Some say rules are meant to be broken, and that’s exactly what I did this year. I broke two of my own rules. I’ve stated that “You couldn’t pay me to hunt Pike Co. Illinois anymore” and that I had no interest in ever hunting with an outfitter. I broke both of them at the same time.
Being known as a product tester, companies send me products constantly for review. Some are great and others are junk. Working as a professional, I am always reluctant to spew the ugly side of a review until speaking with the developer of that product to insure I’ve tested the product as designed and to allow the manufacturer to communicate with my team for possible changes that can add to the safety and/or quality of the product. Most companies cooperate and every once in a while, some won’t. The final outcome is revealed in the written review.
Lately, companies offering services have come under fire for not delivering what was promised, thus leaving a bad taste not only associated with a particular provider, but the entire industry as well. It’s not really a fair assessment and if you’ve every traded stocks, you’ll know exactly what I mean when one company misses their mark and the entire sector gets punished for it. Well, the same holds true for outfitters. After literally hundreds of requests, I’ve chosen to review an outfitter in Pike County Illinois.
Even though I’ve been invited to review many whitetail outfitters here in the U.S., I chose to review Buck Chasers from Griggsville, Illinois frankly because I have heard so many good things about these people. After accepting an invitation from them, I packed up and made the drive a week before I was scheduled to hunt with them to check the place out. They allowed me to scout any of the 7000 acres they manage prior to the season opener and spent the day showing me how they work the premises and their operation. When the day was over, I had 3 prospective places picked out for my 4 day hunt planned the following week.
Now let’s back-peddle a bit and I’ll explain why I stated I never wanted to hunt Pike Co. again. The year was 1990 and Pike County Illinois was probably as close to whitetail heaven as any place on the planet ever could be! The forests were remnants of old Illinois, reflecting the images I had once remembered as a child growing up in the vast areas of the Midwest landscape. You could still knock on a farmer’s door asking permission to hunt and once granted, could happily hunt wild turkeys and whitetails without interference from too many intruders. Those were the days when the season closed, I would bring a smoked ham or turkey back to the farmer giving thanks for sharing his property with me. Ironically, the farmers were always pleased and sometimes surprised that anyone even thought of giving something back to them after “only allowing them to hunt”. Even though many of these farmers raised livestock, they appreciated the gesture of receiving a gift of “meat” in exchange, and relationships were built from that point on.
Then came antler mania.
Once the secret escaped that mega bucks were being harvested in this area, land was being purchased as fast as it could be sold. In fact, land was selling for just $250.00 – $400.00 an acre in the 90′s that was often described as “junk” ground by the locals. Once the outfitters secured all that was left, western Illinois was now the new market place for whitetails by all whom could afford the price tag. Simultaneously, the quality of hunting took a plunge and outfitters developed a reputation of being careless and sloppy, among other things. Pike, Schuyler, Adams and other western counties were plagued with out-of-state people wandering onto private properties, poaching and shooting from their cars with high powered rifles; something that has never been allowed here in Illinois. The demon was born and his name was “The Outfitter”.
As time went by, I found lesser known areas to hunt and worked those areas for decades. Back in my mind, I always dreamed of hunting “Old Illinois” but knew things would never be like they were decades ago. Quite honestly, I must say I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed my 4 days in Pike County on the opening week of October, 2013! I give all of the credit to Chris Bishop at Buck Chasers and his crew for an outstanding job of managing their grounds and their guests!
There are so many good things to say about these guys, I don’t know where to begin! Let’s start with the property. They now manage approximately 7000 acres in an area where whitetail genetics have been know to be second to none. Much of the property borders each other, so the chance of your hunt being interrupted by “lost” hunters, is virtually eliminated. An uninterrupted hunt is one key to success. FYI, it is a very difficult task to get all property owners on the same page and in some cases, a premium payment has to be sacrificed.
Another important feature of keeping quality genetics superior is keeping them alive long enough to become giants by imposing a 140″ minimum shooting standard. Chris will give everyone a short, but sweet, instructional talk on how to judge antler score on the hoof. There are no shortages of deer on these properties, so selective shooting and patients is advised. Unfortunately, I was stuck hunting in 85-90 degree weather all 4 days I was there and still saw ample deer each day, at one point or another. The deer are there!
