Bobby Kendall and The 201" Illinois Giant

At a certain point in my hunting career, my mindset switched from just hunting a farm or area that looked good or had good sign to locating a particular buck. In the process of locating and hunting that one buck, I would learn everything I could about him. Often, learning one buck will teach you how to hunt the farm.

The key to killing them consistently is being able to find one consistently. This requires casting a large net on every nook and cranny to up your probability of locating a giant. For me, that is a mix of private farms, farms my business owns, leases, and permission pieces. The last three deer seasons have been spent on one of those special permission pieces.

A two-year evolution of hunting some giant bucks started on the last day of the late muzzleloader season in 2020. I got permission from a friend to hunt his family farm and saw a nice mature buck. That buck shed his antler very quickly after that sighting, and the hunt was on for the next season.

The 2021 deer season was full of ups and downs. After multiple encounters and an unsuccessful recovery of the buck I had seen the year before, I ended on a high note by shooting a different 171" ten-point that was also on the farm.

Whitetail deer standing broadside in a cornfield

In that same sit, I saw a special young up-and-comer. With his crazy strong side and goofy side, which looked to be from an injury, there was no telling what he could turn into. Center to center, his core was about 400 yards north of the 'Loppy' buck I had been hunting, but during shed season, I received word that 'Loppy' was dead. I decided to pull the stands but leave three Novixs within 150 yards of each other right smack in the goofy buck's core in hopes he may blow up.

This was a permission piece, so I was extremely limited on what I could do strategy-wise. In the summer of 2022, I prepped those three stands, planted a plot about the size of a living room (the smallest I had ever done), and put out a few cameras. Lo and behold, he was right where I left him, much like the 'Loppy' story from the year before. The photos I got were poor angles, and I figured the buck to be mid-160s.

This farm was 2.5 hours from home, and with evidence of many other people hunting there, I mistakenly put it on the back burner. My access was from a neighboring tract, and they let me have a camera on their produce patch loaded with pumpkins and squash. This camera would tip me off to his true size a few days before I caught up with the now giant goofy buck.

Trailcam picture of a buck walking in a field at night

With no other cam history for October, I decided to hunt him based on what I knew he did last year and what he should be doing based on the phase of the rut we were in. On November 5th, we got what I call a 'Magic X Day.'

I got to my Echo Hang On at 11 am despite 35 mph winds. The stand was set up in a doe bedding area/pinch point, and I was surprised not to bump any does. With the heavy wind and the fact that I didn't bump anything, I figured the deer were bedded on the back side of the structure on the north-facing slopes out of the wind.

Around 2 o'clock, I saw a doe pop up to the rim of one of those slopes 50 yards away and, a few minutes later, saw the goofy buck's face lurking just behind her. Over an hour, he slowly followed her as she bedded and got up several times. She eventually brought him from 50 to 28 yards, where he presented a perfect broadside shot!

Getting to know so many big mature bucks since I started focusing on finding a big deer has taught me an incredible amount about the habits of these creatures. Understanding the mindset and how that mindset changes throughout a deer season is the key to being about to set up a private hunting farm and consistently put buck bucks in your sights. This has been the foundational key to my company, The Whitetail Group."

- Bobby Kendall

The Whitetail Group
We offer developed farms for sale. These properties have been carefully and strategically designed and developed and transformed from ordinary dirt to elite trophy whitetail deer hunting farms.