were acting uneasy, and they kept looking back. That’s when the giant buck appeared like a ghost from around the bend in the road! 

When You Lose Count at 17 Points, Get Ready to Shoot
After a sleepless night, the buck was found dead about 100 yards from the stand. (Photo courtesy of Jay Culpepper)

I tried to count points, but I stopped at 17. I then gave myself a pep-talk so I could get the job done if given the opportunity. The giant buck slowly followed the doe down the edge of the standing corn, but I was still unsure if he would come into bow range. 

What felt like an hour was realistically about six minutes. I watched him stand like a statue at the opening of the turnip field with the doe. I knew he had only two options: he could continue down the path he was on and move out of range, or he could turn and feed into the turnip field, which I knew would give me the perfect shot opportunity. As the doe turned and headed across the small creek into the turnip field, a switch inside me immediately flipped from excitement to business.

I ranged him at 33 yards and drew as he walked into my shot opening. He cleared some brush and stopped with his head up. 

It felt like my red nock was in flight for an eternity before it connected! The giant turned with my arrow in him and headed up a huge ridge across the field. 

It was literally a party in the turnip patch as word got out! Folks in camp were FaceTiming me from their stand. My guide Hayden had been grinding all week, and I could tell he was a little down the last day because my group hadn’t tagged out. I told him jokingly before leaving the camp that afternoon to cheer up because I liked waiting until the last afternoon to get it done. The call to him was awesome, he was speechless. 

After the 60-day drying period, he officially Boone and Crockett grossed 224 and netted 216 4/8. Little did I know, five years earlier when I asked my dad to hunt the Midwest, that I would get to experience my greatest hunting memory ever with him in Illinois! That day also happened to be my daughter’s birthday. She let me slide on being late to her party because the buck was a 200-incher!


Be sure to subscribe to our magazine because Jay Culpepper's entire story will be printed out as a full-length magazine feature. You do not want to miss the entire story! 

When You Lose Count at 17 Points, Get Ready to Shoot
Jay was surrounded with excitement and it's easy to see on everyone's faces. (Photo courtesy of Jay Culpepper)

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