Going into the fall of 1992, Illinois hunters were anticipating the best deer season in the state’s history. Seemingly, everybody and his brother knew the whereabouts of a living Boone and Crockett buck. But with the rut approaching, those rosy predictions were forgotten when Mother Nature altered the playing field by deluging this part of the Midwest with its wettest November on record. Many fair-weather whitetailers simply gave up their quest for venison, opting instead for warm quarters and dry underwear. To make matters worse, unpicked corn fields stretched for mile after mile, offering bucks even more hideouts than usual. But, 28-year-old McDonough County resident Brian Bice persevered, and it paid big dividends.
He and friend Danny Vanbrooker were a bit distraught as they ate breakfast as DJ’s Restaurant in Colchester before dawn on Sunday, November 22. They had not seen anything resembling a wallhanger buck during the cold, windy, rainy weather of the previous two days. It was now the third and final day of the first shotgun season, and the forecast called for still more chilly rain. Brian and Danny’s spirits were low, but they knew some big bucks inhabited the area they hunted. If only the weather would cooperate…
The friends relished their final sips of hot coffee, then reluctantly left the comfort of the cafe. Neither was looking forward to becoming soaked to the bone for the third day in a row, but they knew they weren’t likely to tag out while sitting in that restaurant.
Predicting that deer likely would not be moving on their own in the steady downpour, the hunters opted to sit it out in Danny’s truck for a while, hoping for some kind of break in the weather. No dice. Heavy rain continued for the duration of the morning, eating up valuable hunting time. Finally, Brian and Danny couldn’t wait any longer. Separate obligations were calling them back to town. Disappointed, they bid each other farewell until they could rendezvous once again for the four-day slug season coming up less than two weeks later.
Brian’s lunch commitment wrapped up earlier than he’d expected, which afforded him enough daylight to retrieve the 4-wheel ATV he’d left at the hunting property. It was still nasty out, but upon reaching the hunting area, he decided to try still-hunting a series of brushy draws before darkness arrived. Winchester 12 gauge in hand, he headed for the muddy outback.
The hunter tiptoed along the edges of several known bedding areas, but only one doe was spotted. Again feeling a bit morose, Brian retreated from the timber and loaded the ATV into the truck, all the while struggling with whether or not to abandon the hunt.
One more go at it, he Finally decided.
The landowner had told him that deer sometimes bedded in a narrow strip of scrub trees and tall grass paralleling the access road. Brian would still-hunt the strip then, if nothing happened, call it quits. Focused on the task ahead and the soon-to-be warmth of home, he began his final quest.
Easing along the strip of cover, Brian spotted a flash of white not far into the underbrush. He stopped momentarily but could not pick up the source of movement through the steady drizzle. Then, advancing slightly, he noticed “steam” rising from the grass. Antler tips pivoted, revealing the head and billowing nostrils of a huge buck bedded in the thick growth!
Brian froze in place, assessing the situation and trying to figure out what to do. Finally, the hunter decided to attempt a shot to drop the buck where he lay. Vegetation wet with rain dampened the roar of the slug gun; the buck jumped to his feet and disappeared in the brush. Brian hurried to the spot and, only yards from his bed, found the deer hit in the lungs. Ironically, the rain that had made slug season so miserable for trophy hunters also had taken the edge away from this 4 1/2-year-old, 27-point nontypical.
The Bice Buck, which had an estimated live weight of 250 pounds, officially scores 256 1/8 B&C points, making him the new all-time No. 2 non-typical in Illinois. Only Richard Paul’s 267 3/8-point buck from Peoria County, taken in 1983, outscores this one. Brian’s trophy primarily depends on tremendous tine length, rather than mass, to reach his final score. The deer has a huge 5×5 typical frame, including a left G-2 tine that, at 18 5/8 inches, is among the longest on record. You sometimes see back tines that long on mule deer but virtually never on whitetails!
In retrospect, I think it’s fair to claim that most hunters would have failed in their efforts to take the gigantic buck Brian harvested that soggy Sunday in 1992. First, few would have kept plugging in that kind of weather. Many of those who would have gone afield might have failed to see that buck in the brush. Then, how many hunters would have had the presence of mind to calmly shoot him as he lay partially obscured in his bed? Brian not only worked hard for his chance, but he kept his composure under pressure and made that shot count. And when it’s all said and done, that’s often how thin the line between success and failure really is.