Merle Richey's Eland
The Lake Winnipeg Trophy Walleye Ice Fishing trips (5 groups / 32 guys) was cancelled and re-scheduled for 2022 as the Canadian Border was shut down. Canada is now open for travel, but requires a COVID Vaccination, plus a negative COVID test within 72 hours of entry, and a Quarantine plan. Some of guys have decided not to go now because of this requirement, so I have spots available. Contact me for details.
Brian Janovec (River Falls, WI), Dave Langlois (River Falls, WI) Phil Larson (Stillwater, MN) and Clay & Pam Larson (Stillwater, MN) along with Jeff & Stephanie Mc Donald (MN) were booked to hunt Stag & Tahr with Rangitata Outfitting in New Zealand the last week of March. Their trip was cancelled and re-scheduled for 2022 as NZ will not allow USA travelers into the country any time soon. It’s likely to be re-scheduled to 2023 as we wait for New Zealand to open again.
Tammy & I, along with John & Pam Klatt (Luck, WI), John & Barb Rawlings (Spooner, WI), Jeff & Debbie Schutts (Hudson, WI), Tim Anderson (Black River Falls, WI) & Gerard Helscher (Urban, IA) were planning on flying into New Zealand to hunt and sight-see the 1st 2 weeks of April. Our trip was cancelled and re-scheduled for 2022. It’s likely to be re-scheduled again for 2023
Gary Martin (Union Grove, WI), Dave, Rachel Gonzales (Racine, WI), Stan & Dorothy Parkerson (Fairbanks, AK), Troy & Terisa Westrum (IA) were also booked to hunt Stag & Tahr in NZ with Rangitata in NZ the 2ndweek of April. Their trip was cancelled and rescheduled for 2022 It’s likely to be re-scheduled again for 2023
I had Eddie Gingerich (Moravia, IA), his brother Menno Gingerich (Albia, IA) and their brother in law, Sam Helmuth (Hopkinten, IA) booked to Bowhunt Interior Grizzies in the Brooks range of Alaska with Stan Parkerson, owner of Denali Hunts. These guys are Amish and do not fly, and we had to cancel, and rescheduled their hunt to 2022 because they were not able to drive thru Canada.
Jon Cesafsky (Lynchburg, VA) and his non-hunting sister Kate Coleman (Lynchburg, VA) flew into South Africa to hunt Plains Game with Dries Visser Safaris. This was Jon’s 3rd hunt with Dries and said it was the most enjoyable of them all. He shot 6 beautiful trophies, including a Sable, a Golden Wildebeest, a Blesbuck, Impala, a Warthog and a Porcupine with his Rifle on the hunt.
I sent Paul Stephenson, his son Mark Stephenson (both from Clinton, MI), & Gerard Helscher (Urbandale, IA) to Greenland to (Rifle) hunt Muskox & Caribou with Joe Jakab, owner of Point Blank Hunts. Greenland opened up at the last minute and the guys were able to secure tickets and make the trip. They had a good productive trip, and great adventure. They were able to tag-out on nice Bulls with time to spare and enjoy a couple days of non-hunting sight-seeing before they returned home.
I sent Merle Richey (Asland, OH) to South Africa to Hunt Plains Game with Dries Visses Safaris. Merle had a great trip and was able to arrow 7 animals on his hunt. He shot a Sable, Eland, Waterbuck, Golden Wildebeest, Impala and a Nyala. Merle is already planning another trip, and I believe Cape Buffalo is on the menu.
I sent Mike Krieg (McGregor, IA), Andy Marg (River Falls, WI), Kirk Vorwald (Prairie Du Chen, WI), and Reggie Freilinger (Monoma, IA) to Colorado to Bowhunt Elk out of a Comanche Wilderness Drop camp. They had a tough hunt, and didn’t have a lot of opportunities, but capitalized on one as Reggie arrowed a really nice Herd Bull that green-scored over 360 inches.
I sent Curt Kramer, Charles Steiner, Jay Weber and Mike Hall (all from Prairie Du Chen, WI) to Colorado to hunt Elk with their Muzzleloaders out of a Drop Camp in Colorado’s unit 19. They had a good hunt and killed 2 nice Bulls.
Greg DeWeese (Prior Lake, MN) was able to draw Montana’s Big Game Combination license, and the Archery Elk permit in unit 620 the Missouri Breaks so we sent him to hunt with Jack Billingsley. Greg had a good hunt, and although he didn’t tag a Bull, he had 2 different Bulls (2 year old 4x4 & an older scrub – antlered Bull) point Blank that he elected to pass. This hunt generally produces an opportunity or two at a branch-antlered Bull, but not normally a hunt where you can pass too many to get at the bigger Bulls that live in the area.
Karl Kussow (Minneapolis, MN) was able to draw Montana’s Big Game Combination License, but did not draw the Archery Elk permit in unit 620 so I sent him out to the Milk River to hunt early season Whitetails with Jack Billingsley. Karl had a fun hunt and arrowed a nice respectable Whitetail on this semi-guided archery hunt
John Klatt (Luck, WI) was also able to draw Montana’s Big Game Combination license, and the Archery Elk permit along the Mussleshell river in the Missouri Breaks so we sent him to hunt with Harris Hunts. John had a really good hunt, and arrowed a nice 6x6 the 1st morning. This place is loaded with Elk and it’s my favorite Elk hunt. It’s a tree-stand hunt that generally produces an opportunity or two at a mature Bull during your 5-day hunt
Statistically, 2021 was the year of the "re-schedule trips, as most the trips were postponed and re-scheduled to 2022.
The (11) domestic hunters did pretty well and shot 5 animals. That's down some from a typical year, but if you look at the mix, with 8 drop-camp hunters - 45% is not bad.
The (5) traveling hunters did much better, shooting 19 animals total in two different countries
The (2) African hunters killed 13 animals, or just a tad over 6 animals per person. They had great time in camp and both are planning return trips in the future.
The hunting in Greenland was good, but travel was more difficult, with several COVID tests required during the trip. Greenland limited the number of entries into the country each day, which made it difficult to get tickets. My (3) hunters got in and had a good hunt, thank you very much.
In closing, I want to thank the “Class of 2021” – But very much looking forward to a better 2022
Good Hunting - Tom Close
We had a good start to the 2020 hunting season as Gerard Helscher (Urbandale, IA) was able to shoot a nice Aoudad Ram with his rifle in the hill-country of western Texas. He also added a Black Buck to his bag before heading home. Gerard spoke highly of the hunt, and enjoyed the time with Joe Jakab, owner of Point Blank Hunts.
I sent Cody Calhoun (Racine, WI) to Colorado to hunt Mountain Lion with John Evert, owner of Look’n Up Outfitters. Cody had a fun time and productive hunt and arrowed a nice Cat on the 2nd day. John has good dogs and has done a good job our guys through the years. Cat hunting is a hoot, something I learned 1st hand later in the year.
I went to Lake Winnipeg ice fishing with my brother Ken Close (New London, WI), brother -in laws, Troy Klatt (Hudson, WI) & Tim Cotton (Hudson, WI), my cousin, Steve Close (Menomonee, WI) good friends, John Rawlings (Spooner, WI), John Klatt (Luck, WI) and Rick Anderson (Spooner, WI). We had slow fishing by Lake Winnipeg standards, but still caught 15 fish over 25 inches in 3 days. Troy, John Rawlings and I each had 30-inch fish. We were fishing the last week of February with Brenden Walker, owner of Walker Adventures. I’ve been fortunate enough to land 2 fish over 30 inches in 3 trips to Lake Winnipeg and this trip has become an annual for me.
My son, Travis Close (Luck, WI) went to Lake Winnipeg the 1st week of March with Adam Anderson, Cole Mortel, brother Alec Mortel, Alex Mc Cabe, Adam Bistram (all from Luck, WI), along with Chad Strilzuk (Balsam Lake, WI) and Tom Volkert (Milltown, WI). They had a great 4-day trip with Brenden and caught 47 walleyes over 25 inches, most of them in the 28-29 inch range.
Along came COVID-19
Tom Harris (Menomonee, WI), his brother John Harris (Prescott, WI) and a couple buddies were booked to fish Walleyes on Lake Winnipeg with Brenden the last week of March, but the borders shut down the week before they were scheduled to go. Their trip has been rescheduled for 2022 as it’s not likely to be open in March of 2021.
Brian Janovec (River Falls, WI), Dave Langlois (River Falls, WI) Phil Larson (Stillwater, MN) and Clay & Pam Larson (Stillwater, MN) along with Jeff & Stephanie Mc Donald (MN) were booked to hunt Stag & Tahr with Rangitata Outfitting in New Zealand the last week of March. Their trip was cancelled and re-scheduled for 2022 as NZ will not allow USA travelers into the country any time soon.
Tammy & I, along with John & Pam Klatt (Luck, WI), John & Barb Rawlings (Spooner, WI), Jeff & Debbie Schutts (Hudson, WI) & Gerard Helscher (Urban, IA) were planning on flying into New Zealand to hunt and sight-see the 1st 2 weeks of April. Our trip was cancelled and re-scheduled for 2022.
Gary Martin (Union Grove, WI) & Dave & Rachel Gonzales (Racine, WI) were also booked to hunt Stag & Tahr in NZ with Rangitata in NZ the 2nd week of April. Their trip was cancelled and rescheduled for 2022.
