I was bowhunting in central Illinois when I received a phone call on Wednesday night, Oct. 17. A good friend and client of mine was calling to tell me that one of our mutual friends, Chad McCook of Woodstock, had harvested a huge deer with his bow in Cherokee County.
He initially said the deer would probably have a gross score close to 160 inches, certainly an out- standing Georgia trophy. After my morning hunt on the 18th, I called Chad to confirm the story, and before I could utter a word, Chad said, “Matty, my taxidermist (a Safari Club International measurer) came up with a gross score of 186 and a net green score of 169 as a typical 8-point.”
I was blown away, immediately thinking that those numbers would place this deer in the top-5 bow- harvested bucks in the state. I had to know the story behind this monster, so Chad gave me every detail.
At the age of 29, Chad has been hunting or watching his Uncle Daren hunt for nearly 25 years, and 14 of those he’s spent exclusively bowhunting. His uncle, who also happened to be one of his best friends, tragically passed away in a house fire in the late 90s. Chad didn’t hunt much for the next couple of years because he had lost his best hunting buddy. Chad picked his head up and began to hunt hard again in 2001. Previously his best buck was a 110-inch 8-point harvested in 1996. Prior to the 2006 archery sea- son, Chad got a trail-cam photo of a giant 160-inch deer in the area that he hunts. In all his years of hunting, he had never been so consumed by a single deer, but it was not to be. He never saw the deer again. Well, summer 2007 rolls around, and Chad excitedly gets his cameras back in the woods, hoping to get a glimpse of what last year’s monarch had become, but the bucks had seemingly vanished, and he did not get a single buck on camera. Archery season began, and Chad found very little deer sign on the property, that is until the second week of October when he found a lone red-oak tree, just above a river bottom, that was raining beret- capped acorns, and there was a fresh scrape near the tree to boot. The first evening in his new set, Chad passed a decent 8-point and a 4-point, both of which were feeding heavily on the acorns. The second evening hunt brought a couple of does. It was the third sit on Oct. 17 that would turn out to be one that Chad McCook will never forget.
There was a southeast wind that evening, and about 20 minutes before the end of shooting light, Chad looked left and saw antlers… BIG antlers. He did everything he knew and everything he’d ever read to try to stop the pounding in his chest and slow his breathing because the buck was at 30 yards and closing in on a shooting lane by the red oak. As Chad watched, the buck’s rack was going up and down like a bobber as he leisurely fed on the acorns. When the deer finally made it into the shooting lane, he was at 15 yards; however, there were two limbs over his vitals, and Chad would not take a question- able shot. After about two minutes the buck began to walk back into the thick cover, when all of the sudden it turned and appeared back in the shooting lane at 8 yards. Chad drew his Hoyt bow, focused on one hair just behind the deer’s massive shoulder and let fly an arrow… an arrow that buried itself into the deer’s chest cavity, but did not completely pass through.
Chad knew that the arrow flew true, and after three seconds and about 40 yards, this Cherokee County giant took its last breath. And by the way, it was not the deer from the 2006 trail- cam photo. That big boy is still out there.