Tag Archives: Illinois Buck

Riverview Outfitters’ Elusive Bastard

By Nick Pinizzotto
AHT Contributor

“Elusive bastard!”

That short phrase summed up Tyler Sellens’ thoughts about a monster buck roaming one of the many great properties he manages with friend and partner Josh Turner at Riverview Outfitters in western Illinois. The outburst also provided a fitting name for the giant deer that represents all that we love about the challenge a mature whitetail buck can pose to even the most seasoned hunters.

Bastard Buck 2Only three photos of this deer exist, and the first time he triggered a camera was on September 29 at 4:46 a.m. Although the date on the above photo says 2011, it was most certainly this fall. Almost immediately after pulling the photos the guys posted it on their Facebook page with the comment, “Look who came strolling along.”

Those of us who know Tyler and Josh well realize that they must have been excited because they uploaded the picture so quickly. It’s not uncommon for a few of us to give them a hard time about being slow to post photos, but that wasn’t a concern in this case.

Exactly one week later, the massive monarch strolled past the same camera.

Exactly one week later, the massive monarch strolled past the same camera.

When the buck triggered the same camera one week later, it seemed like this would be the first of many photos of the old bruiser. That’s where the story takes an all too familiar twist. Like the biggest and most experienced bucks have a knack for doing, he simply disappeared. Despite several cameras being out, there were no more new photos.

Despite several different clients hunting the property and using a number of scattered stand locations, the buck was never seen. When I returned to hunt in early December I thought I was the first person to lay eyes on him across a long field, but after reviewing my mental images and comparing them to the photos, I’m almost certain it wasn’t him. I saw some good bucks that evening, but I have to believe if this guy stepped out it would have made a special impression on me. He simply vanished.

When the season ended with no new photos or a single sighting, we assumed the buck was either shot on a different property or that the deer simply spent a week in the area and just happened to pass by one of the cameras. I guess none of us was willing to believe that The Bastard Buck eluded us.

Although you hear stories all of the time about great bucks that made an appearance and then disappeared for months or even entire seasons only to turn up again, we just couldn’t let ourselves believe that it could happen to us. Just a few weeks ago, Tyler sent me a message that brought a smile to my face while also providing a harsh reality check. “You’re not going to believe this, but we got another picture of that buck.”

Although he is a little thinner after the rut, the Bastard Buck was alive and well just before Christmas.

Despite being a bit thinner after the rut, The Bastard Buck was alive and well just before Christmas.

Two days before Christmas, The Bastard Buck sent a loud and clear signal that he was alive and well, and still haunting the Riverview Outfitters property. At 7:23 a.m. on December 23, the magnificent stag made a daylight appearance on the opposite side of the property from where the earlier photos were snapped. Just like that, he was back into our lives and imaginations providing fuel for the fire as we look forward to next season.

Already a great buck, the fact that he has been a bit of a mystery only adds to his trophy status. How many times did hunters walk right by him on their way to a stand? Did he ever get to his feet during daylight hours while hunting season was in? How could he avoid all of those hunters and cameras for several weeks, especially during the rut when he would have been most vulnerable? Did he simply leave the area for a few months and eventually meet up with some girls from across the tracks during the rut? All we can do is guess.

bastard (adjective):  of abnormal shape or unusual size,
of unknown origin.

It appears that the buck has at least 13 scoreable points and he has good mass and long main beams. I’m not going to estimate a score as it would be a disservice to this great deer, but I know it is way up there. Although I would love to see what this buck looked like in mid-November in his peak, I feel pretty confident saying that the deer is likely 4 1/2 and possibly 5 1/2 years-0ld.

I’m going to lean toward 4 1/2 because he still has some room on his frame for growth and his neck is still fairly well defined. Regardless, the buck will very likely add inches to his rack this year and there’s no telling what he’ll look like. With any luck, Tyler and Josh will locate his sheds in the next few weeks and we’ll have a better understanding of how big The Bastard Buck really is.

As Tyler pointed out the other day, “If he just walked out on the first day and you didn’t have to hunt him, what fun would that be? That’s what drives a whitetail freak.” I couldn’t agree more. We’ll be thinking about this buck all summer long. He’ll be in our minds when we’re at the range, and increasingly in our dreams as the season approaches.

