On November 9, Outdoor Life reader Buddy Wilkins killed an incredible buck during a hunt in Pike County, Illinois. Wilkins and his uncle signed up with an outfitter to take trophy Midwestern whitetails, and they weren’t disappointed. Here’s how the Arkansas native took his first buck with a bow and caught the whole thing on trail camera.
It was the second-to-last day of the hunt, and Wilkins was beginning to worry he might not tag out before heading home. Wilkins climbed his stand at 5:45 that morning, well before dawn. Another hunter with Xtreme Hunts had posted there the previous day and advised Wilkins to be prepared to shoot. Two narrow trails offered clear shooting lanes, but if Wilkins wasn’t ready when a deer crossed the paths he would miss his chance. “I was pretty anxious about killing a big buck,” Wilkins said, “So I stood there from daylight all the way until the deer came out, standing there with my bow in my hand so all I had to do was draw back.”
When his buck emerged nearly four hours later, Wilkins was still on his feet and ready to go. He heard movement off to the left, and spotted a big bruiser trotting through the trees. He drew back his Mathews DXT and aimed down the trail. When the buck crossed in front of his pin at 31 yards, Wilkins let out a doe bleat with his mouth. The buck stopped in his tracks. Just as he turned his head toward the stand, Wilkins released his arrow. The buck kicked out its back legs and took off down the hill. Wilkins sat tight and called his guide from the stand. While he was on the phone another deer walked out. This one was a doe and Wilkins still had an antlerless tag, so he consulted his guide and decided to shoot her too. His arrow hit home and she bolted down the other side of the hill in the opposite direction of the buck. This time Wilkins climbed down and inspected both his arrows. They were coated in blood, and he knew he had made good shots.
Wilkins returned to the stand and called his uncle. While he was on the phone again, a third deer walked out. “I called him and I looked up, and there’s an 8-point standing in front of me,” Wilkins said. “The 8-point wasn’t near as big as the one I had just shot. But if I was back home, I would’ve shot it too.”
In the span of just 15 minutes, Wilkins saw three deer and shot two. When his guide arrived an hour later, the pair tracked the buck to a creek bed just 40 yards away. They found the doe and headed back to camp for the day. But Wilkins still had another surprise in store. A trail camera near the stand managed to capture the moment just before Wilkins released his arrow. You can see the bruiser turning his head to look for the source of the bleat, and Wilkins poised to release.
“Your first buck with a bow is pretty nice,” Wilkins said. “But not only that, the picture that we got off the game cam was worth as much as the deer I killed to me.” The buck weighed 275 pounds and the 11-point rack taped out at 146 inches. Wilkins said he’s getting a shoulder mount to hang on the wall next to his wife’s trophy bucks. Four years ago she killed two 8-points near their home in Rison, Arkansas, which became his motivation for taking this hunting trip to Illinois. “She had two bucks bigger than anything I’ve ever killed and I’ve been hunting since I was seven years old,” Wilkins said. “So I told her, ‘This year I’m going to kill something bigger.’ “
Buddy Wilkins’ first archery buck was a monster Illinois whitetail. He also happened to catch his hunt on a series of trail camera photos. Check out the shots here.