- Lynn Burkhead
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Jim Lillis is a lucky guy.
A senior regional director for Ducks Unlimited from Sherman, Texas, the 61-year old gets to make his living by talking, breathing, and dreaming about the outdoors.
Thing is, being on the road two to four nights a week to ensure that DU fundraising banquets in his area are running smoothly and making money for the ducks can…well, it can interfere with his own time afield to chase ducks.
And most especially, his quacker backer fundraising duties can interfere with his passion to chase bucks, the kind that make knees quiver.
This past year, Lillis paid his lease fees for two prime Lone Star State deer hunting properties, one in West Texas, the other in North Texas.
And as he did so, I can't help but believe that he wondered if and when he would be able to get away to chase the hat-racks that roam these places.
Oh, and he also put in an application for an annual hunt held on public ground in Texas.
Where? Well, I'm sworn to secrecy, but I am allowed to tell you that it's somewhere between the Red River and the Rio Grande.
But I digress.
When the results for that archery hunt were announced, Lillis was surprised to find out that he had pulled a ticket to the dance, receiving invite number 210 out of the 210 that were handed out.
Now, fast forward to the actual hunt itself.
After his scouting chores were complete, Lillis had located a good funnel area where he chose to hang his Lone Wolf Assault tree-stand during the hunt's set-up period.
As he wiped the sweat from his brow, Lillis walked away as confident as one can be on a hunt where the best-laid plans can quickly evaporate as 70 hunters invade the woods looking for a good buck.
The next day, the bowhunter crawled into his stand before first light as quietly as he could. Armed with water, snacks, and a book, he was prepared to hunt through the day.
About 8:30 a.m., Lillis saw his first action as three does appeared. A little skittish, the female deer eventually turned and walked back out of the area.
A short while later, a 3-point buck came into about 25 yards in front of his stand.
The third time that Lillis saw deer on the move that morning was indeed the charm.
"About 9:30 a.m., I was sitting there and heard something in the leaves right behind me," Lillis said. "I turned around and the buck I ended up shooting was about 50 yards behind me downwind."
Normally, that would be a problem, especially since Lillis tries to always have the wind in his favor.
But when this buck appeared downwind of his position, the hunter's attention to scent control paid off big.
In addition to wearing Scent Blocker clothing, he showers before each hunt in scent-free soap; he washes his hunting clothing in scent-free soap and stores them in an air-tight container; he doesn't dress in his hunting clothes until he is out of the truck and on his way to the stand; and he sprays down with Scent Shield spray before climbing into his stand.
As the buck came in, nose to the ground, Lillis grunted once.
During that time, he also quietly clipped his release onto the string of his Mathew's bow, checked the rotation of his peep sight, made sure his Easton Axis arrow was on the rest, and eased into a ready position.
"When he went behind a tree about 90 degrees to my left side, I came to full draw," Lillis said. "When he started moving again and came out into my shooting gap, he stopped; I put my sight pin right where I wanted it, and shot him at 18 yards."
Erring on the side of caution, he gave the buck plenty of time to expire after the lethal shot with a Muzzy 75-grain three-blade broadhead.
When Lillis went back in to trail the buck, he discovered that it had only traveled about 70 yards before going down thanks to the liver, artery, and back of a lung shot that Lillis had successfully executed.
And that's when Lillis' head began to spin as he stared at the ultimate "Muzzy Moment."
"As soon as I saw him, I knew he was a shooter, so I didn't analyze his horns," Lillis said. "He was much bigger than I thought."
With 10 lengthy points; ample solid mass; amazingly long main beams of more than 27 inches on both sides; an inside spread of 22 7/8 inches; a green gross score of 181 2/8 inches; and a green net score of 176 7/8 inches; the Lillis buck is a thing of beauty that few hunters have ever seen, much less tagged.
In fact, when 60-day scoring is completed, it is possible that the Lillis buck could end up ranking highly in the Pope & Young Club's "Top Five" listings for typical whitetails arrowed in Texas.
Not bad for the last guy drawn for a hunt.
We should all be so lucky.