I had Eddie Gingerich (Moravia, IA), his brother Menno Gingerich (Albia, IA) and their brother in law, Sam Helmuth (Hopkinten, IA) booked to Bowhunt Interior Grizzies in the Brooks range of Alaska with Stan Parkerson, owner of Denali Hunts. Their hunt was cancelled, and rescheduled to 2021 because they were not able to drive thru Canada, but It’s likely to be re-scheduled again, as we don’t expect the border to be open this spring.
I was planning to go to Greenland Hunting Muskox & Caribou with Paul Stephenson, his son Mark Stephenson (both from Clinton, MI), Gerard Helscher (Urbandale, IA) and Jon Cesafsky (Lynchburg, VA). Our trip was cancelled, and re-scheduled for 2021 due to COVID.
I sent Merle Richey (Asland, OH) out to Wyoming to Bowhunt Antelope with Doug & Mary Miller, owners of Doug Miller Outfitting. Merle had a great time with Doug and arrowed a nice buck on the 1stday of his hunt.
Travis and I, along with Travis’ father in-law, Doug Lehmann (Roberts, MT), Travis’ good friend Chad Strilzuk (Balsam Lake, WI) drove out to Glasgow, MT to Bowhunt with Jack Billingsley, owner of Billingsley Ranch Outfitters. We were pointed in the right direction, but this was a semi-guided hunt where we glassed up the deer and hung our own stands in a good area. We focused (our decision) on Mule deer each morning, and whitetails in the evenings. Long story short, we had a great time, and saw lots of game, but most of them gave us the slip. Travis shot the only animal, a solid P&Y Whitetail (135ish) the last evening.
Mike Krieg (McGregor, IA), Andy Marg (River Falls, WI), Kirk Vorwald (Prairie Du Chen, WI), and Reggie Freilinger (Monoma, IA) were booked into an Elk Archery Drop camp into the wilderness of Colorado’s unit 19 but that was cancelled and rescheduled to 2021 because the area was shut down because of fires. They are re-scheduled for late September of 2021.
Curt Kramer, Charles Steiner, Jay Weber and Mike Hall (all from Prairie Du Chen, WI) were also booked into an Archery Elk drop camp in Colorado’s unit 19, and they were also re-scheduled for 2021 as well due to the fires.
Greg DeWeese (Prior Lake, MN) was not able to draw Montana’s Big Game Combination license, (which is rare) but he did draw an Antelope tag, so we sent him out to Jack Billingsley Ranch for 5 days of stalking Antelope. Greg saw a lot of nice Bucks, with a few stalks, but was not able to arrow one.
Travis & I drove out to Riverton, Wyoming to hunt Mountain Lion with a new outfit. We hit the weather nearly perfect as they had very little snow in the mountains, just enough for good tracking but not enough to limit getting around in the truck. It didn’t take long to cut tracks and get us a couple Cats. Travis shot 140 lb (13 5/8”) Tom the 1st day and I shot a 160 lb (14 13/8”) Tom the next day.
We all know 2020 was a “Crazy Year” like no other. I cancelled more trips this year than total combined thru the 21 years I’ve been in the business. Most of it was due to COVID, but we lost 2 groups of hunters in Colorado's unit 19 because of the fires. The silver lining in the ordeal, was how our outfitters handled the situation. Each & every one of them offered their hunters to re-schedule into the next year with no penalty. Thanks Guys !!
Statistically, 2020 was decent for what few guys I could get into the field. Our 10 hunters shot 7 animals. The Cat hunting was good, as we expect, as our guys are nearly 100% every year. The Deer hunting in Montana was good, although I think the Whitetail is the best option for consistent success on good animals.
The Walleye fishing was very good again, before the border was shut down. 16 guys had 62 fish over 25 inches in 56 man-days of fishing – We averaged over 1 fish per person per day over 25 inches. This is an awesome trip and I expect to fill the entire month of March for Brenden once we get the border open again.
Looking ahead to 2021, we’ve already lost New Zealand Stag and Tahr hunting, along with the Lake Winnipeg ice fishing, but we have quite a few hunters booked domestically. We should have a good year, as worst of the COVID ordeal should be behind us. Lets hope so..
Good Hunting - Tom Close
We had a good start to our 2019 hunting season as our first hunter, Dave Gonzales (Racine, WI) was able to collect his Mountain Lion on his 1st day of hunting. We sent Dave to Colorado to hunt with John Everett, owner of Look'n Up Outfitters. Dave arrived into the hunting area after a fresh snow and John promptly found and treed a nice mature Cat for Dave. Dave really enjoyed his hunt and was very happy with his cat.
I went to Lake Winnipeg ice fishing with my brother in-law, Troy Klatt (Hudson, WI), my son, Travis Close (Luck, WI), son in-law Brandon Boe (Ellsworth, WI), good friends, Chad Strilzuk (Balsam Lake, WI), Alex Mc Cabe (Luck, WI), Adam Anderson (Luck, WI) and John Rawlings (Spooner, WI). We lost one day due to the weather, but experienced some awesome fishing the other 2 days. The group iced 25 fish over 25 inches, with 3 over 30 (Troy caught 2) and (John caught one) and a bunch over 28”. My best was 29”. I’ve got a good, hard-working outfitter that knows the lake, and where to find these big fish. This trip has become an annual.
Dan Francis (Plymouth, WI) flew into the South Island of New Zealand to hunt Red Stag with Kiwi Safaris. Dan arrowed a nice (Gold Medal) stag that would score just under 360 inches. He had a great trip and was really happy with the hunt.
Jon Cesafsky and his significant other, Cristina (both from Lynchburg, VA), Mark & Sue Becker (Junction City, WI), Bob Thomson (Sobeski, WI), Bob’s (non-hunting) daughter Holly and Holly’s son, (Bob’s grandson) Henry joined me on safari in South Africa with Dries Visser Safaris.
It was a good, fun group and a great trip.
Jon shot all 6 animals on his list with his rifle in their 7-day hunt. He shot a nice Giraffe, Kudu, 2 Zebra, & a Warthog. They had a great time and are in the process of re-booking for 2021
Bob shot 8 animals with his Bow in his 7-day hunt. He arrowed a Blesbuck, Impala, Warthog, Gemsbok, Blue WIldebeest, Kudu & a Zambian Sable. Henry & Holly shot each shot Warthogs with a crossbow, their 1st Big Game animals. They had a lot of fun and Bob is already looking to rebook in 2021.
Mark & Sue shot everything with their bow that was on their list but a Black Wildebeest, which proved difficult their 10-daytrip. This was the Becker’s 3rd trip with Dries, so they were targeting a handful of specific animals. Sue shot a Zebra, Nyala and a warthog. Mark shot a Matetsi Sable, Bushbuck and an Impala.
I shot a Matetsi sable, a Golden Wildebeest, a Nyala and a Springbok with my Bow.
I sent Tim Anderson, Gerard Leonhardt, Dale Geldernick and Ron Gedernick (all from the Hatfield, WI area) to Wyoming on an Antelope Bowhunt with Corey Fischer, owner of Crandall Creek Outfitters. The guys had lots of action and they each tagged nice Bucks. Tim shot the best one, a buck that green-scored nearly 80 inches.
Lou & Carol Kindred (Whitehall, WI) booked a couple of the “Dries Visser Show Specials” and were sent to South Africa to Bowhunt with Dries Visser Safaris. They had a great time in camp and shot some nice animals. Carol shot a Big Warthog and a nice Zebra & Lou shot a beautiful Golden Wildebeest. They are already planning to rebook another trip for 2021.
Todd Frank (Iowa) was sent to Alaska to Bowhunt Interior Grizzlies with our "Go-to” outfit in Alaska - Denali Hunts. Todd was booked into our Interior Grizzly tree-stand Bowhunt over an active salmon spawning stream. He had a great hunt and shot a really good Bear - The 7th Bear he saw in the 1st day. Todd’s Bear is expected to score in in P&Ys top-20
I sent long-time friend and loyal client, Mike Krieg, his Brother John and their (81 year old) dad, Allan to Gillette, Wyoming on an Antelope Bowhunt with Doug & Marry Miller. Mike was designated cameraman for his dad and didn't have a tag, but the (2) hunters each shot nice bucks with their cross-bows. John shot his (78" + Green-Score) within an hour while Mike & his dad had to spend nearly all day in the blind to get a shot at Allan's (77" + Green-Score) Buck. Congrats to the Kriegs
I sent Tim Henningsgard (Amery, WI), Andy Lindus (Woodville, WI), Andy Larson (Lodi, WI), & Josh Keeney (Hortonville, WI) to Greenland to hunt Muskox with Joe Jakab, owner of Point Blank hunts. This was the 1st group I sent to Greenland, as it's a new outfit for Close Encounters. I always worry about that "1st at-bat", but the guys had a good time and good hunt. This looks like a fun adventure with lots of animals - I'm booked for 2020 myself and looking forward to the adventure.
I sent Derwin Mann ( Bismarck, ND) to the Breaks to Montana near Fort Peck to Bowhunt Elk with Harris Hunts. Derwin had an exciting hunt, had his chances but didn’t tag a Bull. He wounded a big Bull the 2nd day but the shot was not considered lethal (the guides saw it running with Cows) so Destry allowed him another go. He arrowed another (decent 6x6) Bull, that they were not able to recover on the 4th. Derwin and the guides spent the next couple days looking, but it remained un-recovered. Derwin is a good accomplished hunter that ran into bad luck. Big Bulls bugling in your face all morning can do that.
