By Mark Kenyon

This is a story today that I’m especially excited to share, because today’s successful hunter is a great guy that I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know myself over the past couple years. Back in 2010, Josh started an outfitting business in Illinois and he invited me to come down for a November hunt and share my experiences on Wired To Hunt. I ended up heading down to Illinois a couple times to do some scouting and hunting, and had a great time on each occasion. Josh and his partner Franki are great guys, and they run a first rate outfit. Since the 2010 hunt, we’ve stayed in touch and I couldn’t have been more excited when I heard that Josh closed the deal on a giant. Congrats again Josh! – MK

“I first got word of this giant from a friend who said that one of our buddies filmed a giant in the field that I hunt by the other night. This was early july and they thought the deer would go 170”! I knew I had to get a camera on an oak and walnut flat that led to that bean field, I just knew he would use that area! So I put my cam out there and on the first pull…bam he was on there. I had seen pics from the video and knew it was him! Over the next couple months I had pics of him on at least one of two trail cameras I had in the area, every pull. The neighbor to the West also had tons of pics of him throughout the summer, so he was a roamer for a buck that size in the summer. But he always seemed to come back to that one flat! He was also seen by quite a few people in that bean field and that friend of mine probably videoed him ten times. But I never laid eyes on him except from the pics I got.

So September came, but I began devoting my cameras to a even bigger deer I have had my heart set on for the past two years. I had no idea if the bean field buck was still calling that flat home, but the neighbor said he was still around just to the West. A week before season I went into that flat to pick out a climber tree for later in the fall. Once I got in there and saw all the scrapes, rubs and biggest thing of all…blacks oaks droppin acorns, I knew I had to hunt here early. So I trimmed my lanes 20 yards around my climber tree and got outta there.

The opening night of season came and it found me with the right wind to hunt the flat. I carried my climber and got back there and decided I should hunt a ladder stand next to the field instead of back in the timber where I wanted to. The conditions just weren’t right. It ended up being a pretty uneventful evening til the last 15 minutes. At this point I heard the unmistakable noise of horns locking together right where my climber spot was! And here they came up the logging road, but they decided to hit a trail and head West before the got to me. I caught a glimpse of one in the fading dark and was awestruck of the giant buck I caught a glimpse of!

I then had to work the next three nights, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what might have been if I had just hunted my climber tree. I couldn’t wait to get back in there asap! Well the weather on Friday was absolutely perfect to get in there. It had rained half an inch Thursday night and an extreme cold front for this time of year was making its way through. Not to mention, the wind was great for the spot too! I knew I had to be there even though the odds of the two bucks coming back were slim.

I made it in without bumping anything and got in early. I sat for two hours till about 5:20 and a doe and two fawns came in underneath me. That’s when I heard that unmistakable noise again…horns locking together and two deer pushing against each other! I just couldn’t see either one of them! Needless to say my attention turned to their direction. I was standing up and ready when I caught the giant walking up the logging road just like he had done four nights before. I thought to myself this cannot be happening! I knew exactly what deer it was as soon as I saw him!

He got to a 15 yard opening and I drew back, only to panic because my peep did not turn and I could see nothing! I grabbed the string with my teeth and turned it. Fortunately he stopped in the next opening and I let him have it. I hit him where I thought was absolutely perfect….right behind the shoulder and four inches up. He turned and bolted, but never heard him crash!

So I waited another hour till I climbed down. I went and grabbed the arrow and decided that I had to get outta there. I went and met the boys at a friend’s house and where we went over the shot and in the end all felt we needed to go get him that night cuz he was smoked! We went a couple hours later and there was blood everywhere….for the first 50 yards! We then found a bed and 10 yards later another bed. We were fixin to leave and come back in the mornin when he jumped outta a brush pile! Needless to say I was bummed as this is the last thing you want to happen. We came back the next morning to find a decent blood trail for 200 yards, and then three beds and a 10 yard circle of blood! We were at a standstill here for an hour! A couple of friends and I thought he could have backtracked on us. And that is exactly what he did! He went back down the exact same trail he was on and got in a creek/big ravine. This is where a buddy got a glimpse of him bedded and was sure he was still alive!

After a meeting of the minds we decided to leave and come back 3 hours later! I was going to sneak up the creek with a friend who knew where he was and the other helpers were going to get in front of him so if he was alive and got up we would know where he headed! I snuck up the creek and didn’t see him… I was getting nervous till I snuck around the bend of the creek and I saw half a rack sticking out of the creek! I watched his chest for movement and came to the conclusion that he was dead!

I grabbed his horns and gave a thank you to the man above and let a war whoop out to the boys. After a lot of high fives, hugs and pics the journey for “The Lone Ranger”, as the neighbor had dubbed him, was over. He will gross around 190″ and may possibly net 180″! Here’s my my biggest deer to date! He is a testament to these great animals’ will to live….after inspection I hit him right behind the shoulder, very slightly quartering towards. The exit was a little low but still looked good! By the looks of it, it caught a lung, liver and intestines and this bad boy still made it 20 hours! What an impressive will to live. This is why big deer are so hard to harvest and also why we have such respect and appreciation for these great animals we hunt!” – Josh Nehmelman

If you’re interested in hunting with Josh and Oak Tree Outfitters, visit the Oak Tree Outfitters of Illinois website