Illinois Bowhunter Tags 29-Point Drop-Tine Buck in McDonough County
Meet the latest giant buck to come out of western Illinois: A 29-point 240-class nontypical taken Oct. 10 by Nate Campbell of Beardstown. Campbell's trophy looks to be the biggest buck tagged in The Prairie State so far this fall.
A recent graduate of Western Illinois University and an enthusiastic alumnus of the school’s archery club, the 22-year-old shot the double-drop tine monster at 12 yards. Though he started hunting with his dad at 9, this is only his fourth season as a bow hunter.
Campbell and his father have permission to hunt a 200-acre farm in McDonough County, three counties north of Pike County. Deciding to try a different approach this year, he speed scouted an unexplored section Oct. 5 and found a spot with good trails, plenty of acorns and nearby water and bedding cover.
He returned Oct. 10 and shinnied his climber stand 20 feet up a tree near a major trail. “A couple of hours later, I looked over my shoulder and saw something.” It looked like a big rack headed toward him down the trail.
“At first I thought it was tree limbs blowing in the wind,” Campbell says. “Then I got a better look and I could see the top of his back.”
“I could make out the drop tine and lots of stickers on the left side, but I didn’t get a good look at the right.” What he did see was enough. He reached for his bow.
“He was walking down the trail toward me the whole time, head to the ground, just nibbling as he walked along. By the time I picked up the bow, got the release on the string and found a hole to shoot through he was right on top of me.”
Campbell found a small shot window–about 10 inches wide–and hit the walking buck at 12 paces. The big deer’s forward progress and Campbell’s steep angle in the tree made the shot tricky. “When I saw the shot hit, it was further back than I hoped. I was afraid I’d gut shot him.”
“He ran about 15 yards and stood behind some heavy brush for 5 or 10 seconds, then he bolted out of there. I waited 30 or 40 minutes before I climbed down and found my arrow covered in dark blood.”
He marked the spot where the buck had paused, then gathered his equipment and backed out. “It was pretty tough to go home and let it lay all night,” Campbell says. “I talked to my dad and my friends, and we made plans to have breakfast in the morning and be in the field at first light.”
The next morning the five men found a good blood trail but it petered out after 100 yards. “There was that sick feeling you get when you lose a blood trail,” Campbell says. They split up and began walking circles. One of the men found a big set of prints, which he followed into a creek bottom. He located the buck near the water, about 300 yards from Campbell’s stand.
“It was a huge relief. I hate to lose any deer, whether a doe or a 240-inch buck like this one. I’ve never seen five guys celebrate like that in the woods.”
“It was a long time before any of us even touched the deer. We were all in shock. We had no idea that such a magnificent animal lived on the farm, and then to walk up and see it lying there–it was unreal.”
“It’s everyone’s dream to shoot a big gnarly deer that’s got drop tines and points sticking out everywhere. It just blows me away. People hunt their whole life and never see anything like it, much less kill it. I couldn’t believe I got the opportunity.”
“He was laying on his right side, with the second drop tine in the dirt. It wasn’t until I picked up the rack that I discovered the other drop with the split. It was even more overwhelming when I picked up the head and could get a good look at it and feel how massive it was.”
“I’ve got a couple of deer on my wall I’ve always thought were pretty good deer. Now I hold this rack up to those and it just dwarfs everything else I’ve killed.”
“I love the split brow tines, the points coming off the back of the brow tines and bases …”
… “but the thing everybody notices is the right G2 is real palmated. It almost covers my hand. Everybody says it looks like a moose or something.”
It’s just unreal. I didn’t know 100 percent what I had when I shot it. It’s a dream to shoot a drop tine, and then to walk up on it and find it… all the nontypical points and another drop tine that splits and only one busted point. It’s pretty exciting.”
The right drop measured 9 inches, the left 7 inches. With an 18-inch inside spread and 24 scoreable points the green rack taped out at 240 3/8 Boone & Crockett, before deductions. A final score awaits the 60 day drying period.