Story By: Tyler Pietsch | IL Deer Hunter
South Central Illinois – The hunt for “Double Drop”, as he was referred to, started back in 2016 after an October card pull revealed pictures an incredible buck.
The picture that started it all
I’ve always hunted this property with my Grandpa Wes and cousin, Jason. Up to this point, we had seen some nice 140+ inch deer starting to resurface, but nothing had ever been rumored about a 200+ inch buck roaming around.
As we closed in on the 2016 Illinois shotgun season, the property had been left untouched. It had never been overrun with deer, and it wasn’t uncommon for us to sit an entire shotgun season and only see a handful of them. To this point, the “If it’s brown, it’s down” philosophy generally prevailed. But given the presence of Double Drop and a few other high-quality deer, the three of us agreed that we would be passing on any does or young bucks this year with the hopes of getting a big one.
Four days prior to opening day, trail cams revealed another night picture of Double Drop. This time, he was captured on a camera several hundred yards away from where he was first photographed. As we talked to the farmers and other locals in the area during the season, it was apparent that this buck had quickly become a local legend. Eyewitness reports came from over a 1.5 square mile radius. One person spotted him during the day and posted a video of the buck running across a field. It appeared that this buck had a large home range; never spending two sequential nights in the same bed or block of timber.
Our trail cams backed up that assumption, as we only had pics of him on two separate occurrences up until now, and always after dark. Nonetheless, we gave it a shot during the 2016 firearm season. The season came and went quietly with zero sightings of the giant.
As 2016 came to an end, the final pictures of Double Drop appeared over a scrape. As he stood in the scrape, it was almost as if he was showing off for the camera. As we reviewed the photos, we realized “Double Drop” was actually a triple drop – the drop tine on his left side actually had two drops side by side! Cameras continued to run until February 2017, but Double Drop had disappeared again.
2017 was an even shorter story. Cameras were out, and Double Drop never showed up on any of them. Again, just as the year prior, his day-to-day pattern was erratic enough that even with all of the 2016 sightings, no one could track him down consistently. It still amazes me that this local legend was able to lay low for almost an entire year without crossing anyone’s path. By fall 2017, most assumed he had died, been poached, or met some other tragic demise.
It wasn’t until around that same time in October that Double Drop was first sighted again when one of the local farmers saw him feeding across the field. After the sighting, the farmer went out and purchased his own set of cameras to try and hone in on the elusive behaviors of Double Drop as archery season ramped up. As luck would have it, Double Drop showed up multiple times in late October and early November. The good news from those photos was that he was still a monster buck and even larger than he was in 2016. The bad news was that nothing had changed from the year prior as far as his behavior went. Double Drop was still a ghost. As the shotgun season approached, we hoped the rut would cause Double Drop to slip up.
I had a quiet start to the 2017 shotgun season. My first morning in the stand was going to be on Sunday, which was the final morning of opening shotgun season. It was forecasted to be a near perfect morning in the stand with the temperature down around the freezing mark. The wind behind the cold front was coming out of the northwest, which was the perfect setup for my favorite stand.
This stand sits no more than 100 yards or so off the nearby county road, where the natural terrain and roadway creates a funnel. The deer generally cross the road near the base of the hill on the edge of the farm field and then funnel up into the timber to bed from this pinch. The road crossing area is littered with well-worn trails, and numerous deer have been taken from this stand, including “Wishbone” – my best buck to date. The stand itself faces the northwest and provides a good right-handed shot down the hill towards the field and into several of the draws in front of me.
On Sunday, November 19th, we all woke up around 3 AM to go hunting. Jason had been out on Friday without seeing much, but excitement remained high as Double Drop was spotted in the area recently. Grandpa wasn’t feeling well enough to go, but as with tradition, he was still up with us for breakfast. The property is about an hour and twenty minutes from the house. We made good time that morning and got down to the property by 5 AM. Jason and I got our clothes on and sprayed everything down with scent killer. We wished each other luck and headed off to our stands. I was toting a single shot 20-gauge H&R ultra-slug gun that I had just purchased from Grandpa Wes the night before.
I was in my stand and settled by 5:25 AM – 50 minutes before legal shooting time. Around 7:00 AM, the wind started to pick up so I put on my facemask and buttoned up my coveralls in anticipation of a long morning sitting in near-freezing temperatures. As I sat scanning the timber for any sign of movement, I caught a glimpse of something in the draw only 30 yards out in front of me. That movement quickly developed into a shooter buck. In what seemed like a blur, I lifted my shotgun and led the deer to an opening. As he walked into it, I sent my 20 gauge Lightfield sabot his way. He jumped, so I knew I hit him. I began reloading my gun for a second shot, but around the time I had him in the crosshairs again, he tipped over.
Like most shot opportunities, it happened so fast. I was so locked in on taking the shot that I really didn’t spend time looking at the rack. We had seen a big 11-pointer on our trail cams recently, and I really thought that it was that deer.
After 20 minutes passed, I climbed down from the tree and walked towards the buck. When I was about 10 yards away, I realized it was not the 11-pointer – it was Double Drop! I couldn’t believe it! He had been such a ghost, and he had never been spotted in the patch of timber I was hunting. In fact, the closest photo we had of this deer was well over 500 yards away. As I quickly found out, the big ones like Double Drop seem to just keep getting bigger and bigger the closer you get.
Word spread fast that this local legend had fallen, and I can’t count the number of times we opened the tailgate that day so others could get a picture of him. It was at that point that even more stories came out about this once-in-a-lifetime deer. Everyone who had seen him, or knew someone who had seen him, all told their stories. It was pretty special to see how much allure and mystery surrounded this big buck. As Jason hunted that afternoon and I sat in the truck, my appreciation for what I had been blessed to take that morning only continued to grow.
With a gross rough score, he measured out to be 219 6/8” with 16 scorable points and a 23 ½” spread