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Outfitter Review - Timberland Outfitters

Submit Date: Nov 22, 2006

Outfitter Information

Outfitter Name: Timberland Outfitters

Outfitter / Contact: Ben Plattner

Location: IL, USA

Hunt Information

Animals Hunted: White-tailed deer

Game Quality: Excellent

Game Quantity: Good

Accomodations: Poor

Camp Condition: N/A

Food Quality: mediocre

Guide Experience: Poor

Other Personal Experience: N/A

Review Information

Hunter: Julius Simonelli

Phone:

Email:

Would Recommend: No

Overall Impression: below average

I spent nearly two years arranging an archery whitetail hunt for myself and two other friends with Timberland Outfitters at Duck Creek Station in Canton, Illinois. Here I provide a review of our experience. Everything Ben Plattner, owner/proprietor of Timberland Outfitters had told us prior to us arriving in Canton, Illinois had been exactly what we wanted to hear: Exclusive access to a full 6,000 acres of huntable land teeming with giant bucks, guides that do everything they can to put you on deer and that do not hunt while clients are, a smooth running operation with basically no problems. Upon our arrival, I called Ben to notify him that we were there. He told us that he would like to put us up at the local motel rather than for us to stay at his lodge. I was a bit perplexed and thought it very odd to have such a significant change in plans at the very last minute. I told him that if he thought it best for us to stay at the motel that we would do it. Thank God we did. When we saw the lodge we couldn’t believe how atrocious it was. Folks, it doesn’t get much worse, that building is uninhabitable and in my opinion needs to be torn down. I can see why he didn’t want us to stay there, we wouldn’t have been able to even if we wanted, as it was filled to capacity. 8 people including 2 of the guides were staying in the dilapidated 3 bedroom, one bathroom old farmhouse and an additional 3-4 people were in campers outside the house, but all used the single bathroom within the house which incidentally must have been leaking for ages since the ceiling in the kitchen was collapsing with the bathroom right above it. Furthermore, the house was an absolute safety hazard. The chimney probably hadn’t been examined or swept in years and the guides told us this was the first time in who knows how long that a fire was burning in there. Moreover, the wiring of the house was far from up to code. One of the guys in my party is an electrician and he couldn’t believe how dangerous the situation was there. He said the wiring was downright hazardous and that the multiple space heaters plugged in everywhere created the perfect conditions for a disaster. He pulled Ben aside and warned him of the situation; hopefully something will be done about it before it’s too late. If you go, ask to stay at the motel in Canton, you won’t regret it and the Outfitter seems pretty accommodating to do so. Enough of that though, let’s get to the nitty gritty and talk deer hunting, after all that’s the reason we went in the first place. The first day of the 5 and ½ day hunt would be an afternoon hunt. Prior to heading out we received an orientation and learned that there would be 11 hunters at Duck Creek that week. Seven of the guys were together in one party. We quickly learned that the group of seven were close with Ben Plattner and had gone on a scouting/shed-hunting excursion at Duck Creek the prior spring to learn the lay of the land and pick spots for the following season. In fact, they requested and received exclusive access to two of the five quadrants set up at the property. The two quadrants they selected were the most heavily timbered areas of Duck Creek and after one look at aerials of the property it became glaringly obvious that that area had the best potential on the property. Especially for guys like us who like to sit dawn to dusk this was disconcerting. I asked Ben why he didn’t let us know that half of Duck Creek’s huntable terrain would be off limits to us and he replied that after the first couple of days of hunting we would be intermingled and all would have to opportunity to hunt the other quads. This NEVER happened, no one other that the select group who were obvious friends of Ben had the privilege to hunt that area. Even one of the guides told us that he was pissed about the situation and felt it was wrong to limit 28 stand sites to that group and not give us access to any of them. Especially since many of those stands were great morning stands and there weren’t that many other good morning spots on the property. So we hunted the other, less timbered quads and I must say the hunting there was quite good, especially in the afternoon. I saw 130”+ deer in the evening nearly every day, the morning hunts however weren’t that good since most of the spots were field edges. One morning, a guide told me to hunt a particular stand; I questioned his decision based on my buddy’s observations from that same stand. My friend told me that all the deer he had seen always came from a particular direction, the same direction in which the wind was blowing towards that morning. I told the guide that I’d probably get winded if I sat the stand and he immediately copped an attitude with me. He started yelling and berating me since I questioned his stand choice. He told me not to worry about the wind, that “Illinois deer