When I returned home, I started talking to Lloyd, and we were able to book the trip the next year. I think it was the best trip of my life, and I have been privileged to take many.
I returned from that trip with hides from wolves, lynx, coyote, fox, marten, and weasel. I knew I wanted to mount most of those animals, but was not sure where to take them. I had seen several threads that Dennis at Razza Taxidermy had done on Bowsite, but was not sure how all the logistics would work, from getting hides to him in Pennsylvania, choosing poses/forms that would fit what we wanted, getting information to him about space restrictions in the room, and getting completed work back to Illinois.
In August of 2014 I sent an email through his website link to explain to Dennis what I was thinking and asked him to call me to discuss the project. That was the first of many, many phone calls and emails with Dennis. He would patiently listen to what I thought I wanted, looked at pictures of wolf mounts I found on the internet, and discussed where and how they would be displayed in our home.
In September 2014 I packaged up the wolves and lynx, and shipped them to Dennis via UPS. I had never met him or set foot in his shop, but he had convinced me with his professional knowledge and demeanor through phone calls and emails that he would do the very best taxidermy job that I was hoping for. The step by step mount threads that he put on Bowsite were very convincing also.
You can see by the results that I made the right choice.
He called me in November and said he had left the place where he was booked to hunt in Illinois. His voice didn’t sound like he was excited or pleased. He said essentially the outfitter had lied to them about where he would hunt, and what the property would be like. It was so bad, he did not even hunt at all, requested a refund from the outfitter (he got a partial refund, lost the deposit amount), and climbed back in his truck and left. I told him he was welcome to drive to our place and hunt on our property. We were not outfitters or professionals in any way, but would be happy to share our woods with him.
Unfortunately, he was already in Ohio, and was not planning on turning back.
I also told him we had a few good deer on the farm and sent him this trail cam pic that hit his phone about the time he pulled in his driveway. At that point, he may have wished he had turned around in Ohio and headed back to Illinois!
I knew he was really bummed about the treatment he received and the money lost and wished I could have helped him out.
As we were loading the mounts in the trailer, I told Dennis not everyone in Illinois was a crook, and my sons, sons in law, grandsons, and I would be happy to have him hunt with us anytime. That started several years of trying to convince him to return to Illinois. I even reached out to Charlie Rehor to help convince him, maybe that helped. But with hunts Dennis had booked already in other states, nothing worked out for several years.
So we get to 2020, and it seems like everything is all messed up. But I guess there might be a few benefits to this Covid-19 pandemic after all. Dennis’ wife has been forced to work from home, so it worked out that she could put his sons Reed and Ramsey on the bus in the morning, allowing Dennis to make the trip to Illinois. After a bit of discussion it was settled that Dennis would leave PA early Friday morning, October 30, and arrive in IL that afternoon.
This area had potential, but the wind in the morning would not be favorable.
I had completely neglected to look at that stand. The river is very low this year, and it is an easy crossing at a river ford the township had abandoned about 20 years ago.
We drove the side by side across the river, climbed up the bank, and immediately saw two scrapes directly under the tree where my grandsons have two stands hung, one for the shooter, and one for the cameraman.
Dennis climbed the ladder, checked out the stands, and decided to put his hang on stand in a tree about 10 yards away. My grandsons later told me they forgot to check this location the last week of September, and as a result, the straps needed to be replaced. As I said earlier, in some years we don’t hunt this stand because of the water level.
Dennis thought this was one of the best funnel areas on the farm.
I would stay home and get a few outside things done around the house and barn, I still was not ready for cold weather, putting up hoses and stuff like that.
I started getting texts about 7:45……………
“Just hit a good one!”
“He’s laying in field panting hard”
“Got up 2 times and stumbled around…..laid back down”
At this point he could not see the buck in the tall grass, so we agreed to meet at the shed about 9:00 and hopefully go retrieve the deer.
He climbed out of the stand and walked to the buck, it was laying where he last saw it. It travelled about 100 yards from the tree he was in.
He called me and said bring the Ranger, buck was down.
I drove to the shed, got the Ranger and headed to the ford. Dennis was already walking back to meet me.
He is the best you will meet in the outdoor business!
I was happy for me, too. It was an easy retrieve!
Weight on the hoof.
Trevor announced without adding fractions (he always hated fractions in school) it scored 150”, so it would be some amount over that.
My family believes we are just stewards of this land for a short while in the entire scheme of things, and we would feel better about sharing some of it rather than keeping it all to ourselves.
Having said that, we have not opened it up to the public :)
Highs are forecast in the mid 70's for the next week, so we don't expect much daytime movement. Last weekend was perfect, low 30's and clear.
However, he did get several slices of this.................elk backstrap in sous vide, marinated and rubbed before going into the vacuum pack. Three hours at 140, then 2 minutes per side on the infrared grill.
I think Dennis is planning to buy a sous vide machine.
As of 6:00 he had seen nothing. We had made plans to go out for dinner at 7:30 with my daughter, son in law, and their two children. When he texted me and said he had seen nothing, I told him to go to the shed, get showered up, and I would pick him up for dinner at 7:10.
We had a nice dinner together. When I took him back to the shed the wind was still howling. The plan was for him to go back to the food plot Sunday morning. The overnight forecast called for sustained winds 20+ mph with gusts to 40. At 2:00 AM the winds were loud enough to wake him up inside the cabin, so he wisely made the decision to sleep in. So that morning, he said he did some business on the web, drove around the area a bit to see the lay of the land, and called his family back in PA.
Hopefully I can teach them a few things about it.
Dennis made it look easy.
I give up...................tried everything to rotate pic, tried 90, 180, 270 degrees, tried deleting and adding again???????????? Will try again later.
Mark - I met Dennis the same way. He did my mountain goat from BC. Bowsite friendships are awesome.
He is a great role model and I see how the grandkids and family look up to him. He leads by example! I look forward to “paying it forward”.
One of the best trips ever for multiple reasons... the buck was a bonus!
His setup was better than most commercial butcher shops around my area.
He ended up taking two bucks back to PA to mount. Jedd and his sons and son in law took a DIY public land hunt and Tyler connected with a good mule deer. After talking with Dennis he knew he wanted to have Dennis do the taxidermy for him.