John Klatt (Luck, WI), Jeff Schutts (Hudson, WI), Jeff’s son Tim Schutts (Oakdale, MN) & I went to Newfoundland to hunt Eastern Canadian Moose with Roger Keough, owner of Parson’s Pond Outfitting. We had a tough hunt as John shot the only Moose, a cow with his rifle on the last day. Equal portions of bad weather, lack of Moose and our guide’s inexperienced to bowhunting contributed to a slow hunt. It’s a good rifle hunt, as we all had bulls within a hundred yards, but I will be very careful sending bowhunters in the future.
I sent Chris Wegner (Grafton, WI) and his dad Alan (Grand Marsh, WI) to Newfoundland to hunt Eastern Canadian Moose with Parson’s Pond outfitting. They hunted the very next week out of the same camp that I had hunted, with even poorer weather. Chris shot a big mature (50 inch) Bull, probably Parson’s Pond’s biggest of the season. Alan saw a few Bulls, and missed a Cow, but did not tag a Moose.
Bailey Mercer and Kyle Easley (both from McKinney, TX) were sent to Colorado to Bowhunt Mule Deer with Comanche Wilderness Outfitting. Our Texan Bowhunters had a tough hunt and never really had a good opportunity to arrow a nice buck. Northeast Colorado had a lot of late-summer / early fall rain and farmers wert able to get the corn off until well into December. The bucks were there, but not visible which translates into a tough hunt. I have great confidence in Comanche as they’ve been good to me for years, and wouldn't hesitate to send them more hunters.
I sent good friend and loyal supporter of Close Encounters, Brian Janovec (River Falls, WI) & Steve Huppert (River Falls, WI) to Colorado on a Mule Deer rifle hunt with a new outfitter to Close Encounters. I spend a lot of time researching new outfits before I actually send them hunters, but I still always worry about the 1st group. I'm happy to report that Brian & Steve had a really fun hunt with solid outfitter and tagged 2 nice Bucks. Good Area, good guides and nice lodge..
Jim Elder (Eagle, ID) was sent to Southcentral South Dakota to Bowhunt big Whitetails with Brandon Beitelspacher & David Schaffer, owners of Son of A Gun Ranch. Jim had good action and arrowed a giant 8-pt that would probably score over 160. The shot most likely lethal, and they searched for 2 days, but the guides were not able to locate the deer for Jim. Jim was really happy with the hunt and is planning on re-booking for 2020
Rick Moss (Doerun, GA) was sent back to South-central South Dakota on his annual bowhunt with Son of a Gun Ranch. Rick is pretty fussy, and passed up several bucks over 135 inches but was unable to get a shot at one that was in his personal (> 150 inches) “Zone” . Rick was happy and plans to return again in 2020.
Statistically, 2019 was a “Really Good Year” for Close Encounters. We had an over-all good success with good animals, and a handful of top-end quality. We sent 31 hunters into the field in 2019 and they shot 43 animals, for a success rate of 141% !
Lets face it, multiple animals (per hunter) bagged on an African or even New Zealand adventure is normal and to be expected, but our 23 North American hunters shot 15 animals for a success rate of 74%, and that’s pretty darn good and a number I’m proud to be connected to. The Highlight of the year was Todd’s Grizzly, a Top-20 (all-time) candidate. South Dakota is really coming on again after a round of Blue -Tung 4-5 years ago. There’s was a good crop of 3-yr old bucks that would score 135 – 140 this year that should be pushing into the 150s next fall. We’re pretty well dialed in on our Antelope, and we were 100% again this year and is the bell-cow to the portfolio..
South Africa was awesome, and I think everyone had a terrific hunt. I had 7 hunters in 2 different groups that shot 27 animals total. That’s about 4 animals per hunter in a group that’s been to South Africa multiple times, with limited trophy list. The only 1st -timer ended up with 8 animals, which is what you’d expect in a 7-day hunt when targeting the more common species. Cobus & Elana (Managers) have been a great addition to Dries’ operation and they’ve become good friends
I had only 1 hunter in New Zealand hunting with Kiwi and that hunt went well as expected . Tammy & I are returning to New Zealand again in 2020 and I’ve got the camp booked full for nearly 3 weeks. There should be a long list of trophies in the 2020 summary.
We added a Trophy Walleye ice fishing trip to the portfolio in 2019 and have 20 fisherman booked for 2020. This has become an annual trip for me
Even though we had a great year overall, there’s always a couple hunts that simply didn’t produce the way we expect. Newfoundland was the disappointment of 2019. The guides didn’t have the bowhunting experience I expected, and that was exposed when they had slow hunt due to bad weather and a slow rut. I still like and supportive the outfitter, but I plan to use it exclusively for rifle hunters in the future.
Looking into 2020, I’m excited with our mix of hunts and outfitters. I’m going to Greenland (hunting Muskox) in August and expect that to be good. We have a big group going to New Zealand and that’s always good. Africa should continue its resurgence. I’m always expecting a lot of the Antelope hunts. I’ll be expanding the rifle and Muzzleloader hunts and adding good fishing as opportunities are identified and developed.
We sent Dave Gonzales (Racine, WI) to Colorado to hunt Mountain Lion with John Everett, owner of Look'n Up Outfitters. Dave lost a day or more due to other commitments and was not able to hunt the entire 5 days and John could not get him on a good Cat in the limited time they had to hunt. Dave was happy with the hunt and has re-booked.
Tammy & I made our 3rd trip to New Zealand to Bowhunt with Kiwi Safaris with a great group. We spent 5 days in camp hunting and another 7 days sight-seeing as a group which has become the trip we really enjoy. Curt and non-hunting wife, Julie Bruns along with their son Jack, (River Falls, WI), Rudy Storm (MN), Rudy’s brother, Brad & non-hunting wife Cathy Storm (Alaska) along with Steve Boe & non-hunting significant other Kim Carlson (Woodbury, MN) rounded out our group.
Curt shot a nice (355 in+) stag and a good mature (free-range on foot) Bull Tahr with his rifle. Brad Storm shot a really good (382 in) Stag, a good mature (free-range on foot) Bull Tahr and a beautiful Fallow Buck with his rifle. Rudy Storm shot a nice (350 in) + Stag, a good mature (free-range on foot) Tahr and another beautiful Fallow Buck with a rifle. Steve Shot a nice (355 in +) stag and a good mature (free-range on foot) Bull Tahr with a rifle. I was able to arrow a nice Fallow Buck.
This was a great trip and everyone was able to get the animals in their package.
We sent a big chunk of the family on a Bowhunting Safari in South Africa with Dries Visser Safaris this past July. My brother Ken, his wife Jodi and their son Jacob (new London, WI) along with my sister Jodi, her husband Tim (Cotten) and their son Brody (Hudson, WI) and my daughter, Ashley (Ellsworth, WI) all took advantage of the packages offered this winter by Dries.
They had a great time in camp and shot 17 animals. Tim led the way with a 39 inch (Bull) Gemsbok. He also shot an Impala, a Blue Wildebeest, a 54 inch Kudu and big old Warthog. Tim’s son, Brody shot a Blue Wildebeest, and Impala and a Warthog. Ken shot a Zebra, a Blue Wildebeest an Impala, a Warthog and a nice (52 inch) Kudu Bull. My nephew Jake shot a Zebra, Warthog, Impala and a Blue Wildebeest.
We also sent Dave Fulkerson and significant other Cindy Willie (both from Milwaukee, WI) to South Africa to Bowhunt plains game with Dries Visser Safaris. Dave took advantage of the special prices we had available and booked a 5-day package which included 3 animals. Dave had a great trip and arrowed a nice Blue Wildebeest Bull, an Impala Ram and a Red Hartabeest
Mark Kramer and wife Lenys, along with his Mark’s dad Jeffery and wife Sharon (all from La Crescent, MN) went to South Africa on a 5-day Bowhunt with Dries Visser Safaris. They had a good trip and shot 7 animals. Mark shot a nice Red Hartebeest, Wart Hog, and an Impala. Jeff shot a good Kudu, Gemsbuck, Impala and a Wart Hog. They had a great time and are planning on returning in the future.
Gary Martin and his daughter Allison (both from Union Grove, WI) went back to South Africa on a Bowhunt with Dries Visser Safaris. Gary shot a beautiful (42”) Sable Bull and a nice big Zebra Stallion. They also did a week of sight-seeing, with “Day with the Elephants” as the highlight. The had a great trip and looking forward to their next father and daughter journey!
We sent Greg DeWeese (Prior Lake, MN) to Nebraska to Bowhunt Antelope with Melvin Oldakers, owner of Oldakers Outfitters. Greg had a fun hunt and saw plenty Antelope, but didn’t wasn’t able to get “The Buck” into good shooting range. He says he had great hunt and is considering a mule deer/ antelope combo hunt with Melvin in the future.
Tom Hahn Jr (Milwaukee, WI), Tom Hahn Sr (Caledonia, WI) & Henry Haas (Mount Pleasant, WI) were sent to Wyoming to Bowhunt Antelope with Cory Fischer, owner of Crandall Creek Outfitting. They had a great hunt, and saw lots of Antelope and some good ones as usual. They tagged out on (13” – 14”) P&Y Bucks.
