Rack Magazine

West of the Wabash

West of the Wabash

By Jill J. Easton

An automobile dealership isn’t the kind of place usually associated with hunting. But a friendship between Derrick Bulkley, co-owner of Expressway Auto Mall in Mount Vernon, Ind., and Justin Jones, a technician who worked there, gave Derrick the opportunity to shoot an outstanding Illinois buck with his muzzleloader in 2009.

While both worked at the dealership, Derrick and Justin discovered a shared passion for deer hunting and became fast friends. Justin eventually moved on to another job, but he invited Derrick to hunt his family’s farms in Gallatin County, Ill., in 2008.

“The bucks are so much bigger just across the Wabash River than those where I live in Indiana,” Derrick said. “The difference is really visible. I jumped at the invitation.”

That first year, Derrick managed to take only a 4-point buck, but he was impressed by the antlers, size and weight of the deer. There were trail cam photographs of a 14- and a 12-pointer at one of the Jones’ three farms, but nothing that big passed near Derrick’s stand.

When he was invited back in 2009, he eagerly accepted.

“Justin had been watching, patterning and hoping to get a chance at a huge buck on the 40 acres reserved for family,” Derrick said. “He also had video footage of the buck from before the season. It looked great; had lots of points, a wide spread and heavy mass.”

Late into the archery season, Justin finally got a crack at the buck, but the distance was at the outer limits for a bow. He was pretty sure he missed the deer.

After that encounter, the buck disappeared. It never again strolled in front of a trail camera. They figured the deer had set up residence in another zip code.

On the second day of blackpowder season, Derrick was hunting a different farm, about a mile from where Justin had missed his heart’s desire. He was sitting in a permanent stand overlooking a bowl-shaped pasture that afforded shots in several directions.

He’d arrived at 1:30 and seen only a dozen or so does with three fawns feeding in the grassy field. That was enough to keep him awake, even as the temperature climbed.

“About 4:30, time for deer to begin moving, I heard something,” Derrick said. “A big buck stepped out into the field and stopped broadside to me at 75 yards.”

The deer was big, but it didn’t seem hugely impressive. Not that Derrick sat there and stared at the rack.

“I didn’t want to look at it too closely, since I get too excited when I spend a lot of time studying a big deer,” Derrick said. “Nerves can make me miss even an easy shot.”

The does took notice of the newcomer, but the buck didn’t pay them any mind. It was single-mindedly mowing grass as Derrick raised his muzzleloader.

“I shot, and, after the smoke cleared, the buck went maybe 10 yards before falling,” he said.
The hunter still didn’t think he’d shot anything special.

“It wasn’t until I got down and walked over to it that I realized it had to be the same deer Justin had been hunting,” Derrick continued. “There was even a gouge on its back where his arrow clipped it.”

Justin recognized the buck immediately. He couldn’t believe the deer hadn’t left the county. Of all the places it could have gone, it wound up on another piece of ground to which the Jones family held the deed.

Hunter: Derrick Bulkley
Official Score: 166 3/8
Composite Score: 187 3/8

— Photo Courtesy of Derrick Bulkley

This article was published in the Winter 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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