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November 1, 1983

Big Bucks Corner

Richard Pauli’s 21 Pointer

Tue, November 01, 1983

The precise date Richard Pauli forgets. But details from opening day of the 1983 shotgun deer season are firmly committed to memory.

Pauli remembers the wind direction on the first day of that season. He can provide a play-by-play of his hunt that would make Vin Scully proud.

Most of all, Pauli remembers the deer. The 25-point buck he shot that day still ranks as the No. 1 non-typical in Illinois and is still known to some as the Barnyard Buck, a name penned by former Journal Star scribe Jack Ehresman.

‘’Jack called it that because the first time I saw (the deer) that morning he was right outside the gate,’’ Pauli said.

The pre-dawn meeting ended a few minutes later when the buck wandered off. Though slightly unnerved, Pauli wasn’t convinced the deer was gone for good.

He had seen the buck several times on his rural Dunlap farm while tending cattle and bowhunting. That a shot never materialized until gun season is something Pauli regrets.

‘’I wanted to take that deer with a bow,’’ he said. ‘’The only reason I took him with a gun was because they sold the farm next door and it was full of hunters. And he was headed in that direction.’’

To put himself in position Pauli had crossed the farm and climbed high into an oak tree. Just as the deer moved into range, though, a piece of bark fell and hit the buck.

‘’I thought for sure he’d take off, but it didn’t bother him at all,’’ Pauli said.

Ten minutes later the buck stepped into a clearing and Pauli was part of deer-hunting history. In addition to ranking No. 1 among Illinois non-typicals, Pauli’s buck is No. 17 in North America according to the Boone & Crockett club.

Sporting an extra beam on its left side, the deer’s uneven rack included seven points on one side and 18 on the other. Other record book measurements include a score of 267 3/8 inches, a right beam with a circumference of 6 5/8 inches and a left beam of 28 2/8 inches.

But Pauli, who refused several offers to buy the mount, was not concerned about record recognition then or now.

‘’I just knew he was a nice deer. There weren’t as many people making a big deal about it back then,’’ he said. ‘’I think any more they put too much money into deer hunting. It’s too commercial.’’

That hasn’t soured Pauli on hunting, though. This Friday he plans to be in the timber, as he has nearly every season since 1957. The chance he’ll encounter another Barnyard Buck is remote, but perhaps not non-existent.

‘’A few years ago there was one just like it around here,’’ Pauli said. ‘’It had the nickname of Pauli Jr. I haven’t heard much about that one lately, but I don’t think it’s gone.’’

NOTE: This story was written by Jack Ehresman, former Peoria Journal Star outdoor writer.

It was the opening day of the 1983 Illinois firearm deer season, and Richard Pauli, hunting from a big oak tree on his property near rural Dunlap, suddenly found himself looking down at the most massive buck he had ever seen. But at that precise moment, he could do nothing about it.

“When I looked down he was standing right exaclty underneath me about 15 feet away. All I could see was his ears and his antlers. I had laid my gun on limbs to my right and was trying to figure out how I could get to it without making any noise ‘cause he was awfully close,” said Pauli. “I moved a little bit, and when I did, my feet knocked a piece of bark off the tree, and it hit him. I thought all I’d see was his tail up and he’d be gone, but he didn’t move. He soon disappeared under a big limb, and I couldn’t see him anymore, so I just didn’t move.”

A few minutes later, what must have seemed like an eternity to Pauli, the world-class buck again appeared in the hunter’s range of vision about 20 yards away. By this time Pauli held his shotgun.

“He was moving crossways with the wind like he always did and was moving away from me. He turned just a little to his left to look. Then he turned to his right. When he did this, he exposed his neck to me. That’s my favorite shot,” Pauli said with a smile.

The rest is history, and Pauli wound up with a 27-point buck that has been scored 260 7/8 inches by official Boone and Crockett measurer John Kube of Petersburg (later scored a 25-pointer at 267 3/8 inches), forest game biologist with the Illinois Department of Conservation.

Though it has not been officially entered as this story goes to press, the animal will go down as the largest non-typical deer ever recorded in the state. It currently stands No. 8 nationally through the last (eight) recording period of Boone and Crockett through 1981.

The largest non-typical Illinois buck on record (at that time) was taken by bow hunter Bob Chestnut of Collision in 1981. It scored 245 5/8 points and sported 31 antler points.

