Great Northern Productions

Illinois Locked Up Bucks

by Corey Dailey

The pond where the two locked up bucks were found.
The pond where the two locked up bucks were found.

The temperature was above normal in western Illinois for the last week of Oct. I and the other guides at western Illinois hunting unlimited in Brown County, Illinois were hoping the temperatures would soon start to cool so that the daytime deer activity would pickup, as the rut grew closer.

Hunting unlimited is a bow hunting-only camp comprised of approximately 3000 acres of rolling hills, agricultural fields, oak ridges, creek bottoms, and food plots. Sound whitetail management practices are in place on this property and many of the neighboring properties. Pope & Young class bucks are common; Boone & Crockett class bucks are seen and even harvested.

The area I guide consists of 300 acres shaped like a big horseshoe. The terrain on this property is mainly open fields with hedgerows and stands of oak between them. A large creek runs around the inside of the horseshoe then westward off the property. In the southeast corner there is a pond surrounded by thick underbrush and a few large oak trees. It is bounded on the north and south by county roads and agricultural fields of corn and soybeans, on the west by a large tract of hardwoods and on the east by acres of standing corn.

Corey Dailey trying to separate the two locked bucks.
Corey Dailey trying to separate the two locked bucks.

During the 1998 season I spent three and one-half weeks scouting this area and knew the deer were feeding in the oaks and standing corn. There were many doe and small bucks, even a few "shooter" bucks. But I could not locate the bucks that were making the huge tracks and impressive rubs I kept seeing. The unusually warm daytime temperatures were keeping most of these deer nocturnal.

On this warm morning I checked the "meeting spot" and my hunter wasn't there indicating he had not shot a buck yet. I decided to do some scouting around the pond to see if I could find any fresh buck sign or possibly find a big old boy bedded on the side of the hill.

When I reached the rim above the pond I spotted two white objects floating about 10 feet from shore in the muddy water. Through my binoculars I could tell they were the bellies of two dead deer. As I hurried down the steep hill toward them my first thought was that someone had poached two doe and dumped them in the pond. I also thought its possible that coyotes had chased them into the water. Fresh coyote tracks in the mud around the pond indicated their presence.

Corey holds one of the locked bucks that scored 164 1/8 B&C.
Corey holds one of the locked bucks that scored 164 1/8 B&C.

Approaching the edge of the pond I could see one large, tattered hoof protruding from the water. The hoof looked like that of a large buck. I tried to reach the deer but was unable to. The mud surrounding the pond was too deep and the water was going over the top of my rubber boots. I decided to go get the help of Jeff and Eric, two other guides I knew were available.

We returned to the pond armed with a video camera and an extendable pole saw. Jeff kept the camera rolling while Eric and I used the polesaw to try to fish the dead deer out of the water without getting ourselves stuck in the thick mud. Finally we hooked onto the exposed leg and began to pull. Both bodies came towards shore. Eric and I looked at each other in disbelief. We instantly knew what I had found but none of us could believe it. When the deer were close enough I pulled the heads out of the water to reveal a tangled mass of antlers. Many words of disbelief were exchanged.

Dave is holding the other locked deer, a 10 pointer that scored 161 5/8 B&C.
Dave is holding the other locked deer, a 10 pointer that scored 161 5/8 B&C.

At this point I decided that we should call the conservation office and share what I had found. Later that day A C.P.O. (Conservation Police Officer) arrived, granted us permission to remove the bucks from the pond and also gave us possession of them.

Fortunately, I was able to maneuver my pickup close enough to the pond to pull the bucks out of the muck. We then used a 4-wheel ATV to get them next to my truck. By this time more help arrived, which the three of us appreciated, as really it took 6 men to load them. We took the deer back to camp and decided to separate them because they were too difficult to handle locked together. It was quite a struggle to unlock the antlers without breaking any of the tines.

We then hoisted the smaller of the two bucks onto a platform scale. He bottomed out the scale at over 300 IBS! Of course, this is live weight with some water adding to the total but, regardless of this, they were both monster bucks. I measured the antlers greet at 161 5/8 and 164 1/8 gross, using the Boone and Crockett scoring system.

When the taxidermist finishes with the mounts they will make handsome additions to the current collection of monster bucks handing on the walls of the lodges dinning room. The video and photographs in my photo album will provide me with wonderful memories of this once-in-a-lifetime discovery of two locked bucks.

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