Talon’s First Whitetail is a Dandy Youth-season Buck

Eight-year-old Talon Aring, of rural Taylor Ridge, was understandably excited about his first upcoming Illinois DNR Youth Deer Season last fall. His dad, Travis, is a very accomplished hunter, so it’s understandable. And, also because his older brother, Kolby, 13, has several years of hunting experience under his belt—they’re a hunting family. (One prized Christmas present last year was a muzzleloader deer rifle.)

So after practice, practice, and more practice with his smoke pole, and armed with an Apprentice Hunting License, the third-grader was anxious to head for the woods as a bona fide hunter.

But when the magic day came, the 82-degree sunny, calm weather was more like a Florida hunt than here in northwest Illinois. Nevertheless, Talon and his dad headed to a Rock Island County farm late in the afternoon on a Saturday. They picked a spot to sit along a brushy fencerow overlooking a picked cornfield and a short distance from a timber where deer are known to bed.

“With the weather that it was, I really wondered if deer would get up and move at all—in fact it was so warm that I was wearing Crocs,” Travis said, chuckling. “But, at about sundown we saw four does that were about a 1/4-mile away. But they didn’t come our way.”

Then, something interesting happened. Talon asked me if it was okay for him to shoulder his rifle and practice looking through his scope in the low light. Of course I said yes.

We all know that shooting hours close for firearm deer hunting in Illinois at 30 minutes after (official) sunset.

“It was getting close to the end of shooting hours, but I could still see pretty good through my scope,” Talon explained. “And all of a sudden, we saw a buck come out of the timber and it stood not too far away. We thought he was about 75 yards.

“Dad whispered okay, so I aimed just behind his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. The rifle shot and a lot of smoke came out of the barrel and we couldn’t see what had happened. So dad said that we should go back to our house and wait a while.”

“Not seeing anything, and not wanting to jump and have a possibly wounded deer run off in the dark or spook other deer, I thought it best to give the buck time to lie down and stiffen up,” Travis advised.

Armed with flashlights, the Arings returned to where they had sat to recreate the shot and determine exactly where the buck had stood and 1 1/2 hours prior.

“We started slowly walking toward where we thought the buck stood, and I saw a brown clump on the ground,” Travis said, with a grin. “It was the buck—he had dropped dead in his tracks, but was over 100 yards from where Talon had shot—I didn’t estimate the distance very well.”

For the record, Talon’s first deer harvest was an 8-point buck with a 17-inch inside spread and the gross green score was about 124 inches.

An interesting coincidence is that older brother Kolby’s first deer, harvested five years ago when he was also age 8, was also an 8-point buck that scored nearly the same 124 inches.

Another northwest Illinois Youth Deer hunt item of interest is the Lost Mound Youth Deer hunt: Youngsters age 10-15 harvested nine whitetails during the two-day Youth Deer Hunt at the Savanna District of the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge on the former 13,000-acre Savanna Army Depot—now known as the Lost Mount Unit. This was the ninth such hunt and 36 kids participated.