Tom Wilson (Portland, MI) & Steve Coon (Lake Odessa, MI) booked a Elk Muzzleloader hunt in Colorado’s unit 19 with Scott Limmer, owner of Camanche Wilderness Outfitting. They had good action and a solid hunt, as they each had good shots at Bulls. Tom killed a nice 5x5 and Steve wounded and lost a really good (350+) herd Bull.
We sent Jon Cesasky (Richmond, VA) to Newfoundland to hunt Eastern Canadian Moose with Parson’s Pond Outfitting. Jon had a good hunt and killed a nice respectable Bull with his rifle.
Dave Samuel (Hayward, WI) & Dave’s son, Kevin Samuel (Portland, OR) were also sent to Newfoundland to hunt Moose with Parson’s Pond. They both killed Bulls but had some issues with their guide and were not happy with the hunt. We worked with the owner to “adjust the guide’s performance” and have rebooked the Samuels for another hunt.
My son Travis Close (Luck, WI), Mark Monson, Mark’s sons Corey Monson and Brett Monson (all from Clear Lake, WI), Ken Rimer (Baldwin, WI) & Taylor Teske (Hudson, WI) were sent to the south end of Kodiak Island to hunt Sitka Blacktail Deer with Homer Ocean Charters. The guys had a great trip and everyone came home with a nice Buck. Several tagged two. This is a really cool adventure and something I’m personally looking forward to doing in the near future.
Brian Janovec (River Falls, WI), John Rawlings, (Spooner, WI), Rick Moss & Rick’s grandson (both from Doerun GA) traveled to South Dakota for their annual “Prime-Time Whitetail Bowhunt” with Son of a Gun Ranch. They had another good hunt, with solid action, and everyone had a shot at a good Buck. They had a couple misses but tagged 2 nice Bucks
Kevin Becker and his son Jonah (Turtle Lake, WI) were sent to Montana on a self-guided Mule Deer Rifle hunt with Jack Billingsley. The guys had a fun hunt and saw a few big bucks but were not able to tag one. This was their 1stMule Deer hunt and looking forward to another hunt after learning a few tricks of the trade.
Statistically, 2018 was another “ mediocre year” for Close Encounters, relative to volume of hunters, overall success, and quality of the animals.
We had 26 clients in the field, and they were able to kill 16 animals for a 61.5% success ratio. That’s not bad, but we always expect better.
The highlight of the year was New Zealand. Our 4 hunters (2 non-hunters) killed 9 animals total. They killed good quality trophies and everyone was happy with their trip. New Zealand is an awesome country and the best place I’ve ever been to blend sight-seeing with world-class hunting. Tammy & I’m are re-booked for our 3rd trip in April of 2018.
We had good results from our guided Elk hunts in Colorado as both pairs of father / sons killed nice 6x6 bulls. Statistical success was not so good with the drop camps. Drop camps are difficult but very popular, as it’s relatively low priced and our outfitter does a nice job getting people into Elk. Most of our drop-camp hunters are repeats. One of our Drop-Camp groups had a very good hunt relative to action while the other group had a rather poor hunt.
Our South Dakota Whitetail bowhunt was “off” a little this season too. We normally run well over 50% on good bucks, but this year 8 hunters arrowed 3 Bucks. That’s what’s considered “industry standard” but really poor for our guy. Over-all, the outfitter’s were well over 50%, and Gary’s group went 2 for 3, and I think our week was the only week of sub-normal statistics. These guys are good – really good, and we’re all rebooked for our 4th hunt in as many years.
Looking into 2018, I’m excited about our mix of hunts and outfitters. We have a good group of hunters booked into some great hunts and I expect 2018 to be a banner year. Our portfolio is in continuous flux and you’ll see we’ve taken some well-known & established outfitters out of the mix, and added others. I’m excited about what we added, especially the semi-guided Sitka Blacktail from a boat hunt on Kodiak Island, the Woodland Caribou & Eastern Canadian Moose in Newfoundland, and Muskox & Central Canadian Barron Ground Caribou in Greenland.
We had a good start to our 2017 Hunting season as Mark Kramer (LaCrescent, MN) was successful in shooting a nice mature lion with his bow in Colorado with John Evert, owner of Look’n up Outfitters. John does a nice job and is our “go-to” outfit to kill Mountain lion.
Mike & (non-hunter) Diana Lesneski (Webster, WI) traveled to the south island of New Zealand to experience the roar and hunt stag with Kiwi Safaris. They had a great time in camp and Mike shot a nice stag with his rifle on the 3rd day.
Russ & Lynn Wichers, along with Mark & (non-hunter) Angela VanBesten (all from Boyden, IA) made the trek to the south island of New Zealand for the roar and to hunt stag, tahr & fallow deer. They had a great trip and did well in the field. Russ led the way with 2 good stags, a bull tahr & an arapawa Ram. Lynn also shot a good stag & a fallow buck, and mark shot another good stag & a fallow buck as well.
Jeff Schutts (Hudson, WI) & Jeff’s son, Tim Schutts (Oakdale, MN) were sent to Colorado’s unit 19 to bowhunt elk with Scott Limmer, owner of Comanche Wilderness Outfitters. They were really pleased with Comanche and had a solid hunt. They had multiple “Close Encounters” during their (1st week of September) week before Tim Arrowed a nice mature 6x6 bull.
Tim Anderson (Hatfield, WI) went to Alaska to bowhunt moose with Stan Parkerson, owner of Denali Hunts. Tim had a really good hunt and killed a solid P&Y (60”) bull. The rut-crazed bull was called into about 6-8 yards before Tim’s well-placed arrow found it’s mark. Tim was very happy with the hunt and is thinking of re-booking with hopes of an even bigger bull next time.
David Maxwell (Claire, MI), Eric LaFollette (Farwell, MI) & Todd Pavlik (St Louis, MI) were booked into one of Scott Limmer’s unit 19 Archery drop camps (Sept 10 – 16). Drop-camp hunters normally have a difficult time killing bulls, but have good action most / all week and have a fun time. This repeat group had a really slow hunt and did not have much for bugling / sightings and came home disappointed. They are planning on re-booking, but adjusting the dates to pre / post Muzzleloader season.
Mike Krieg (McGregor, IA), Scott Sheckler (Atlanta, GA), Jaden McCullick (Wauzeka, WI), and Andrew Marg (River Falls, WI) were sent into Colorado’s unit 19 wilderness to bowhunt elk out of Scott Limmer’s drop-camp (September 18 – 25). The guys had really good bugling and everyone had at least one bull within 20 yards, but as luck would have it, they could not get a shot and returned with more experience, but no elk.
We sent Glenn Harrison (Laurel, MS) to the Edmonton Bow-Zone to hunt big Canadian Whitetails with Jim Hole Jr, owner of Classic Outfitters. Glenn enjoyed his time in camp and plans to re-book, but was not able to arrow a buck.
Brian Janovec (River Falls, WI), John Rawlings, (Spooner, WI), Scott Schutta (Spooner, WI), Rick Moss (Doerun, GA) & I traveled to South Dakota for our annual “Prime-Time Whitetail Bowhunt” with Son of a Gun Ranch. We had a good hunt with solid action, but only managed to arrow one of their bucks.
Gary Martin (Close Encounters sales – Union Grove), Dallas Overholt (Deltis, CO), and Jason Byler (Montrose, CO) arrived into Son of a Gun camp to hunt the last 4-days of the rut (before South Dakota rifle season). The guys had a solid 4 days of hunting and Jason & Gary each arrowed good bucks.
Statistically, 2017 was another “mediocre year” for Close Encounters, relative to volume of hunters, overall success, and quality of the animals.
We had 26 clients in the field, and they were able to kill 16 animals for a 61.5% success ratio. That’s not bad, but we always expect better.
The highlight of the year was New Zealand where our 4 hunters (2 non-hunters) killed 9 animals total. They killed good quality trophies and everyone was happy with their trip. New Zealand is an awesome country and the best place I’ve ever been to blend sight-seeing with world-class hunting. Tammy & I are re-booked for our 3rd trip in April of 2018.
We had good results from our guided elk hunts in Colorado as both pairs of father / sons killed nice 6x6 bulls. Statistical success was not so good with the drop camps as they're difficult but very popular, as it’s relatively low priced and our outfitter does a nice job getting people into elk. Most of our drop-camp hunters are repeats. One of our drop-camp groups had a very good hunt relative to action while the other group had a rather poor hunt.
Our South Dakota whitetail bowhunt was off a little this season too. We normally run well over 50% on good bucks, but this year 8 hunters arrowed 3 Bucks. That’s what’s considered “industry standard” but really poor for our guy. Over-all, the outfitters were well over 50%, and Gary’s group went 2 for 3, and I think our week was the only week of sub-normal statistics. These guys are good – really good, and we’re all rebooked for our 4th hunt in as many years.
Looking into 2018, I’m excited about our mix of hunts and outfitters. We have a good group of hunters booked into some great hunts and I expect 2018 to be a banner year. Our portfolio is in continuous flux and you’ll see we’ve taken some well-known & established outfitters out of the mix and added others. I’m excited about what we added, especially the semi-guided sitka blacktail from a boat hunt on Kodiak Island, the woodland caribou & eastern Canadian moose in Newfoundland, and muskox & Central Canadian barron ground caribou in Greenland.