Kube spent more than three hours measuring the deer with assistance from Pekin taxidermist, Drew Just, who mounted the head.

“It was the toughest I’ve ever scored. The toughest part was determining the number of times considered typical and non-typical. The unusual aspect of it is that the rack appears to have a third beam coming out of it,” said Kube who had to decide which growth turned into the odd point.

Forrest (Frosty) Loomis, chief deer biologist in the state, later also scored the antlers without having any knowledge of how it had measured. His total was slightly less.

“At the time I never realized how big he was. Even after I had checked it in I really wasn’t excited as everybody else was. It took a couple of days before it hit me,” said Pauli who had been hunting the big buck for three years.

Though the soft-spoken sportsman admits bagging a deer of such proportions is 99 percent luck, he is no neophyte hunter. Only twice since modern whitetail hunting was reintroduced to the state in 1957 has he failed to take home venison. Once his name was not drawn for a permit and two years ago illness in the family kept him out of a tree.

In 1968 he harvested a buck that dressed out at 263 pounds, much heavier than his backyard buck of last year which field dressed at 197.

“I don’t go deer hunting to get a deer. I go because I enjoy it,” he said. Pauli also spends many hours glassing his 105 acres and adjacent property with binoculars, keeping close tabs on deer and other wildlife activity.

“We have three old does here that are as big as cows. I’d bet they weigh more than the big buck did. I’m almost sure he was related to one of these three does. I know one is probably 17 years old, another about 15 and the other somewhere pretty close,” said Pauli who added the does have been protected because adjacent land owners, like himself, run cattle and allow no hunting.

Ironically, one of North America’s most recognized big-game animals, the Mel Johnson typical buck that scored 204 4/8 in 1965, was taken on property of Pauli’s aunt which is located about five miles from where his big non-typical was taken last November. So it would be an understatement to say good genetics exist in the deer herd in this area of Peoria County.

Pauli had been aware a big whitetail had been occasionaly passing through his property. “‘I knew it was him because of his footprints. I had seen him twice from a distance while bow hunting and got a closer look one night when I went out with the cattle,” said Pauli. “But I never did get a real good look at his antlers and never knew how big he really was.”

But in observing the big buck, he noticed it developed an unusual habit of going crossways with the wind. This gave Pauli a hunch and caused him to change his hunting plans the last minute on opening morning last year.

While bowhunting he was able to catch only a quick glimpse of the trophy buck.

“In 1981 I was in a deep washout when I heard something about 15 feet behind me. I was in a position where I couldn’t turn around, and there was no way I could shoot left handed. All I could see was his tail. He just walked to the top of the hill and then came out in plain sight,” he recalled.

“Then another time in the same creek bed I noticed a maple tree was down. I was gonna’ be smart and cross over on it. He bolted from the brush and was gone. It scared me more than it scared him, and it was the only time I caught him bedded down.”

The best glimpse Pauli caught of the big deer, before looking down on him from the big oak, came about a month before the shotgun season arrived last fall.

He and his wife, Donna, had been to a relative’s house for supper that night. It was dark when they arrived home, and they drove out to the pasture to drive their cattle to another field before retiring for the night.

“She drove the car down to the pond so we could use the headlights to see and the beams hit him. He was drinking at the pond. He turned around and looked at us. He looked up, turned his head around over his shoulder and just walked off. He never did break stride or change his pace. He acted like he was king of the hill,” Pauli said.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill just to see a deer like that. In the headlights he looked like that big deer Hartford Insurance uses in its advertising.”

Since bow season had already started, Pauli went after the big animal. He had taken an 8-pointer with a bow two years earlier. Despite his searching, he never saw the buck again until the opening day of the firearms season.

It was dark that morning when he took off for his hunting spot which he had picked out on the north side of his farm. But plans changed soon after stepping through the gate in the field located about 30 yards behind his home.

“I was about half asleep, but I sensed there was something else in the field with me. I looked up and this big buck was in the same field. He had been crossing my path 20 to 25 yards ahead of me. We saw each other about the same time and just looked at each other for awhile,” Pauli said.

“I just stood there and relaxed. He walked off, and I thought that was the end of the day for him and that he would go bed down somewhere for the day.”

