Super 8 and the Three Year Quest



All I had were visions of the trail camera pictures gathered from that year. That season ended with Super 8 living up to his elusive reputation.

There are not many deer out there you can watch grow up. One known as Super 8 was an amazing mainframe 8 that had been watched and sought after for three years on a farm in Newton, Illinois where Ryan Michl owns and runs Illinois Wildlife Connections.

Steve Smolenski

Super 8 eluded many hunters over the last 3 years.  He had given many guys and gals, including myself, the strength to hunt long days in some harsh weather.  In 2012, I sat 12 hours a day for 6 days straight hunting Super 8.  All I had were visions of the trail camera pictures gathered from that year.  That season ended with Super 8 living up to his elusive reputation.

2013 started off to be a great year.  Jeremy Flinn and I combined forces to start Buck Advisor LLC, and my hunting trip to Illinois was coming quickly in November.  Prior to the trip, I shot a nice 9 point that I named Mini-Super 8 on the first day of the PA archery season.  I had lots of trail camera photos and a decent idea of his pattern based on our report from tRACK RECORD, the software we wrote to pattern, predict and organize deer on a biologist level.  Though content with my Pennsylvania buck, I worried each passing day that Super 8 would be shot by another hunter.  Before I knew it, the day had arrived to drive to Illinois and give Super 8 another chance.

Steve Smolenski

(My Pennsylvania Archery Buck, Mini Super 8)

On the Sunday we arrived, I chose a new stand, though it was in the same area I hunt every year.  I hunted in a finger somewhat close to where Super 8 was regularly sighted.  I wasn’t in the stand for 2 hours before I saw Super 8 chasing a doe with a scrappy 4 point behind him.  He was on a line following her perfectly.  I laid out a few grunts, and it made him think the 4 point was giving him slack.  He bucked at him a few times, and they made their way toward my favorite stand that I hoped to hunt the rest of the week.

Monday came around and it was a long day with lots of deer activity.  Now sitting in my favorite stand, I passed on many young deer that would have scored in the high 130’s or low 140’s.  (The potential at Illinois Wildlife Connections next year is quite high!) The day seemed to go fast, and we all gathered back at camp to eat and share stories.

Tuesday was going to be a cold one. The front moved in and the low was 14 degrees with ice.  The wind was right in my face, and I had hunkered down for a long day of wind.  At first light I had a young deer in the 140 range come through the saplings, destroying a few out of anger.  He was quite fired up on his way through. The day was long.  I never get out of my stand from 4:30 A.M. until around 5 P.M.  There was good deer activity almost all day long, though.  It was getting close to 4 P.M. and I decided to stand the rest of the day.  I was watching a nice buck chase a doe around in a CRP field to my left about 150 yards away when I caught a glimpse of a deer out to my right.  I tried to see what it was but only saw a small doe trot into thick brush about 60 yards out.

About 10 min passed and the small doe walked out flagging her tail, acting like a yearling does when they come into estrous.  She came about 30 yards from me and stopped by a stream. Standing bow in hand, I watched her look back strangely. I knew what that meant.  I took out my Primos buck roar and gave a stout grunt.  Nothing. I waited about 5 more minutes.  I had about 25 minutes of shooting light left. (Thank goodness for the pin glow on the Black Gold sights!)   The week before, my business partner, Jeremy Flinn, had taken a great buck in Kansas. The only way to turn that deer around was to buck roar. So, I lifted the grunt call up again and let out a vicious buck roar.

Keeping my eyes on the brush and saplings, I saw a deer start to step out.  His antlers blended in with the saplings.  When he took that last step into the only shooting lane l had, my blood started pumping.  I knew he was big, but I didn’t yet know he was Super 8 (His iconic unicorn brow tine blended in with his head.)  The small doe started to walk away, and I knew I had to shoot.  I pulled back my Experience and let a 36 yard shot fly.  He dropped to his knees, but would not leave that doe.  The hit was a little high, but he was hurt.  I nocked another arrow and aimed for a 6”x6” area 40 yards out. I put another arrow in him, which entered down the back and exited between the front legs.

I don’t remember getting out of my tree stand.  I think I went down the bow rope with another arrow ready to go in the bow.  I was concerned because Illinois deer are notorious terminators and can live with broadheads in them.  It had gotten quite dark after waiting, but he only went 30 yards.

Steve Smolenski

As I approached the deer, I called Ryan Michl to tell him I had shot a huge deer and it was down. He was so happy and said after he picked up my bother-in-laws from their stands, he would come to help get my buck.  I took about 50 more steps and saw the unicorn point.  It was Super 8.  I may have danced a little, or maybe even gave it a hug.  But more so I was humbled when I realized I had taken this elusive creature.  After Ryan had watched Super 8 for 4 years, he couldn’t have been happier.  Actually, he may have been happier than me.

We have 4 years of trail camera photos and videos of Super 8, plus three years of his shed antlers.  This deer survived many misses and one hit by his son Hunter.  Needless to say, Hunter was not happy with me that night.  He is a young hunter who loves the outdoors.  It took a day and a promise to send him jerky from the deer before Hunter would talk to me.

Steve Smolenski

With all deer, the anticipation and fun after the harvest is as amazing as the hunt.  After getting him out, caping and boning, we pulled the jawbone and aged him at 5.5 years old.  His gross antler score is 170 1/8, which was completed by two professionals.  He weighed about 250 pounds, though he was much bigger a few weeks earlier.  He was running does so much he had dropped at least 30 pounds.  (This is why improving native habitat and/or planting winter food plots is so important.  These big boys need to regain their strength to make it through the winter.)

Hunting is not just about killing. It is also about the time leading up to the hunt and the time afterwards.  It is about telling stories and anticipation.  It is about practice and respect.  It is about patience and pride.  Hunting is a 365 day a year passion for us!  It is humbling and teaches skills that can’t be found in any textbook.

I leave you with these words: Be humble and give back more than you take.


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