Newsroom Midwest Region

Midwest snow, rain and wind greets hunters at 15th Annual Lost Mound Deer Hunt in Illinois

A deer taken at the hunt
Successful deer hunt at Lost Mound Unit. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.

From waterfowling among the cattails to scoping deer in the oak savanna, we at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service know that hunters of all backgrounds and abilities deserve access to quality hunting opportunities at America’s national wildlife refuges and other protected lands. We are proud to work with our state partners and other conservation organizations to provide hunting opportunities for all by hosting events for hunters with mobility, vision and other physical challenges. Take a moment to learn about a recent deer hunt in Illinois.

Our first snowfall of the season greeted hunters at the 15th Annual Lost Mound Deer Hunt in Illinois. This special lottery hunt was held on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in Savanna, Illinois, on November 13 and 14, 2021, and welcomed folks from all over the country to participate. November deer hunting in the midwest isn’t for the faint of heart, and folks were reminded of that when snow, freezing rain and 30-mile-per-hour winds hit them head on. Added to that challenge was that deer rut was in early stages and most bucks were being cautious about their movements.

During this year’s hunt, staff welcomed 32 hunters and their attendants who harvested 17 deer. This included 12 bucks and five does! Mike Lenz, Jr., from Loves Park, Illinois, harvested the largest buck, a 9-pointer with a field dressed weight of 178 pounds.

Hunters with disabilities often carry more than a quest for an excellent hunt – they carry stories that are often miracles. Camron Tribolet, from Indiana, was shot multiple times during a robbery attempt while sitting at a stoplight one early morning. His injuries resulted in both legs being amputated at the knees, and he published his story in a book titled, Dead 13 Times. Tribolet harvested a 10-point buck during this year’s hunt.

Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge staff partner with outdoors and sporting organizations to make this hunt a success. The non-profit organization Ultimate Experience Outdoors, Inc., which sponsored Jerry Cowing from Florida, marked five years of sponsoring a disabled veteran for this year’s hunt. This is especially important because many of these folks are often new to deer hunting or have been brought back to hunting after several years.

This special hunt has gained national attention with hunters representing 10 states this year. The benefits of managed hunts like these extend beyond the individual hunters; they provide a boost to the local economy too. Given that most hunters are non-residents, or residents who have traveled from central and southern Illinois, many bring dollars from out of town. Other states represented include Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Down Deer Recovery, a certified United Blood Trackers provider, assisted hunters in recovering their wounded deer. Seth Nelson from Morrison, Illinois, is owner of Down Deer Recovery and German shepherd Maverick is his canine tracker. Canine Handler Teddy Robbins took the helm with Maverick in command and successfully tracked several wounded deer.

Maverick tracks the scent of a stress pheromone that is released from the deer’s hooves and is spread along the escape path of an injured deer. Maverick tracked a 10-point buck shot by Lee Smith from St. Charles, Minnesota, for more than half a mile to make Smith a very happy hunter!

This special hunt is conducted in areas that are closed to public access due to ongoing environmental clean-up at this former military installation, the Savanna Army Depot. More than 1,000 youth and adult hunters have participated in this hunt since its beginning in 2007.

Refuge Ranger Jacquelynn Albrecht was excited about the continued success of this program and stated, “It is a unique hunting experience by a special group of hunters. Their daily challenges of life were dwarfed by the enthusiasm and determination for deer hunting. They provided both inspiration and encouragement to the refuge staff that administered the hunt.”

Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge was established in 1924 and contains 240,000 acres that extends along 261 miles of the Upper Mississippi River. Learn more about Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

Lee Smith with his harvested 10-point buck
Hunter Lee Smith harvested this 10-point buck with help from canine tracker Maverick and canine handler Teddy Robbins. Photo by Ed Britton/USFWS.