We had a tough start to the 2016 season when we sent Jared Hook, on what has always been, a really good mountain lion hunt in Colorado with John Evert, owner of Look’n Up Outfitters. John has a great area and good dogs. We’d been having solid success (100% P&Y cats), but Jared ran into a tough hunt and did not get a cat. Jared’s fit and hunted hard, but John just couldn’t get on a good cat.
Mike Krieg (McGregor, IA), Royce Walters (Prairie Du Chen, WI) and Mitchell Grey (Millville, MN) drove north into central Manitoba to hunt black bears with Tom & Judy Usunier, owners of Big Grass Outfitters. The guys had a good hunt and they all tagged bears. Mike shot the biggest, a solid P&Y boar that will look nice in his trophy room.
Tom D. Hahn (Caledonia, WI) and son Tom A. Hahn (Milwaukee, WI) traveled to Central Wyoming to bowhunt antelope with Corey Fischer, owner of Crandall Creek Outfitting. The Hahn’s had a great trip, as both of the bowhunters tagged nice (P&Y) bucks.
We sent David Maxwell (Clare, MI), Eric La Follette (Farewell, MI), James Krell (Clare, MI), and Anthony Allred (Asheboro, NC) to Colorado to bowhunt elk out of a drop camp with Scott Limmer, owner of Comanche Wilderness outfitters. The guys were unsuccessful in killing an elk, but had a good, fun hunt, and are already re-booked for 2017.
Bob Criego (Paradise Valley, AZ) was booked into a Quebec-Labrador caribou bowhunt with Jack Hume Adventures. Bob had a tough hunt but managed to arrow 2 bulls. The caribou hunting in Nunavic has been slow the last several years and it wasn’t just our guy. The Quebec Fish & Wildlife has closed the caribou season in Quebec / Nunavic effective Jan 1 of 2018.
Don Nelson (Racine, WI) was sent to bowhunt elk in northeast Montana with Jack & Andie Billingsley, owners of Jack Billingsley Ranch Outfitting. Don had a fun hunt and enjoyed his time in the Breaks, but did not get a bull.
Carl Johnson (Blue Mounds, WI) and Dan Melka (Brookfield, WI) were also sent to Northeast Montana to bowhunt elk with Jack Billingsley Ranch Outfitting. This is a waterhole hunt in a dry area, and normally quite (> 60 kills) productive. The Breaks got far more rain than normal, which makes for tough hunting. The guys hung in there and had a pretty good hunt in spite of the really poor conditions, as Carl arrowed a nice 6x6.
Jeff Schutts (Hudson, WI) and John Klatt (Luck, WI) arrived at the Billingsley Ranch to bowhunt elk in between rain showers. They had a tough hunt too, but the guys hunted hard and were rewarded as Jeff killed his 1st bull with a bow, a nice 5x5.
We sent David Gonzales (Racine, WI) to Northeastern Montana to hunt deer and antelope with Jack & Andie Billingsley, owners of Billingsley Ranch Outfitting. Dave had a tough hunt as it rained hard nearly every day and access to properties was very limited. Most of the gravel roads were too wet to drive with a 4x4 and a few of the highway bridges were washed out. It was ugly.
We sent Gerard Helscher (Urbandale, IA) to British Columbia to hunt mountain goats with Tim & Astrid (Ozzie) Faiers, owners of Shadow Mountain Outfitters. Gerard had a great time with the Faier’s and shot a really nice (nearly 10 inch) billie with his rifle.
Jeff Blomquist (Menomonie, WI), Greg Place (Ellsworth, WI), Paul Aderman (River Falls, WI), Paul’s son Andrew, and I traveled north to hunt snow Geese and mallards in central Saskatchewan on our annual DYI waterfowl trip. We arrived to find a lot of birds and decent (good wind) conditions this year and had a good hunt. We had 247 birds in 4 shoots when a major (>12 in) snow storm rolled in and shut down our hunt. We came home a couple days early but quite satisfied with our hunt.
Brian Janovec (River Falls, WI), John Rawlings, (Spooner, WI), Scott Schutta (Spooner, WI), my son Travis (Luck, WI) and I traveled to South Dakota for our annual “Prime-Time Whitetail Bowhunt” with Son of a Gun Ranch. We had a great hunt and tagged 3 good bucks. Brian killed the best, a big Drop-time that will score over 160 inches. John shot a Big (26" 4x3) mulie that scores way less than he looks. Travis and I did not carry the flag very well - I passed a nice (140+ 9 pt) and ended up missing one late in the hunt that was nearly the same size. This is a great hunt and we’re all re-booking for 2017.
Close Encounters Sales / Hunting Consultant, Gary Martin (Union Grove, WI) drew a rocky mountain bighorn tag in Arizona and booked his bowhunt with Matt Lilenquist, owner of Double H Outfitters. Gary had a great hunt and arrowed a really good ram on the 3rd day. This was Gary’s 2nd, and biggest, rocky mountain bighorn with a bow. He’s now an official member of the “650 Club” – Grand Slam Score total over 650 P&Y inches. Congrats to Gary!
Statistically, 2016 was another “decent year” for Close Encounters, relative to volume of hunters sent into the field, but success was a little lower than we like to see.
We had 24 clients in the field, and they were able to tag 14 animals for a 58% + success ratio. Success would certainly have been higher given normal weather in Montana, our best go-to destination for deer & elk. Normally, the elk hunt produces 70+% kills - this year, we ran 40%. We did not send anyone to Africa or New Zealand for the 2nd year in a row, which is odd as we almost always send hunters to Africa, and usually to New Zealand.
Our South Dakota whitetail hunt was the highlight of the season as they have proven to be the best whitetail outfit I’ve ever hunted with, and they have the statistics to back me up. They had a tough year too, their worst statistical season in a while, and still managed > 50% kills with bucks between 140 and 170 inches.
Even though we had a good year overall, we still had a couple hunts that simply didn’t produce the way we expect. Some of the poor hunts were a direct result of poor weather (Montana), some are a direct result of game density / movement changes (caribou) and occasionally we have outfitter performance issues. We don’t get into any public criticism, but rest assured, we pay attention and get them out of the portfolio.
Looking into 2017, I’m excited with our mix of hunts and outfitters. We have a couple groups booked into New Zealand for 2017 and another big group booked for 2018. I expect a resurgence in Africa and always expect a lot of interest in antelope.
We had a great start to 2015 when William Bowers (Eau Claire, WI) scored on a really good (P&Y) mountain lion in Colorado with John Evert, owner of Look’n Up Outfitters. John has a great area and some really good dogs. We’ve had solid success (100% to date) with clients we send to John to take their lion with a bow.
Mike Alff (Stevens Point, WI), my uncle, Dave Olson (Menomonie, WI) & I flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina for a bird shoot with South American Safari Adventures. We had a great time and shot a bunch of birds, with limits of ducks (25/day) over decoys, (8/day) Perdise (grouse/partridge) over pointers every morning, and a boat-load of doves in the afternoons. I was the conservative shooter of the bunch and only shot fifty boxes of shells in four days.
Dave Gonzales (Racine, WI) drove out to Glasgow, Montana for a semi-guided mule deer and antelope bowhunt with Jack & Andie Billingsley, owners of Billingsley Ranch Outfitting. Dave had a good hunt, and had multiple stalks on nice deer, but unfortunately, was not able to close the deal on a mule deer. He was however, successful in tagging a solid P&Y antelope and was very happy with hunt. Dave is already planning a return trip.
We sent Jon Cesafsky (Lynchburg, VA) to northern Saskatchewan to rifle hunt Canadian moose with Reindeer Lake Trout Camp. We were all disappointed in the results of this hunt as Jon had a really slow hunt and did not get his bull. We are working with the outfitter to get Jon a return trip at a significant discount.
Brook & Eric Burling (Wisconsin Rapids, WI) drew archery elk tags in the Missouri Breaks of northeastern Montana. They had a great hunt with Jack Billingsley and tagged out on 2 beautiful bulls. Brook shot a nice 6x6 that will score close to the P&Y minimum, while Eric shot an exceptional bull that will push 350 inches. This is another really good hunt with consistent success.
Nick Kramer (Cape Girardeau, MO) and Dirk Eddie (Kalispell, MT) flew into northern Manitoba to bowhunt central Canadian barren ground caribou with Gangler’s Sub-Arctic Hunts. This was another disappointing hunt for us as the guys saw very few caribou and never really had a chance to draw their bows.
Mark Beeler (Hubertus, WI) was sent to Nunavit (formerly northern Quebec) for a Quebec-Labrador caribou bowhunt with Richard Hume Adventures. Mark had a good hunt and was successful in tagging a solid P&Y animal.
Tom Deutmeyer (Worthington, IA ) and Jeff Tobin (Worthington, IA) drew muzzleloader elk tags in Colorado’s unit 20 near Rocky Mountain National Park. They had a great hunt with Scott Limmer, owner of Comanche Wilderness Outfitters and tagged 2 big bulls. Tom’s 7x7 bull scored 317 and Jeff’s 5x6 Bull scored 320.
My son Travis (Luck, WI), Jeff Bloomquist (Prairie Farm, WI, WI), Greg Place (Ellsworth, WI) Greg’s son Dan Place (Ellsworth, WI) Cameron Hughes (Danbury, WI) and I traveled north to hunt snow geese & mallards in central Saskatchewan on our annual DYI waterfowl trip. We arrived to find a lot of birds, but tough conditions (no wind) and a lot of hunting pressure. We had a couple good shoots, but overall, a down year for us.