are different” and bucks during the rut don’t spook if they would smell me. I thought to myself that this guy really had no clue what he was talking about, but rather than arguing, I had to tell him to calm down and that I would sit the stand. Once on stand guess what happened? The deer started coming from the direction my buddy said and you guessed it, I got winded. Shortly thereafter, another group of deer started coming from the same direction and I got winded again. Imagine that, the deer actually could smell me even during the rut lol. I was quite pissed that the guide forced me to sit a stand when the wind was wrong for it and I wasted a perfectly good morning because of this. Later that evening that same guide drank way too much and nearly got into a fist-fight with another guide. The next morning that guide was supposed to take me and another guy from PA to our stand sites. We arrived on-time to the lodge but could not wake him up no matter what we did. Eventually, another guide managed to get the still drunk/hung-over guide out of bed. Before we left for our stands this guide said that we were wasting our time hunting that morning as it was windy. We didn’t travel 900 miles to sit in the lodge, we were there to hunt from dawn till dusk. The guide finally got his act together and delivered us to our stands, though we got to them late. I felt bad for the other guy he was taking because he was supposed to hunt a stand that you can only access by boat in the AM so as not to spook deer off the fields, but because the guide overslept it was too late for that. So the PA guy had to settle for a lesser stand from which he didn’t see squat. On to the topic of extra hunters and guides hunting. Guess what? The guides do hunt, despite being told by Ben Plattner otherwise when we specifically asked him prior to booking. Apparently some of the guides trade their pay for hunting days on the property. In addition, there was a videographer on the property who also was allowed to hunt and who traded videography services to promote the outfitter’s business for hunting time on the property. This videographer was given exclusive rights to almost a third of one of “our quads”. We did not find this out until we asked about hunting a stand marked on the map and we were told that this stand was not “in good shape”. Well it turns out 2 of the videographer’s stands were on either side of that particular stand which is why we couldn’t hunt it. Furthermore, on the last day of our hunt, which was also the day before gun season, 3 gun hunters who arrived at the lodge early, were allowed to bow hunt on the property prior to the first day of firearms season. Because of this we could not hunt one of the stands we wanted to because these guys were occupying them. One last thing to note is that all of these extra hunters were allowed to hunt only on “our quads” and not the quads in which the select, preferred group was hunting. Despite the shortcomings, my buddy nailed a 130” class buck one day and I hit a 150-160 class one evening that we didn’t recover. The shot was a little low resulting in a single lung hit. I called the guides after hitting the deer and they came out about 45 minutes later to start tracking it. Knowing the hit was low, I told one of the guides that we should let the deer sit for at least a couple of more hours, but the guides felt that the blood trail was heavy enough to yield a dead buck. So we got on the trail and sure enough we pushed the deer out of the woodlot it had run into. After that we lost the blood trail. We went back the next morning, but couldn’t find any evidence of where the deer went. Near the end of our hunt I was told that Ben Plattner wanted to have a word with me. I assumed we were going to discuss my “run in” with the guide. Well the only thing on his agenda was to express his concern about any write-up I might do on the various internet sites I frequent. So rather than being concerned with improving his operation he only cared about what I might say on the internet. The morning we left Timberland Outfitters and were at the lodge saying good-bye to everyone, the guide who I had problems with comes up to us to see us off. He then starts accusing my buddy of walking around one day after he had dropped him off near his stand site. My buddy replied that all he was doing was looking for the stand he was supposed to hunt. The guide then called him a liar. At that point, I truly thought my friend was going to right hook that guide, but he collected himself and realized that a fool such as that certainly wasn’t worth it. In short, I think that Timberland Outfitters at Duck Creek station has great land with an amazing potential for world-class bucks. On a 1-5 scale with 5 being the best, I would rate the land a 5 for quality of the deer, but the service and everything else gets a mere 2 (my buddy would have given it a 1 and that’s the guy who shot the 130”). Timberland needs to work out the kinks in their operation at Duck Creek. I think the Outfitter, who also runs a very different operation in Cass county, appears to have grown too fast and thus does not have the control over his second operation that he should. Nevertheless, with some better help and if he would be more up front with clients regarding many issues, this outfit could turn out to be a fantastic deer hunting destination.

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