No, RiverQuest guides haven’t taken a long nap; it’s Mother Nature throwing us some pretty challenging conditions:  sub-freezing temps, high wind, and very low river flows.  What’s a guide to do?  Exercise Plan B—in this case a whitetail deer hunt to southern Illinois with Sugar Creek Outfitters.    For those of you whose who haven’t heard (and if you’ve been in Steve’s or my boat, I can’t imagine this having occurred), you are all too well aware of our second passion:  chasing whitetail deer.  You probably also have heard of our AAA rating of Sugar Creek.  Chad John, manager, and guides Tom, Matt, and Ethan, and lodge cook Kevin do an extraordinary job in presenting hunters some of the best whitetail hunts in America.  With over 10,000 acres of some of most amazing terrain—crop land that drops into deep creek bottoms, oak ridges, and steep ravines— Sugar Creek has it all.  Chad limits hunter numbers to a low level so everyone gets special treatment, and the deer are not overly hunted.  Couple with that, Chad’s teams planting food plots in all sorts of secluded places, and you have a very special hunting experience.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Steve and I hunted the three day Illinois muzzleloader hunt last Friday through Sunday.  It was quite a marathon for me in that my daughter Julie’s graduation date from nursing school fell on Saturday, smack dab in the middle of the hunt.  So, it was hunt Friday, drive back to GR on Friday, attend graduation on Saturday, drive back to Sugar Creek Saturday night and hunt Sunday—if necessary.  Wouldn’t have missed her graduation, of course, for anything; it was just that Grand Valley State University happened to schedule graduation at a most inopportune time after I had already booked the hunt.  No matter:  the whitetail gods smiled, and I was able to enjoy a hunt that rivaled any whitetail hunt one sees on outdoor television shows.  For that matter, Stan Potts and other outdoor television celebrities regularly film hunts at Sugar Creek; it’s that good.  Indeed, Friday evening before I took off for GR, a half an hour before sundown, out into the uncut bean field lumbered a shooter—just the way all of us hunters would have dreamed it.

Pictured below is the buck I took; certainly not the largest buck at Sugar Creek, but a real warrior.  He was four or five years old, and four of his tines were busted off from encounters with his male associates.  Morevoer, his skull had been punctured on the right side from one of the battles, but none of that deterred him from chasing the ladies.  Chad and the guides work hard to maintain a proper buck to doe ratio, the result of which is a strong rut with some bucks left busted up in December. Must be my buck prevailed because even in December during the second rut he had six does in his harem.  All in all, it was a terrific hunt, and I am most grateful I was able to participate in it.

Our first calling is, of course, fly fishing, and we can’t wait for the weather to break so we can get into some winter steelhead.  In the meantime, though, both Steve and I both would be happy to talk with you about our experiences at Sugar Creek; we highly recommend it without reservation.  Scouting photos and the 2010 harvest at Sugar Creek are posted on the website:  https://www.sugarcreekoutfittersillinois.com/. Feel free to call Chad John and talk with him yourself.  Here’s betting you’ll be glad you did.  His number is:  (309) 257-2590.  Then, too, we’re booked for next December’s muzzleloader hunt and would love to have you in camp with us.

Captain Tom Kuieck