We sent Leon Spencer (Stillwater, MN) & Mark Fagerland (Somerset, WI) on an early season whitetail bowhunt in South Dakota with David Shaffer and Brandon Beitelspacher, owners of Son of A Gun Ranch. These guys had a great hunt and tagged out with bucks over 135 inches.
Brian Janovec (River Falls, WI), John Rawlings, (Spooner, WI), Scott (Spooner, WI), Gary (Spooner, WI), and I traveled to South Dakota for a prime-time whitetail bowhunt with Son of a Gun Ranch. We had a great hunt and tagged 4 good bucks with gross scores of – Brian’s: 171", John’s: 158", Tom’s: 138". Scott’s was a modest scoring buck (3x4) but an old massive antlered giant. We saw a lot of good bucks and had a great hunt.
We had a pretty good Wisconsin rifle opener, and saw 12-15 deer the 1st day. My daughter, Ashley (Siren, WI) shot a nice 8 point on opening day. That was the only mature buck we saw, but Travis & I each shot nice does to fill the freezer and manage our deer.
Statistically, 2015 was another quiet year for Close Encounters, relative to the volume of hunters sent into the field, but we had one of our better statistical years in terms of harvest and quality.
We ended the season with 17 of our North American big game hunters tagging 13 animals, for a 76% + success ratio. We did not send anyone to Africa or New Zealand, which is odd, as we almost always send hunters to Africa. Argentina was an absolute blast and a real "bucket-list" kind of trip. I had no idea high-volume bird-shooting was so fun, coupled with a beautiful lodge, great people and millions of birds.
The highlight of the year was our elk as we sent four hunters (two bowhunters & two muzzleloader hunters) into the field and they all killed good bulls, with an average score over 300 inches. Jack Billingsley's Ranch is a private property "water-hole" hunt that has been consistent in producing opportunities at nice bulls every year, and they did it again this year. You must draw the tag, with draw-odds running around 35%, but it’s a fun hunt and worth the scheduling issues in booking a hunt where you must draw the tag. The Colorado unit 20 muzzleloader hunt with Scott Limmer has been another solid hunt for us through the years. Knock on wood, every person we’ve sent to Scott has killed a nice 6x6 so far. Unit 20 is another controlled harvest unit which is available only through the draw. The hunters we sent this year were sitting on 12 preference points and elected to draw this hunt (normally requires 4-5) as they gave up on the tag they were chasing. They were both quite happy with the quality of elk in unit 20 and will be accumulating preference points in hopes of drawing again sometime in the future.
Our South Dakota whitetail hunt was another highlight of the season as they have proven to be the best I’ve ever hunted with, and have the statistics to back that up. They were 21 of 26 (dead and in the truck bucks) when I left camp, and only 2 guys returned home without a shot. One of them had a bruiser at 15 yards and was not able to pull his bow back – too excited. The other was in our group and had miserable luck and did not have a good deer within 30 yards.
Even though we had a great year overall, we still had a couple hunts that simply didn’t produce the way we expect. We don’t get into any public negative criticism, but rest assured, we pay attention and get them out of the portfolio.
Looking into 2016, I’m excited with our mix of hunts and outfitters. I’m predicting the strong US dollar will create some deals for us in Africa, and potentially New Zealand as well.
Good hunting - Tom Close
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Gene and Jeanette Cesafsky (Fall Creek, WI), Jon Cesafsky (Lynchburg, VA), Kate Coleman (Lynchburg, VA), Don Zuelke (Milwaukee, WI), Dave Olson (Menonmonie, WI), and George & Sandy Grimm (Milwaukee, WI) joined Tammy & I to New Zealand on a multi-specie rifle/bow hunt with Kiwi Safaris. We had a great hunt and the crew shot a bunch of animals. Gene shot a 342" Red Stag, a Bull Tahr, a Fallow Buck and an Arawapa Ram with his rifle. Jon (Gene's nephew) shot a giant of a stag that scored over 400" along with an Arawapa Ram with his rifle. Don Zuelke shot a 338" Stag with his bow while George shot a nice Bull Tahr with his rifle and a good Stag with his bow, and Dave Olson shot a nice Bull Tahr and a fallow Buck with his rifle. I was more of a non-hunter than usual, but was able to get in a handful of exciting stalks on a particular Fallow Buck. I was within spitting distance on several occasions but was not able to get a shot. Overall, it was a great hunt.
Curt and 17-yr old son Jack Bruns (River Falls, WI) drove out to Broadus, Montana to hunt Antelope on the (August 15th) opener with Powder River Outfitters. Curt had bought the hunt for Jack at the MN/WI Chapter Fundraiser banquet (donated by Close Encounters) for the Foundation of North American Wild Sheep back in 2011. They had a tough hunt and Jack did not get an Antelope. This part of Montana was hit hard by winter kills and it hasn't fully recovered. Powder River was our go-to Antelope outfit for years, but areas and outfitters change, and so do we. The Wyoming hunts are generally more money, but worth the extra cost as they still have a very healthy Antelope population.
We sent David Gonzales (Racine, WI) and Ryan Rice (Union Grove, WI) to Wyoming for a 3-day Antelope bowhunt with Crandall Creek Outfitters near Buffalo, starting on the 24th of August. They had a good hunt and each of them shot nice bucks. Dave shot a 12+ inch, heavy-horned buck that officially qualified for P&Y after the 60-day drying period, but unfortunately Ryan was not able to recover his trophy.
Tim Anderson (Hatfield, WI) flew into western Alaska, just south of the Arctic circle, to bow hunt Moose with Stan Parkerson, owner of Denali Hunts. Stan runs the only bowhunting-only outfit in Alaska that I am aware of, and is very good. Tim had a great hunt, but bad luck. He shot and wounded a really good Bull on the 3rd day. Tim took the shot at 70 yards, thinking the guide said shoot, when he was saying something else. The bull moved with the shot, and the arrow hit him poorly. Stan flew the area multiple times trying to locate the dead or wounded animal – but no luck. To add insult to injury, the guides called a good bull up to within 20 yards of the plane while packing for return. Tim was very pleased with the hunt and is in the process of re-booking.
Mike Krieg (Mc Gregor, IA), Dale Hein (Prairie Du Chien, WI), Andy Marg (River Falls, WI) & Curt Kramer (Prairie Du Chien, WI) drove out to Colorado to bow hunt Elk with Scott Limmer, owner of Comanche Wilderness Outfitters. Scott arranged a nice, comfortable "Drop-Camp" for the guys in the wilderness of Colorado's unit 19 near Rocky Mountain National Park. From all accounts, they had a great hunt as each of them had bulls up close and personal. Mike was the only one that was able to close the deal and tagged a nice 5x5.
Jim Wondzell (Wisconsin Rapids, WI) flew into Nunavic (northern Quebec) to bowhunt Quebec-Labrador Caribou with Jack Hume Adventures the last week of September. Jim just recently finished his Super Slam with a bow, having taken all 29 North American Big Game species. A couple of the species did not make the (P&Y) record book, so now Jim is in hot pursuit of those few that "require an up-grade" . I am happy to report that Jim had a great hunt, and returned with a beautiful Bull that scored over the minimum (325") for P&Y.
Monty Hamann (Meade, CO) traveled to southeast Montana, near Broadus to bow hunt early-season Whitetails with Travis Anderson, the new owner of Powder River Outfitters. There are a ton of Whitetails that feed in the irrigated hay fields along the Powder River and a good choice for a 1st time out of state big game bow hunter. This was just the ticket for Monty, as he saw a bunch of deer, and had a great hunt. Monty ended up tagging a nice mature (18”) 8-point.
We sent Leon Wipperfurth (Lodi,WI) to southeast Alberta to bow hunt Mule Deer with Eldon Hoff, owner of Deer Lodge Outfitting. Leon's week was full of rain and high wind, and hunting was tough, but Leon was able to close the deal on a decent (24” heavy 4x4) buck.
Tim Grzesiak (Mosinee, WI), Dennis Fehrmann (WI), Robert Alexjum, and James Michna (WI) drove to west-central Alberta to bow hunt Canadian Moose with Jim Hole Jr, owner of Classic Outfitters. They had a slow hunt and were not able to tag bulls.
We sent Tom Gotch (Blaine, MN) to southwest Manitoba to hunt Ducks & geese with Tom & Judy Osnier, owners of Big Grass Outfitters. They had a couple of spectacular shoots to start their hunt and a couple of sluggish hunts to finish it out, but all in all a good hunt. This area holds a nice mix of waterfowl, where a "typical morning shoot" will yield a (6-birds / hunter) limit of Greater Canadas, plus a few (5-10 per person) Snows/Blues & a (8-birds / hunter) limit of mallards/pintails.
Jeff Blomquist (Cumberland), Mike Alff (Stevens Point, WI), Greg Place (Ellsworth, WI),Dan Place (Ellsworth, WI), and I made our annual trip into central Saskatchewan to hunt waterfowl. We hunted the 1st full week of October which historically is a few days shy of the migration peak, with the best hunting later in the week. The birds were early again this year, much the same as 2013, when (in our area) the last week in September held the most birds. We found decent numbers of birds, and a higher concentration of Juvies (young birds), and in the end we had a really fun week and had two back to back 100-bird limit shoots.
