Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Slow deer opener yields 26-pointer

Springfield – The opening weekend of firearms deer season may
have been slow for most of the state, but at least one Illinois
family got its time and effort’s worth. For 12-year-old Brayden
Mazur, of Momence, the dream of a 26-point trophy became a
reality.

Statewide, firearms hunters shot 66,126 deer during the Nov.
20-22 firearm hunt. The harvest was down from the 71,894 deer taken
during the opening weekend last year and far below the five-year
average of 78,404.

Despite good weather, hunters just didn’t have a productive
first weekend. The second firearms season was held Dec. 3-6.

“Standing corn was a significant factor affecting hunter success
for the first weekend,” DNR wildlife biologist Paul Shelton said.
“The wet weather this fall has delayed corn harvest in many
locations, and that makes it tougher for hunters to find deer.”

More than 360,000 firearms deer permits were issued for the
seasons. Pike County led the state with 2,012 deer harvested during
the first weekend. Next came Fulton (1,725), Adams (1,614),
Jefferson (1,606) and Randolph (1,576).

According to Shelton, firearms hunters the first weekend shot 60
percent bucks.

While the overall harvest was the lowest since 2003, there were
reports of rather large deer being taken by gun hunters.

For Brayden Mazur, his 26-point buck required plenty of help
from his dad, Rob. The Mazur story started on opening day of the
Illinois firearms deer season.

“Brayden had spotted that buck about 400 yards away,” Rob Mazur
said. “It was the biggest deer I’ve ever seen.”

Rob Mazur said he knew the big buck had been inhabiting the
Momence area for the past two years.

Brayden and 9-year-old brother Kobey were in a stand facing west
at the edge of a woods. Below them Rob Mazur had set up a 3D deer
target, hoping to lure a buck into range. The practice is unusual
but not illegal, according to Illinois Conservation Police Sgt.
Mark Simon.

As the buck neared, Rob Mazur prompted Brayden to “take your
safety off, if it looks like he’s coming right at us.”

The buck started to turn away but then “he spotted the decoy
target and he came right at us,” Mazur said. “He even passed within
a few yards of our truck and gave it a look before coming in.”

Brayden took his shot at 70 yards with his 20-gauge shotgun,
scoring a neck hit that dropped the buck. The deer jumped up and
ran into the woods.

The Mazurs tracked the deer for about an hour before darkness
made the search impossible. A long search over the next 72 hours
was needed to recover the deer.

“I spoke with a couple of friends and we all decided it would be
best to wait until morning to track the deer, as we were not
certain of the shot placement,” Rob Mazur said. “The following
morning, we began to see fresh blood and once again bumped him. One
of my friends actually had the buck cornered in a horse pasture
because the buck could not jump the fence. After a quick few
seconds, my friend decide it would be in his best interest to let
the buck out of the corner. The buck ran down the fence line and
out of shooting range.

“On Nov. 23, I called a friend and told him that I couldn’t let
it finish the way it did and that I felt like I was letting my son
down. He understood and agreed to help, we decided to go take one
more look. After about two hours of searching the area where we
last saw the big buck, my friend finally spotted him laying in a
ditch near the woods where we last saw him. He told me he was still
alive! I stalked the buck from about 60 yards away, got with 10
yards and arrowed him to finish the hunt.”

This was Brayden’s second season deer hunting.

Bill Burns of the Kankakee Daily Journal contributed to this
report

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