Pre-rut in Land of Lincoln

prerut

It's a horrible phone-camera photo, but the point of this image is to show you what can happen in the first week of November when the weather breaks.

I'm hunting with Mossy Oak in Illinois - not the celebrated counties of Pike and Brown on the western border, but in Edgar County, on the Indiana line. It's not a zone that's gotten a lot of attention from big-buck hunters, but it certainly should. Trey Teague's Backcountry Outfitters has some 10,000 acres of prime land leased, and all week we've been waiting to see bonafide rut action.

The set-up has been perfect. We're in a series of bow stands spread through hardwood draws and along timbered creeks. On the benches, farmers are busy cutting corn and beans. And deer are definitely moving.

But until last night we've been cursed with warm weather and a trading southern wind that has circled relentlessly in the draws we're hunting. I've managed to rattle in a half-dozen immature bucks - the junior varsity, as I call them - but haven't yet spotted a mature buck. That changed for many of my campmates last night. Within the span of 20 minutes an hour before sunset, these three deer hit the ground. All were moving through timber on their way to feeding or breeding activities. All were moving alone, and while they weren't exactly chasing, they were definitely stirred up.

The three deer score 139, 165, and 152. That 165-incher is particularly impressive, as he's a heavy, tall, wide 8-point.

We're rained out all day, but have been making sloshy sits in the morning and evening. Here's hoping I can post a photo with my face between some massive antlers tonight or tomorrow.