Access Illinois

Many hunters dream of hunting trophy whitetails in a great location like Pike County, Illinois. Once the money has been saved up and the decision to go has been made, it’s time to do your homework and choose an outfitter that will best help you put that big buck on the wall.

I recently interviewed two Pike County, Illinois outfitters, Sam Ferguson at Buckeye Creek – and Doug and Denise Pruett at Bighorn Outfitters –, to ask them what questions potential clients should ask before booking a hunt.

“Since we’re in Pike County, most hunters are aware of the potential for taking a trophy buck on a hunt with us,” said Ferguson. "The area sort of sells itself. We encourage hunters to check with an outfitter to see if they have minimum scores for bucks and if there are any trophy fees or penalties for taking a buck below their minimum score. You should also ask about the terrain you will be hunting, what type of stands they use and whether you can bring your own with you. Ask them how many hunters they generally run through their camp each season, how much ground they own or lease and what their success rate is. In Illinois tags are by drawing for non-residents, so check with the outfitter to see if they help with the application process. You also should be cautious if an outfitter guarantees you will see plenty of 140” – 150” bucks on your hunt. Although we have plenty of trophy bucks, making such claims on a fair chase hunt wouldn’t be truthful. ”

“Be sure and get plenty of references from both successful and non-successful hunters”, said Doug and Denise Pruett. "Reputable outfitters want their hunters to have a good experience whether they kill a deer or not. We’ve been able to book our hunts over the last 20 years just by return customers and word of mouth. When people have a good hunt, they will tell their friends. Look at the accommodations the outfitter has, noting the number of beds in each room and the number of bathrooms. Ask about whether the hunt is fully or semi-guided. Most outfitters offer semi-guided hunts, where they will put the hunters out on a pre-scouted spot and then leave them there. If you have young or inexperienced hunters, or someone who is disabled, you may want to see if fully guided where a guide will stay with you during your hunt is an option.”

Both outfitters emphasized that hunters should get familiar with how to field judge the size of a deer’s rack so they don’t get excited and take a small buck. It’s also important once you book with an outfitter to study and understand their rules and regulations. Outfitters thrive on return customers, so hunters should be sure they have all of their questions addressed before the hunt starts to ensure a quality experience for both parties.

For information on a place to hunt and other outdoor activities in Pike County, Illinois, check out the Access Illinois website at or call 217-285-2464.

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Kevin Howard (573) 898-3422
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