David Syfert

October 10th, 2007

h best vacation time used ever. Not one week went by my guide didn’t text me and tell me about shed antlers, trail cam pictures, big prints, stories of bucks passed up, the crops being planted, deer sightings in fields….. I also can’t tell you how many times he asked if I had been shooting my bow, had I shot with all my camo on, have I taken my bow to get looked at by a bow shop, hows my shooting…. The anticipation through the off season and leading up to the trip made every day feel like weeks. Finally I was at camp and couldn’t wait to get in the woods. Each day I was in the stand well before sun up to after sun down, I saw some really neat things! The deer movement was slow with the eighty plus degree weather but it was still entertaining. Between turkey sightings, little bucks chasing does, raccoons causing ruckus, there was plenty to keep me awake on the stand. If that wasn’t enough to keep me busy during the week, every night back at camp I would come strolling in last with a smile on my face and stories to tell and many more to listen to with the nineteen hunters in camp. Man, everyone had a question – What did you see? Get anything? What times? Describe your set up? All night long I kept thinking about the week and all the cool people I had met. I couldn’t take it all in but I was trying! There were two situations I was looking for in the morning – either a clean arrow or the Giant buck to be dead just inside the woods! Somewhere in the night I fell asleep and awoke to my guide making deer noises and shaking me in my bed telling me we were going to get the monster. My guide new this deer all to well, seeing the giant cross the road one evening on the way back from glassing fields in August and a hunter missing the deer twice in 2005. Before we hit the road my guide had some questions to ask about the shot and how I felt about it after resting. Of course it was the normal what do you think happened? Sticking to my gut feeling, I told him that at first I thought it was a miss till he bedded down. I didn’t understand why he would just lay down after rubbing a tree and being shot at. The next series of questions were about his rack. As I answered his questions it became clear that the giant really was a GIANT and we couldn’t wait to get back to the woods. I remembered the buck looking back at me while standing broadside at thirty yards and his main beam reaching out past his shoulder! His brow tines looked like carrots and his points look like giant candles, G2’s were twice the length of his ears and no point was shorter then ten inches. His main beams reached out way past the end of his nose and there was an ear width in between each sky reaching point. His mass appeared larger then the base of his ears. I see it all too clearly and don’t think those images will soon escape my mind. Finally we were on the farm and we couldn’t wait to get out of the truck! We neared the corner and I could see my stand at the base of the tree just inside the woods. At first we went to where he bedded down and found no blood or hair. Then we went to where I had made the shot and looked for my arrow. The short search revealed nothing. No arrow, no blood, and no hair. I needed closure and we started glassing the woods, still nothing. I went back to the area where he had spooked and was searching the ground for sign and was getting frustrated. My guide Kris Strickland came over and asked what I thought. “I just want to find my arrow so I know for sure,” I said. Just then my guide pointed and said “There it is!,” and went running past me. He crouched over my arrow checking it out before picking it up and said “Dave, its clean, like the first day out of the box. You missed him.” Never had I been so relieved to find a clean arrow. I know it would have been the buck of a lifetime and would of come really close to the current Illinois record and maybe the world record. We exchanged a hand shake and brotherly hug and smiled. I think that’s all we could do, just smile, at least for now but there is always next year! Maybe some hunter will get lucky and maybe its one of my guide’s hunters. Either way, if he is never seen again I will know that I saw him and that alone is the second best thing to of taken him. It should be known that there was not one day I did not take a scent free shower. I put my camo (yes, it was scent loc) in the drier with body powder and drier sheets every night. I stayed in the stand my guide put me in all day changing stands only a couple times during the week. I trusted my outfitter and my guide’s judgment!! Changing stands took all of fifteen minutes and other then that everyday I stayed in my stand during all shooting light. I saw multiple bucks everyday – some small some tempting. QDM rules on the lodge and that means no bucks under 130” which most cases in Pike County Illinois means three years old or better. When I saw the larger bucks it was usually on days were deer movement was “slow” and not many deer were seen. On the night I shot at the farm “ghost” I had seen two fawns and a doe from noon till I saw him. He appeared out of nowhere rubbing a tree behind me the size of my waist. The wind was in my favor but not favorable for the deer and wildlife I had seen earlier. I stayed positive everyday and envisioned a big buck in every shooting lane and how I would have to take the shot. I did not glass the shooting lane that the buck offered me the shot in although my binoculars were six inches from my face (big mistake). He came in alone, silent and I thought he was a raccoon climbing a tree behind me. His rack looked like a menorah candle holder coming through the woods. I missed my opportunity in the first shooting lane because I thought he was a raccoon climbing a tree (mistake). When I first saw him he was already past my first shooting lane by 2 feet. I could not shoot him when he was behind my stand because my day pack hung in the way (mistake). It was the last ten minutes of the last day of camp and total hours in the stand were over eighty. The only vehicle movement on the farm was well before first light and after dark to pick me up. The cool part – He is still out there! I wouldn’t trade these two unfilled tags (2006 & 2007) for anything in the world! They will be framed and hang on the wall. I will never forget the memories these two hunting trips have offered and will soon never forget the people meet in deer camp. The drive home was long and I couldn’t be happier! I will return to Heartland Lodge next year for opening week of 2008 with a tag, my bow and ready for my PG (professional guide) to put me on them. I may never see a buck like that in my life but I am alright with that. Cory, Wanda, Kris and the Heartland team – thanks again for a great time and the experience of a lifetime! Fellow deer hunters of deer camp 2006 & 2007 thanks for the great memories we all shared! David Syfert

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