Chris is a college educated professional and a seasoned, veteran hunter, which means he can manage a business and provide expert advice. He checks the wind daily and advises his staff which of the 400 stands will suit their clients the best. He calls his guides in several times a day to discuss the day’s events and the next day’s plan for each client. I especially like the way he limits how many people will hunt a particular week. Even though his lodge can house over 40 people, he’ll usually only book a handful or so a week. With 7000 acres, he can easily quadruple that amount but his disciplined attitude is one reason why his hunting grounds are so pristine.
The guides at buck Chasers never rest. All year long they are clearing shooting lanes, hanging new and more comfortable tree stands, planting acres upon acres of food plots, purchasing targets and in general providing an ultimate playground for anyone looking to concentrate on just hunting whitetails! Each guide has their own forte’, are knowledgeable in all areas of the ground they manage and are properly educated in whitetail behavior. Chris makes sure they are all on board each day and assigns them their own clients, for which they are responsible for. Those responsibilities include drop off and pick up, field dressing and proper care of their harvested deer, among other things. No one is abandoned, except for me, and I requested that!
The lodge is great also! It’s a beautiful log cabin overlooking a 3 acre fully stocked pond. The lodge consists of 3 stories with multiple full baths on each floor, washers and dryers on each floor, queen beds, single beds, bunk beds, two different TV rooms with large screen TV’s, full size garage with walk in cooler, wrap around covered deck, open balcony on back, scent free room, 3D archery course set up around pond, fire pit for bonfires, deer processing shed, and multiple deep freezers for processed deer. Nothing is forgotten. There’s fresh coffee and rolls each morning and hot lunches and dinner served every night. I missed out on the hot lunches because I chose to be dropped off into the timber each day for all-day hunts, so I brought water and sandwiches with me to keep me going all day long. In fact, Fernando, one of the guides, was kind enough to pick my sandwiches up and have them in the refrigerator for me at my disposal. Regarding the dinner, Cassie, Chris’ wife, made an excellent hot meal each night consisting of BBQ chops, homemade cheesy potatoes, homemade lasagna, green beans with bacon, fresh raspberry cobbler and much, much more.
Buck Chasers have enough stand sights and locations to accommodate every type of hunter. This includes men, women, children and handicapped hunters. If you enjoy being dropped off so you can hunt from the ground, like me, they’ll accommodate your style of hunting also. Something practically unheard of with outfitters is the fact that you can come before the season opens and scout most of their properties too! Many of the timbered grounds they manage have markers that are visible when flashing a light on them, making it very easy to get in and out of a particular farm. That’s a welcome feeling when you are miles from civilization. I made sure everything they allowed me to do was something they’ll allow ALL of their clients to do! I had no special treatment there just because I was reviewing them.
My 4 day trip was a blast! I passed up a solid 150″ 9 pointer at 15-20 yards one day, stuck a doe head-on from the ground, saw numerous deer and even blew a chance at a marvelous 5X5 that would have easily been welcome on my wall at home. I made some friends while I was there and even keep in touch with them on Facebook. My only regret was not thanking 2 of the men that were there for their service to our country, Dorin Melinte and Mike Crocker. Sometimes I just forget what really matters when whitetails are on my mind!
In summary, I’ve taken some heat for reviewing an outfitter mainly because most people know I’ve never used one before. So I ask YOU to be the judge. How would you rate an outfitter that has:
1. 7000 managed acres.
2. Over 400 tree stands.
3. A clean and comfortable lodge.
4. Hot homemade meals.
5. Numerous deer.
6. Many world class bucks roaming.
7. Attentive and knowledgeable guides.
8. Are friendly and eager to please.
9. Has all of the proper facilities, like a scent free hunting clothes shed, meat coolers, 4×4′s, etc.
10. A stocked lake.
11. Multiple 3-D targets.
12. Specialized pricing based on time of the season.
13. The ability to customize your hunting requirements.
14. Can accommodate every type of hunter.
15. Special youth and women’s packages.
Whether you are being guided by Jason, Fernando, Andy or Chris, rest assured these guys will work constantly to put you on quality deer! Make no mistake, this is not a game farm nor are these penned raised deer! These are wild Illinois, free roaming whitetails and in some cases are the envy of the whitetail world. This is one review where I’m happy to put my name on it. In fact, I’ll be back!
If you want to take the fear out of trying to decide which outfitter to place your hard earned money with, Contact Chris Bishop for more information!