Rob Haack has been hunting the same parcel of private farmland near Effingham, Illinois for 27 years. But he’s never seen a buck like the one he managed to shoot on the farm during Illinois’s 2023 gun season. With more than 20 points and a green score exceeding 220 inches, it’s the deer of a lifetime for Haack, who shot the big whitetail from a treestand with a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun. Here’s his story.
Haack was staked out on a wooded hillside in the early morning hours of November 17, the lifelong hunter tells F&S, when a doe winded him and began to blow. “She wouldn’t quit,” he says. “I got aggravated and was going to call it a day.”
Haack hiked back to the truck, but it was still early in the day when he got there. Instead of calling it quits, he set up in a nearby treestand that his son typically hunts. “I got into the stand around 7:30 a.m.,” he says. “Then I started hearing a lot of commotion in the brush about 150 yards away.”
Haack knew that the racket in the woods was the sound of two bucks sparring. Though he never got so much as a glimpse of the deer during their 10-minute altercation, he could tell by the resounding crack of horns clashing that the fighting bucks were big, he says. “Then I happened to glance up to the north, and I saw points coming down a game trail,” he recalls. “I waited, and he got about 30 yards broadside from me. I shot the first shot and completely missed. It hit the dirt.”
Luckily, the buck lingered long enough for Haack to pump the action and fire a second slug. “I hit him right behind the left shoulder with that second shot,” he says. “He took off through heavy brush, and I followed him with my eyesight as best I could.”
Haack says he stayed in the stand for 20 minutes before climbing down to start blood trailing the buck. “It all happened so fast that I didn’t have time to get a good look at his rack,” he says. “I had no idea how big he was until we pulled him out of the pond.”
The blood trail was sparse, but Haack eventually followed it to the edge of small pond on the property. Out on the water’s surface, he saw a patch of hair about the size of a dessert plate. “I called my brother because I can’t swim,” Haacks says. “I told him, ‘We’re gonna need a boat.’”
Instead of a boat, Haack’s brother showed up with a fist full of ratchet straps and a fence post. The men bent the fence post into the shape of a shepherds hook and began plying the bottom of the small farm pond in hopes of snagging Haack’s buck. After dredging the pond repeatedly, they managed to hook the massive deer. An hour later, they finally heaved it onto the bank.
“First thing I saw was that drop tine, then all those points on his right side,” Haack says. “He was completely covered in mud from his head to his tail. I had my saw out and my knife out. I was ready to start cutting off his horns and dressing him out, but my brother had different ideas.”
Haack’s brother convinced the self-proclaimed meat hunter to take the deer to the family taxidermist. In hindsight, he’s glad he took the advice. “I would have just put him on a board and called it good, but it’ll be nice to have the mount,” he says. “I’ve never seen a deer that big, other than some of the mounts in Cabellas or Bass Pro.”
Big is an understatement. Haack’s Illinois giant sported 24 scoreable point, a 20-inch inside spread, and a taxidermist’s green score of 222 7/8 inches B&C. He’ll have it scored again after a 60-day drying period and hopes to have it back from Tony’s Taxidermy in St. Elmo Illinois before next deer season rolls around.