It was a spur of the moment decision for Chuck Hamstra of Whiteside County, Ill.
On the evening of Nov. 4, 2008, Hamstra had been picking corn all day when he realized there was something terribly wrong.
“My two sons were in stands hunting and I was working late in the day during the peak rut,” Hamstra recalled. “I knew I had about a half-hour to hunt, so I flew back on the combine, jumped off, told my wife I was going hunting, grabbed a camo jacket and facemask, jumped on the Ranger and roared toward a stand along a brushy creek … wearing my dirty, smelly work clothes.’’
Three years prior, Hamstra had spotted a dandy buck not far from this location. It had the typical body of a 31/2-year-old whitetail, but its antlers were anything but normal — they were very nontypical with a huge drop tine on the right side.
With interest aroused after that sighting, the Hamstras kept an eye out for the buck and noted all sightings. The deer was not seen often, though, and when it was spotted, it was always alone.
In Spring 2007 a turkey hunter found one of the buck’s sheds — the side with the drop tine — and gave it to Hamstra. Holding the antler spurred the 66-year-old farmer’s interest to specifically target the monarch.
“During shotgun season last year, I watched him run into a timber where a group of about 10 hunters had started a drive,’’ Hamstra said. “I thought he was a goner, but I didn’t hear any shots.
“Then, last December, my son was out hunting and called to say the big buck with the drop tine had dropped one side of his antlers. I quit deer hunting for the year. I didn’t want to shoot him with just one of his antlers.’’
Then came Election Day 2008.
As Hamstra rushed to his stand, a group of does ran off. He immediately began to worry his hunt was already over. To top it off, Hamstra realized he didn’t bring a hunting hat and was still wearing his work hat.
“I took it off and sat on it,” Hamstra recalled. “Then I did something I normally don’t do. I blew on my grunt tube.
“Most of the time I only use it after I’ve spotted a buck. But after I grunted I caught some movement, and here is this big buck in the brush just 10 yards away!”
Hamstra started to reach for his bow, but the buck spotted the movement and Hamstra was forced to freeze.
“We’re sort of looking at each other, but I make sure not to make eye to eye contact,” Hamstra said. “After a few minutes, he walks up to this licking limb that all the bucks seem to like, and he licks it.”
As soon as the buck’s attention was diverted, Hamstra grabbed his bow, drew and released the arrow — all in one slow, smooth motion. The arrow found its mark, and the buck ran off.
Hamstra waited a few moments and let it all sink in. Then, he got down from the stand and found the arrow stuck in the ground and covered with blood.
“I knew I had a good hit, so I got on the Ranger and went back to the house,” Hamstra recalled. “I told my wife, Judy, that I shot a big one and was going to call our son, Kevin, who is a great blood tracker. She commented that we had enough mounted deer hanging around the house and we didn’t need any more.’’
Hamstra’s sons were late getting home because one of them was trapped in his tree stand by several bucks fighting over a doe; but after arrival the threesome headed to Hamstra’s stand.
“There was lots of blood and the trail wasn’t long,’’ Hamstra said. “Then there was lots of hoopin’ and hollerin’.’’
The huge buck weighed 199 pounds field dressed, and sported 21 points, with three broken off. It green-gross-scored about 230 nontypical inches.
And, Judy Hamstra? She says there is plenty of room in the house for the her husband’s new trophy!
— Bob Groene is a free-lance writer from Illinois.