Taking big bowseason bucks on public land isn’t easy for anyone, anywhere. But Austin Tull, 36, not only embraces the challenge—he thrives.
“I love working hard to take a nice buck on property where the more you work, the better bucks you’ll take,” says the Shreveport firefighter. “I’m a public-land hunting fanatic. I just can’t get enough of it, and there’re some great bucks to be found on land open to anyone with a license and a will to succeed.”
Earlier this fall, Tull was bowhunting public land in central Illinois when his phone dinged with a notification. A trail camera he’d hung in a Louisiana WMA had snapped some photos—good ones.
“The pictures were of a giant buck I’d been chasing since last year on the WMA, and I was asking myself why I was in Illinois when I should have been hunting that spot near home.”
Tull ended up shooting an 11-point, 136-inch public-land buck with his bow in Illinois. Then he headed for home, and his date with the bigger buck.
It was Dec. 9, and Tull was hunting a 30,000-acre Louisiana WMA of hardwood bottoms and thickets. Long before daylight he and friend Luke Johnson walked 1.5 miles to the area they knew held the buck. Tull climbed 35 feet off the ground into a tall tree and settled in. Johnson headed 160 yards away, climbing a tree overlooking the same well-used trail Tull was hunting.
The rut was on, and Tull could see well-used trails with lots of scrapes and rub lines. He was overlooking a large community scrape that he had trail cam photos of a massive buck working previously.
Shortly after shooting light that morning a doe chased by a small 3-pointer came running down the trail, passing almost underneath Tull and headed toward Johnson.
“A minute or so after the doe and little buck came by, I spotted the [big] buck, nose to the ground and tracking the doe,” says Tull who, who picked up his Hoyt Nitrux. “He gave me a perfect broadside shot at 8 yards. It was the first time I actually saw the buck in [person].”
The buck raced off, stumbling along the trail toward Johnson. But the buck didn’t make it that far, crashing 80 yards from where Tull had shot him.
Tull used his cell to let Johnson know what had happened, and they met where the buck had fallen dead. They started high fiving, laughing, and slapping each other on the back.
“Well, you got another tank buck,” Johnson told Tull. “Nobody has had a season like you’ve had.”
The buck weighed about 200 pounds and is estimated at 4 to 5 years old. It has 12 points and a green score of 164 4/8 inches.