What makes a great buck legendary is the story behind him. It’s the pursuit you remember. Just knowing he’s out there somewhere and hearing a twig snap will be enough to send our hearts racing. We have no way of knowing how the story of The Bastard Buck will end, but with any luck he’ll make a dream come true for one of the Riverview Outfitters clients. In case you’re wondering, there are still a few spots left for next fall.

Nick Pinizzotto blogs at www.WhitetailWriter.com. He is the Chief Operating Officer of Delta Waterfowl. The Western Pennsylvania native currently resides in North Dakota, where his passion for the outdoors is put to good use on a daily basis.

Motivation on the Stand

David Hinceman was looking for a little “pick me up” when he was sitting in his stand last November. We’ve all been there – that lull in activity when you start wondering if that day just might not be the day. Then something happens that gives you a boost of optimism. Your senses are on full alert and you think any moment could be the right one for Joe Nailer to come by your stand.

I’m happy to report that a text message with my 2010 Illinois deer (read all about it here) helped be that inspiration for Hinceman, the host of Pass’n It On Outdoors, last year. And it worked as shortly thereafter, David was able to close the deal on a giant Illinois deer of his own.

David was hunting a couple counties south of where I was hunting with Riverview Outfitters.

The energy-boosting moment, and David’s success, were captured in episode No. 3 of Pass’n It On Outdoors. You can watch it in its entirety below! David’s hunt starts around the 11:00 mark.

Picture-Perfect Dream Buck

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, we were looking at two pictures. The 2,000-word part was easy. My struggle came with figuring out how many inches were in the photos.

Tyler Sellens had just returned Friday from checking his trail cams. And he wanted to know what I thought this one particular buck would score.

I looked quickly – too quickly – and threw a number out that Tyler and my hunting buddy, The Biscuit, clearly weren’t impressed with. The odd looks told me I’d have no problem proving I was running on two hours sleep the last two days.

At closer glance, my high 140s mark had absolutely no merit. This stud had huge main beams, he had long tines and his mass was of the deer that hunters dream about. I quickly retracted.

Tyler, who along with Josh Turner makes up Riverview Outfitters in Hancock County, Ill., had two pictures of this buck. The first picture was Thursday morning, the second from Friday morning – but both during daylight. But he also had a challenge.

Tyler explained that he and Josh had only one tree to hang a stand in this spot, and his gut told him this deer was working a high trail during his daily ritual of checking for does. If that remained true, he knew the shot on this deer might be a long one with archery equipment.

The Biscuit, and I were only an hour removed from target shooting our bows, doing so at nearly every yardage marker possible – including 50 yards. We both shot well and that had our confidence levels soaring. We both implied that we might be up for the challenge.

The stand that they put in this area was, unfortunately for the Biscuit, locked onto a small hickory tree. The Biscuit isn’t … well … small. I am.

With the wind correct, I was able to navigate to and climb that stand our first morning of hunting Illinois. I saw and videoed four small bucks over the first couple hours out of that tree. And as the winds were gusting at speeds well into the 40s, I figured the big bucks were probably off their feet and staying as much out of the wind as possible. I had just talked myself into not expecting much movement until the magical time before sunset. The wind remained favorable for this stand, blowing out of the southwest.

And that’s when it happened. Nine hours after I arrived at my stand, the biggest deer I’ve ever seen on hoof came walking out of a brushy pile of woods and started on a walk in my direction. As Tyler had predicted, he was on the high trail. I knew right away that everything would have to go perfect in order to get a chance at this deer. I remained very calm – and looking back I’m not sure how.

As every hunter who has a large whitetail walking his direction would do, I grabbed my video camera! I’m not sure why that came first, but thankfully I also grabbed my bow and fumbled both in my hands as I sized the situation.

The buck walked through a little depression and stopped behind a series of saplings at 60 yards. He started rubbing his antlers on a small tree. I kept the video rolling and somehow managed to reach for my range finder. I’d already ranged this area several times in the morning but decided confirming the distance right now would be best. If he came out of those trees and remained broadside, he would be at 50 yards. If he came down the hill just a little bit, he would be in an opening at 44 yards. I dialed my sight to 45 yards and waited.