Leon Spencer (Stillwater, MN) & I drove out to north central South Dakota to bow hunt Whitetails with David Shaffer & Brandon Beitelspacher, co-owners of Son of a Gun Outfitters. We hit a cold front head on, and experienced some of the worst conditions imaginable. Minus 18 was the most comfortable morning as it was calm, and most mornings were sub-zero with 15-25 mph wind. I was bundled to the point I could hardly shoot and still got cold. We did our best and hunted 3-4 hours every morning and then again in the afternoon. The weather affected the deer movement too, and in hind-sight, we should have adjusted our game plan. We saw a few deer, and some nice ones, but there was not a lot of early morning / late afternoon movement by normal standards. We saw most the big deer during the mid-day, while driving the 5-10 mile trip to / from camp. We had our chances – Leon passed a decent 8-point that sounded like it would score close to the (125") P&Y minimum. Leon had him at point blank 2 different sets and had a good look. I missed a real good buck. Brandon spotted him bedded in a standing corn field and promptly texted to get ready for a pickup. We executed a nice stalk, but I botched it. I'm still not sure how I missed him at a touch over 30 yards, as the arrow was buried in the snow almost exactly where a pass-through would have landed.
Statistically, 2014 was another "odd year". We sent 16 North American hunters into the field, with 5 nice animals and 2 hit and lost animals. We plan for, and expect, higher success rates than 32%, so I'm a little disappointed in the results. Even when adding the (2) hit & lost animals, we were below our expectations and well below the normal. Hunting is hunting, but we expect better success, as "we are not booking camping trips”.
The Quebec-Labrador caribou hunt has been producing well, and we will be pushing those harder in the future. The South Dakota Whitetail hunt is another new hunt that we added that exceeded my (high) expectations.
We had a really good time in New Zealand - the 4 hunters killed 9 animals and everyone was able to get what they expected to shoot. Most of the guys finished up early. The non-hunters (spouses) really enjoyed (wine) camp and everyone was very happy with the outfitter. The post-hunt sight-seeing was spectacular, as we did a few things as a group. New Zealand is my personal favorite destination as it's the very best place to blend world class hunting into a great couple's vacation. We'll be back...
Good hunting - Tom Close
Joe Koback (Central Wisconsin Chapter SCI president from Stevens Point, WI), Joe’s sonBryce, Jeff Blomquist (Cumberland, WI), my son Travis (Bloomer, WI) and I hunted Snows in southeast South Dakota with Rob Seimers, owner of RM Waterfowl. They had a major spring snow that covered 400 miles of the migration route with a foot of snow and pushed most the birds all the way back into Arkansas. We shot a few birds, but not what we hoped for.
Mark and Sue Becker (Wausau, WI) flew into South Africa to Bowhunt Plains Game in the Citidel with Dries Visser Safaris. They won the donated (Dries Visser / Close Encounters) hunt via live auction at the Central Wisconsin Chapter SCI fundraiser banquet in 2011. They had a good hunt and ended up shooting an Eland, Gemsbok, Impala and a Cape Buffalo.
Blake Patton (Tomball, TX) and daughter Allison Patton (Houston,TX) , Ennis Schneider (Midland, TX), and Tom Luffle (Katy, TX) joined Gary Martin (Close Encounters Hunting Consultant – Union Grove, WI) and Gary’s daughter, Allison (non-hunter) in South Africa Bowhunting with Dries Visser Safaris on the citadel. The skinners were busy as the group shot 29 animals. Blake shot a Kudu, Gemsbok, Red Hartebeest, Impala and Warthog before he got serious and arrowed a dandy Cape Buffalo bull. Allison did well too, and shot 4 more animals, a Kudu, Waterbuck, Gemsbok and an Impala. Tom shot 7 trophies, a Kudu, Waterbuck, Nyala, Gemsbok, Zebra, Warthog and an Impala. Ennis shot 5 trophies, a Nyala, Gemsbok, Blue Wildebeest, Impala and a Warthog. Gary shot 7 animals, including a Kudu, Gemsbok, Blue Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest, Impala, Warthog and a Cape Buffalo.
We sent Ryan Roberts (Nashville, TN) to Buffalo, Wyoming to bowhunt Antelope with Crandall Creek Outfitters. Ryan was after a buck that was something better than the “nice mature 14” P&Y” which are very common in this area, and he passed those regularly. Ryan did not get his chance at that buck pushing 80 inches and went home with his tag.
Taylor Teske (Hudson, WI) and I arrived into Buffalo to bowhunt with Crandall Creek just as Ryan was finishing his hunt. Taylor was hunting and I was running the video camera. We had a fun hunt in spite of some nasty weather – We had 3 inches of rain the night before his hunt started. That’s bad luck… The waterholes were flooded, but we still saw lots of game. The shots were a little longer than expected with the flooded waterholes, but Taylor ended up with a nice, heavy 14” buck that should easily make P&Y.
John Klatt (Luck, WI) my son Travis (Bloomer, WI) and I hunted the east slope of the Big Horn Mountains with Bob Granstrom, owner of Buffalo Mountain Outfitters. This was a classic backcountry, tent-camp hunt from horses in a remote pocket of the Bighorns. This year, for whatever reason, the bulls did not want to bugle and on this hunt, that is not good. This area contains very little open ground and the elk forage within the timber. Location by bugle is almost the only method to hunt them. We hunted hard and had our chances. John wounded a nice Bull and Travis had a clean miss on a cow.
Jeff Blomquist (Cumberland), Mike Alff (Stevens Point, WI) Greg Place (Ellsworth, WI) my son Travis Close (Bloomer, WI) and I drove to central Saskatchewan for our annual waterfowl hunt. We moved our trip back a week to what had been the peak the last 2 years. Not this year.. Most of the birds were gone, but Saskatchewan is loaded even when you miss the peak, and we managed to knock down 400+ birds. The highlight of the trip was a 100-bird limit shoot with 6-8 big flocks of snows in our face.
I sent Tom Gotch (Blaine, MN) to Manitoba to hunt waterfowl with Tom & Judy Usnier (owners of Big Grass Outfitters. Tom & Judy are great hosts and Tom raved about the hunt. He had continuous action, and shot his limit of big honkers and mallards every day. They tied into the snows a few times too for an all-around great trip.
We sent Leon Spencer (Stillwater, MN) to South Dakota to bowhunt whitetails with David Shaffer, co-owner of Son of a Gun Outfitters. Leon got a good deal on a last minute cancellation. He had a terrific hunt and saw 5 shooter bucks in less than a day (afternoon / morning) of hunting. Dave rattled in a big buck for Leon, which he promptly arrowed to fill his tag. I’ve known about this hunt for some time, but they were always able to book themselves, but I think they got sick of shows and finally decided to allow us to book their hunts. I’m excited and Leon & I have booked for November of 2014.
Statistically, 2013 was a “mediocre” year for Close Encounters. The number of North American hunters was down significantly, as we sent only 10 hunters into the field. They fared pretty well, as 3 of the 7 bowhunters filled tags. The 7 hunters we sent to Africa shot 33 animals; 3 Cape Buffalo.
We sent a nice group of hunters to South Africa this year, which is good, because they always come home happy. The Citidel produced another batch of top-end trophies. Our guys kill Kudu consistently in the mid-50s, and Waterbuck pushing 30”. I tell all the guys to make sure they shoot top-end stuff, because they will walk in front of you… This place is unbelievable.. Buffalo prices are dropping (finally) and we can get you a big bull for just a little over $10,000. Dries’ PHs do 15 – 20 Buffalo bowhunts every year, so they have the experience to get it done efficiently and safely.
The Wyoming Elk hunt did not go as well as planned, but not because of the outfitter. I was pleased with the effort from our outfitter, but when the Elk don’t bugle, the hunting can be, and was tough. This is a good hunt for the guys willing to help in camp, and get a significant discount. We had an 8-day (3x1) semi-guided horseback hunt for around $2,000 / person.
We made a significant improvement with the Antelope, as our new outfitter has a great area with tons of animals. We experienced what I’d consider as the “worst conditions likely” and we had P&Y Bucks into the water in front of us at least 2 times per day. This is likely to be a mainstay for us.
Good hunting - Tom Close
Ed Vandebrake (St. Croix Falls, WI) flew into Christ Church, New Zealand to hunt Red Stag with Kiwi Safaris. Ed and his guide found a Bull with an antler configuration (within his price range) that he liked right away, but he wasn’t able to close the deal until the last afternoon of the last day, a real nice “High- Silver” Stag with an antler configuration that appealed to Ed.
Jeff Jacob, Don Schofield, Roger Coleman and Daniel Reeves (all from Minot, ND) flew into South Africa to bowhunt plains game with the best – Dries Visser Safaris. The guys had a great hunt and shot some terrific trophies on the Citidel. They all shot Impala, Warthog, Blue Wildebeest and Gemsbok which were included in their packages, and they all shot Kudus over 53”. Roger added a Nyala, for a grand total of 21 animals.
