By CODY MILLER
Nov. 6 was just another Sunday before the holidays, not unlike any other day in November for most Illinois residents. In 2016, with temperatures reaching record highs in both October and November, most Illinois deer hunters had become extremely aggravated at this point in the season.
But I did not let that deter me.
Each year, I plan my vacation around bowhunting the “rut.” After hunting every chance I got before and after work, in addition to every weekend, I finally reached the week dedicated to hunting and hunting only. Despite three straight days of high temperatures, recent information from trail cameras showed a lot of morning movement when temperatures were cooler.
I knew it was that time.
On Sunday morning, I had a tough time pulling myself out of bed. A little persistence from my wife helped get me up and ready within 10 minutes.
Running late to the stand, I called my buddy, Aaron Cully, and said that we had to go after Big City. The legacy of this deer dates back to 2014 when we saw him as a 3-year-old who was bigger than the bucks we were chasing.
After years of harvesting 135-140 inch 3-year-olds, we started passing bucks, knowing one day it would all be worth it. We hunted hard that year and only saw Big City once on the hoof. Then before the year was over, we saw him on camera again.
In 2015 we started putting cameras up in July, as we do every year. Sure enough, he had returned. After fretting that he might have contracted EHD during a dry stretch, we were excited to see him on camera on Halloween night.
We both tagged out that season without seeing Big City again in November. Per usual, we left cameras running and were happy to see him in December.
At the end of January, Aaron found the buck’s first shed. Big City’s sheds measured around 180 inches with a 20-21 inch spread.
In the summer of 2016, Big City was back and bigger than ever. We estimated him to be a 5½-year-old with antlers measuring around 190 inches. While we had no pictures of Big City in October, Aaron and I were out in force on Nov. 6.
As the sun was breaking the horizon, I texted Aaron saying, “It’s going to be a special morning.” A few minutes later I asked Aaron if he realized what day it was. Aaron said, “Yes, the day I skipped class to film you killing Stickers in 2012.” Stickers is what I thought would be the biggest deer of my life at 186 inches.
A moment later, Aaron texted, “I have a doe that I think might bust me.” I asked if it was a mature doe, and Aaron responded “YES.” So I looked his way, knowing a big boy could be close behind. Aaron was on one side of the draw and I on the other in an attempt to hopefully ambush Big City.
When I looked, I saw a huge-framed buck looking towards the doe. In that moment I was not prepared, as he got into range without me hearing or seeing him. But I grabbed my bow and tried to make the kill by not focusing on antlers, but rather on the shot itself.
I knew the wind was in my favor and he wasn’t looking in my direction. I only had one window to make the shot. I stood slowly. After I was square with the deer, I realized that I had not yet ranged him. But I did not turn back in fear of potentially spooking him. Using my one-pin sight and my best judgement on the placement of the pin, I placed the green dot right behind the left shoulder and pulled the trigger on my release.
I watched Big City and the arrow, feeling as if I were burning a hole right through them. My broadhead drilled the “sweet spot.” The buck took off, gurgling, then I heard a loud crash.
“Cody did you just shoot?” Aaron texted. Grabbing my phone I replied, “Yes, yes I just killed Big City.”
After waiting two hours and initially not finding much blood, we discovered Big City about 60-70 yards away – victim of a heart shot. Big City, a Morgan County legend, was finally conquered thanks to two friends coming together, with a gameplan that incorporated managing land with limited pressure of mature bucks.
Big City’s 15-point rack green-scored a gross of 186 3/8 inches and netted 172 3/8 typical.