After the big buck disappeared, Pauli stood 10 to 15 minutes before moving. He began heading for the place he had planned to hunt.

“But the more I walked the more I thought. He went southeast, and he had a bad habit of always going crossways with the wind. So I figured he would go straight west. I was playing a hunch. I thought if I saw him it would be in a most unlikely spot, because I always saw him when I never expected.”

Pauli changed his hunting plans. “I wanted to get in the biggest tree in the direction I thought he might go, and the only one I could think of was on a high hill in the middle of nowhere, and old pasture surrounded by timber. And that’s where I went.”

Pauli experienced difficulty climbing the tree but finally managed to find a comfortable limb and settled down.

“About five after seven I heard a shot to the west of me. I thought things must be moving. I had been facing the southeast where I thought he might come from, so I turned around to see if anything was coming from the direction the shot came from. ‘Nothin’,” he said.

“I just sat there and relaxed and set my gun up over two limbs. I never keep it in my hands. I figure if the shot is not good enough where I can take my time, I don’t want it anyway.”

Another shot came from the west. Pauli turned again, but there was no movement. So he settled down again.

“About 10 to 12 minutes later I heard a sound behind me. A deer’s got a peculiar walk and sounds kinda’ like a person. I knew something was back there, but I didn’t know what. I didn’t want to turn around. So I just sat there. About 15 minutes later I looked down and there he was,” Pauli said.

He uses a Browning “Sweet 16” with a polychoke and slug setting during the Illinois firearms season, since it is illegal to use rifles. “I fired one shot and as soon as he went down he got the second one. Then I sat down and had my usual cup of coffee. I don’t get out of a tree after dropping a deer for at least 10 to 15 minutes,” he continued.

“I was still sittin’ up in the tree when my cousin came walking up. He heard my shootin’. I didn’t know he was out that morning. He told me he was coming the next day, but he took off work a day early. He had gotten a buck — a six pointer — and he says, ‘What’d you do, miss?’ I said yeah .. .he’s laying right there on the ground. He couldn’t believe the size when he saw it.”

Pauli dressed out his big buck, then helped his cousin with his. He got the tractor and hauled both of them from the field. It was all over by about 10 a.m. that opening day.

Pauli observes sign closely, but in chatting with him for several hours you soon realize that patience is his trump card as a deer hunter. He also is an excellent shot.

“I can sit in a tree all day long. I don’t even get down for lunch. I take no breaks, and it can be tough, especially when it’s cold. I’ve spent a lot of hours sitting with a shotgun. I take a thermos of coffee, a few candy bars, and some old-fashioned crackers, and I’m good for the day,” he said, adding that he can put three slugs inside a two-inch circle at 100 yards with his shotgun.

He never uses bottled scent when hunting but departs early before legal shooting time begins so his scent is not fresh when shooting time arrives.

“I check for rubs and scrapes but never as a rule get close to one to hunt. I try to find a trail that leads to them. This big buck didn’t rub trees, he annihilated them. I like to hunt just inside the timber. I noticed bucks will come to the edge of a clearing and just stand there. Sometimes for quite a long time,” Pauli said.

“I always climb in a tree. I prefer cedar if I can find one. If it’s raining or snowing I can stay dry. I also think it helps mask scent and it provides good visibility. I can move around. If I find a good cedar, I usually can take a few small branches and make a seat to sit on.”

Pauli feels deer movements compare with activities of cattle on the range. “I mean cattle that are left in the fields, not those which are fed daily at a regular time. I feel deer and cattle move at the same time. In full moon or almost full moon, cattle will feed in the brightest part of night,” he said.

“And if the barometer is low and the humidity is high, cattle will pick a high spot and stay out of the low areas. If it’s up they may go to low spots It’s just the opposite. If it’s windy they like to pick the side of the hill away from wind, but as close to the top as they can get so they get sun and not the wind.”

Did any other person mention they had seen the big buck that now hangs on Pauli’s wall?

“A fellow called my wife the day the picture was in the local paper and wanted to come and look at him because he thought he had seen him. I was gone at the time and was going to call him back, but I lost his phone number, so I don’t know who he is. I wish I knew. I feel kinda’ bad I misplaced it,” Pauli said.

The big buck was aged at 4 1/2 years, but Pauli felt he might have been a few years older.