CARROLLTON, Illinois — When Dicky Fitzgerald, an accomplished and avid bass fisherman from Charenton, finally put down his fishing rod and reel in mid-October, deer got nervous approximately 900 miles away in Greene County, Illinois.

The 52-year-old Franklin native shot the heaviest deer of his hunting career, a 9-point, 242-pound buck, there in 2012. He got his second-largest buck last month, his fourth this season in Illinois, when he squeezed the trigger of his Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun and dropped a 10-point, 225-pound buck.

It was a postcard picturesque morning Nov. 19 during a two-week getaway to the land of rolling hills, agriculture fields of corn and beans with small woodlots. As he sat in a box blind, he took it all in that morning for the umpteenth time.

“I got to watch it (9-point buck) it a long way on a frost morning, a clear, crisp morning in the Midwest, so the whole setting and experience was awesome. I just like being here, you know that,” Fitzgerald said Wednesday night a few hours after another deer hunt in Illinois.

“On this particular farm I had seen four different deer we call ‘shooters’ while bowhunting. Opening morning of shotgun (deer hunting with rifles is banned in Illinois) one came close enough to shoot. He was looking for does, kind of chasing does before …

“I actually saw three other 10-points. They just weren’t as big as him. He came across a cut bean field from where I first saw him and across to me until he was about 40 yards away. He was walking straight toward me. I waited until he turned broadside, waited until I got a clean shot.”

Fitzgerald pulled the trigger.

“He only ran about 20 yards,” he said.

He was as proud of that one as the first deer he ever killed when he was 11. Illinois weather has been unseasonably warm, which makes deer hunting more of a challenge now, he said in explanation.

“It’s a lot tougher than previous years,” Fitzgerald said.

The 52-year-old Franklin native loves to hunt deer in the Midwest, specifically around Carrollton, Illinois, 63 miles north of St. Louis. Fitzgerald enjoys it so much he started regular deer hunting trips there in 2009. He and three friends began leasing property at one farm and eventually adding four more farm properties to their fields of dreams for a total of approximately 600 acres.

Fitzgerald, who owns a State Farm Agency in Morgan City, occasionally hunts deer in Louisiana. He killed one of his five deer this season, a doe, while bowhunting on his son-in-law’s property near Marksville.

On Wednesday in Illinois, he hunted for three hours in the afternoon from a hanging tree stand with safety lines firmly attached. “Absolutely,” he said.

“I saw about seven does and yearlings” on a different farm than the farmland he shot the 10-point buck less than a month ago, he said. He didn’t shoot.

It was 73 degrees but inclement weather was moving in overnight, he said, and the temperature was going to drop significantly.

“It’s going to be a whole different day tomorrow,” he said.

That was fine with him. He planned to be out there hunting deer on one of the farms again, noting this latest trip was for a week.

Fitzgerald’s deer hunting days began at age 6 with his father, Richard Fitzgerald of Franklin. He bagged his first deer five years later when they were hunting at Bayou Current just south of Simmesport.

He has no idea how many deer he has killed since that memorable day. Ten of his better kills are mounted in his home, as pointed out by his wife, Lisa Luke Fitzgerald, in a Facebook comment Nov. 19.

Another poster asked, “Dicky do you have wall space left lol?” His wife answered, “In his office, not at home” and added two laughing emojis.

Sure enough, Fitzgerald said, the 10-pointer’s taxidermy mount is destined for a spot on the wall of his insurance agency, which already features three of his special deer.

He credits any success he has deer hunting to “lots and lots of time in a tree trying to pattern deer. I hunt hard and a lot.”

Sounds a lot like the recipe for his continued success as a bass tournament angler. He successfully defended his Angler of the Year title in the Franklin-based Louisiana Bass Anglers season that ended Oct. 3. He also won the bass club’s Classic on Oct. 17.

He doesn’t totally forget about deer hunting when it’s prime time to catch bass, typically late February through October. He and his friends work hard to get the deer leases ready for winter.

“It’s definitely not as easy as TV makes it look. We come up in the summer and set up food plots and set up stands,” he said.

The fruits of their preseason labor are paying dividends.

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