Don Higgins has shot some fantastic whitetails in his 35 seasons of bowhunting, but none quite like the one he arrowed last month. While the Illinois expert has shot bigger deer, he knew his 2012 trophy better than any other. The monster whitetail lived nearly its entire life on Higgins’ farm, and the gross B&C whitetail was highly visible.
“Through trail cams, scouting observations, and hunting, I’ve been able to watch some pretty nice bucks,” he says, “but I had more history with this one than any I’ve ever known.”
Higgins owns 120 acres split in two sections, and leases a parcel in between. He says he hunts “about a 300-acre piece of ground” that’s a combination of timber, switchgrass and CRP, a small creek bottom, and some crop fields.
“Over the course of five years, I saw buck countless times, and I only caught him off that 300-acre parcel once. I was driving my truck and spotted him chasing a doe onto the neighboring property. He saw my truck and ran right back onto my property,” he says.
Higgins first noticed the buck when it was 2 1/2 years old.
“I got him on trail cam that year, and I knew he was a buck with a lot of potential,” he says. “It was odd; he came along at a point in my hunting life where I’d decided to raise the bar for myself. Up to that point, I figured if a buck was 4 1/2 years old, he was big enough to shoot. But that fall, I’d made up my mind to let them get a little older. I love the challenge of hunting a really old, smart, buck. And some whitetails just don’t reach their potential until they’re 5 1/2 or older.”
In this first trail cam photo from 2008, the young buck had a beautiful 5-point left side. And on its right, exhibited an antler trait that would help Higgins identify him for the next several seasons.
“He had a forked G2 on the right side, and he carried that fork in each of the next seasons, though it would alternate sides from year to year,” he says. “Although, oddly enough, when I killed him this fall, he’d gone to a clean 6x6. Usually a buck will grow more junk the older he gets, but this one cleaned up.”