Somewhere in there I remember making up my mind that I was only going to shoot if everything went perfectly. I recall distinctly thinking that I was going to make this particular deer my week’s mission if the shot didn’t present itself. This was the first day of the hunt and I would have several days to play chess with him.

After a couple minutes of rubbing, the deer started moving again. That’s when I threw the video camera into my backpack. For some reason, I never even bothered to turn the record button off. Thus, the remaining pieces of the hunt were played out via sound on my video camera.

The buck broke out of the saplings and was walking slow. He walked a couple yards and turned toward my stand a bit. He was going to be on the 44-yard side of the opening.

I drew. At full draw I remember thinking that I would only take this shot if everything were still perfect.

I grunted. He stopped.

He was broadside at 44 yards. My HHA dial sight was dialed appropriately. I was looking through my peep sight and everything was perfectly aligned with his vitals. I squeezed the release and remained focused intently on where I wanted the arrow to hit. I did not see my arrow in flight, but saw and heard it hit the buck right where I was looking.

The buck turned up the hill and I could see the lion’s share of my arrow (all but the fletchings) sticking out of the opposite side of the deer … right where it would indicate a lung shot. I also saw blood – a lot of it – coming out of his side.

I was confident in the shot (as was later displayed when I replayed the video sound). I watched the buck run up the hill and out of sight. The shaking started.

I grabbed my video camera and realized that it was still on record. After taking a few moments to record my thoughts, which were all rooted in the sheer enjoyment of just shooting the biggest deer of my life, I called Tyler.

I climbed out of my stand and went to another hill and waited nearly two full hours for Tyler to meet me to begin tracking. As anyone who has ever shot a whitetail with a bow can attest, those hours are some of the most gut wrenching you can experience. You go through everything in your mind 1,000 times and try to recall any clues that will help in the recovery.

I started to question what I had seen. Was I sure the shot was where I thought? Was that blood I saw? Was he even as big as I think he was? Was it the same deer in the trail cam?

For the first time since the shot, I replayed the video. I listened to my entire first reaction and realized that there was no way I was seeing things. Replaying the real-time reaction helped build my confidence back up.

Tyler arrived and I played the video sound for him too. We started back into the woods to track.

We found blood early. The trail was easy to follow. After 70 or so yards, my arrow laid in his tracks. It was covered in blood. As often happens, the trail got wider with blood after that. We walked only another 15 yards and Tyler turned around smiling.

I’ve experienced ground shrinkage in the past. This is my first ground growage! He had points coming out of his main beams, his tines were longer than I remembered and he carried the widest rack I’d ever shot. He was truly a remarkable deer.

Tyler and Josh both were as excited as I was to have the bruiser on the ground. They’ve worked their tails off for several months to provide a hunter with an opportunity like this. And it so happened that in this case, I was the hunter. For that, I’m extremely grateful.

The buck ended up with 15 scoreable points – all intact.
And that picture ended up being worth a lot of inches – 185 4/8” in fact!

Cat Tales: I’m truly blessed. I’ve been able to shoot several nice bucks in my hunting career. Yet, I recognize that this deer is a “once-in-a-lifetime” kind of deer. And for that, I need to thank a few people for helping me fulfill a life dream. Thank you to Nick Pinizzotto, my fellow outdoor blogging friend who had never met me yet thought enough to ask me almost a year ago to join him in Illinois for a hunt with Riverview Outfitters.

I also need to thank “my girls.” My wife has dealt with my hunting obsession for over a decade and has been nothing but supportive – even though it often means a couple weeks of running our house solo each fall. My daughter Sara is living her third hunting season and gets almost as excited about deer as I do. And she is the best arrow holder this side of the Mississippi!

Finally, thank you dad for introducing me to hunting. I’m as passionate about this sport today as I was as a teenager running around our woods in Western New York. I wish a lot more kids around this world could see what I’ve been fortunate to see.

Learn more about Riverview Outfitters at www.RiverviewOutfitters.com