Johnny & Crystal Watson (Idaho) had a nice bowhunt with Dries Visser Safaris in Namibia. Johnny won the hunt via auction at the 2011 Pope & Young convention in Rochcester, MN. They upgraded the auction to include Crystal in on the hunting. They had a great hunt as they both shot Warthog, Gemsbok, Burchill Zebra and Black Wildebeest, and Johnny added an Eland and a Red Hartebeest, with Crystal adding a Blue Wildebeest to the list.
Jon Cesafsky (Lynchberg, VA) and Jon’s uncle, Gene Cesafsky (Fall Creek, WI) traveled with me to Namibia to hunt Plains game with Dries Visser Safaris. This was my 1st trip to Namibia, but only 5 days of hunting, as we were there primarily to see the lodge and the concession. I made a couple mistakes on this trip – 1) Never travel that far for 5 days of hunting, and 2) Do not pass on a 15 yard (spot and stalk) shot at a nice mature Gemsbok. I had shot a nice bull earlier, but doubt if I’ll ever be able to stalk that close to another mature Gemsbok again. Anyways… Jon and Gene did well as they each killed Gemsbok, Red Hartabeest, Warthogs & Burchill Zebra. Gene added a Blue Wildebeest and an Eland and Jon added a Waterbuck.
Duane & Rose Evans (Mankato, MN) traveled with us from to South Africa, but stayed in South Africa to Bowhunt with Dries Visser Safaris at the Citidel, while we continued on to Namibia. They were thrilled with the hunt as Duane killed 5 beautiful trophies in 7 days. His list of trophies included a Warthog, Impala, Blue Wildebeest and a 54” Kudu.
Derwin Mann (Bismarck, ND) Doug Kruckenberg (Mandan, ND) Dave Kresbach (Bismarck, ND) and Mike Wolf (Bismarck, ND) were sent to southeast Montana to Bowhunt Antelope on the opener with CJ McgaSkill, owner of Powder River Outfitters. The guys had a tough hunt by our standards and only tagged 3 bucks. The weather did not cooperate as it rained hard for several days just prior to the opener, but there’s little doubt the Antelope numbers are well below historical levels.
Walt Palmer Sr and son Walter Jr (Eden Prairie, MN) and Harold Palmer (Burnsville, MN) Gordon Jensen Sr (Eden Prairie, MN) joined Gary Martin (Close Encounters Hunting Consultant – Union Grove, WI) in southeast Montana Bowhunting Antelope with Powder River Outfitters. The guys did pretty well and shot 4 nice bucks, but they hunted hard and logged a lot of hours for each opportunity. The weather was not particularly helpful (wind and rain) but the numbers of animals are down too. We will be looking to move our antelope hunters into Wyoming where winter-kills were not nearly as severe as Montana.
Cory Kokuchowski (Northcountry Bowhunters Chapter SCI President from Stacy, Mn) and Peter Wolfbauer (Circle Pines, MN) flew into Idaho to bowhunt Elk with Frank & Terri Schmidt, owner of LockeyU Outfitters. The guys hit a stretch of un-seasonably hot weather which always messes up the bugling, and it did, and the hunting was slow. Good outfitters adapt, which is what they did and Cory arrowed a nice bull from a blind at a waterhole. Peter did not have a shooting opportunity.
Tim Grzesiak (Mosinee, WI) , Robert Alexejun (Wausau, WI) and Carl Johnson (Blue Mounds, WI) traveled to Alberta to Bowhunt Mule Deer with Eldon Hoff, owner of Deer Lodge Outfitting. They had some exciting stalks and all 3 bowhunters arrowed nice bucks.
Brian Park (Sandusky, MI), Jason Byler (Deltis, Colorado), Dallas Overholt (Deltis, Colorado), Don Rogalski (New London, WI), joined Gary Martin in Quebec on a Quebec-Labrador Caribou Bowhunt with Jack Hume Adventures. The hunt started slow, but the outfitter moved the group to another camp which improved the hunting significantly. They did not experience a massive migration, but a good steady trickle of animals and everyone shot decent bulls.
John Klatt (Luck, WI) and I drove to northeastern Montana to bowhunt Elk in the Missouri Breaks with Jack Billingsley Outfitters. We had a good hunt as John killed a nice P&Y 6x6 that should score around 275. I passed a decent 5x5, but I did not get a shot at one of the big bulls roaming the ranch. This is not the high-energy bugle hunt, but it’s very productive and success has always run over 50% - I was the only hunter (6 total) not to kill an elk in 2012.
Jeff Blomquist (Cumberland) and my son Travis Close (Bloomer, WI) and I drove to central Saskatchewan for our annual waterfowl hunt. We concentrate on snow geese and mallards and had some success during the week. Lots of birds this year, which always attracts more hunters, which it did, but we had another good trip.
Ray Rantala (Chaska, MN) hunted Mule Deer with Jack & Andie Billingsley, owners of Billingsley Ranch Outfitters in the Missouri Breaks of northeast Montana. Ray had a good time in camp, and had a couple opportunities at decent deer, but was unable to connect.
Jeff Hansen (Platteville, WI) traveled to northeastern Colorado to rifle hunt Mule Deer with Scott Limmer, owner of Comanche Wilderness Outfitters. This hunt requires 4 preference points, but is worth the wait, just ask Jeff. He shot a 198” Buck, which he said was the smallest of the bucks shot that week.
Statistically, for the most part, 2012 was a "solid" year for Close Encounters. 19 of the 23 North American hunters filled tags, and shot 24 animals total. Our 9 hunters we sent to Africa shot 47 animals, over 5 animals per person, with most hunting 7 days.
We sent a large crop of hunters to Africa this year, and the results were (once again) outstanding! Dries’ main camp / concession in South Africa (Citidel) is one of the best hunting areas I’ve ever seen, which is a big reason for consistent success. I enjoyed Namibia. It’s a more rural, “wild” version of South Africa, with good numbers of game animals roaming freely. Dries’ lodge and concession in Namibia are 1st class as I expected, but there is not yet the number, and variety of trophies that they offer in the Citidel. Good Gemsbok and plenty of them, along with Black Wildebeest and Eland, and certainly huntable populations of a handful of others.
The elk hunts went well, given the type of hunt and weather we experienced this fall. I was particularly happy with Jack Billingsley’s hunt. We had a nice comfortable camp within easy striking distance of the elk, and they consistently do well on nice mature (300+) bulls.
We’ve had bad luck with caribou outfitters thru the years, but it looks like we are settling in on what we believe is the best in Quebec. Good equipment, and personal, and they actually move you when needed to be moved.
The biggest downer of the year was our Antelope, as they are not producing at the level they did 6-8 years ago. We did fine statistically – 7 of 9 guys shot bucks, but hunters are getting far less chances and taking smaller animals. We like our outfitter and he’s always run a good hunt at a great value, but now we’re moving our hunters into Wyoming.
Good hunting - Tom Close
Dave Olson, owner of Big Rivers Insurance (Menomonie, WI) and Mike Bjelland (Cumberland, WI) joined me in central Missouri hunting spring snow geese with Tony Vandemore, owner of Habitat Flats. The 1st couple days were tough hunting, as a major spring snow storm drove the birds south, and after we re-located into more birds, dense fog rolled in to spoil that day. We had a nice clear day on the last day, and shot over 50 birds. Habitat Flats are the best I can find for spring snows.
Tim Gazeiak and son Andrew (Mosinee, WI) were joined by Robert Alexejun and son Bryan (Wausau, WI) on a father-son antelope bowhunt in Montana with Powder River Outfitters. Tim had purchased Andrew’s hunt, donated by Powder River Outfitters / Close Encounters at the Central WI Chapter SCI in March of 2010. It was a tough week of hunting, as the weather was poor, but by all accounts, the guys had a great hunt. If I recall, the boys did the shooting, the dads did the smiling. After the smoke cleared, Andrew tagged a nice Buck.
Rick Timm and son Gregg, (Oakdale, MN) were in camp for the 1st week of the season as well. Rick had purchased Greg’s hunt at the Northcountry Bowhunters Chapter SCI (donated by Powder River / Close Encounters) fundraiser banquet in February of last year. They had a ball together and although Greg did not tag a buck, he had several (4) shot opportunities.
Brian Graham (Racine, WI) and Al Jeske (Racine, WI) arrived into Powder River Outfitter’s camp for the 2nd week of the antelope archery season. The weather improved (hot and dry), and so did the hunting. The guys had a great hunt and tagged 2 good P&Y Bucks.
Glenn Helgland (owner of Target Communications – Deer & Turkey Expo in Madison) went to South Africa to bowhunt plains game with Dries Visser Safaris. Glenn had a great time and shot 7 animals, including a kudu, gemsbok, black wildebeest, impala, warthog, blue wildebeest and a waterbuck.
Wayne Wagner, and wife Darlene (Fredonia, WI) were joined by Wayne’s brother Tom Wagner (Kewaskum, WI) in Montana to bowhunt antelope with Powder River Outfitters. The Wagners had fun and tagged 2 nice bucks. Our antelope archery season in Montana finished strong as Craig Stinebrink, (Hillpoint, WI) and his brother Mark Stinebrink (Lake Geneva, WI) both shot nice bucks with Powder River Outfitters.
John Klatt (Luck, WI) and Mark Monson (Clear Lake, WI) were sent to Montana to bowhunt elk with Jack and Andie Billingsley, owners of Jack Billingsley Ranch Outfitting. The guys had a good hunt, as they saw lots of elk on this private land hunt in the Missouri Breaks near Glasgow. They both had good shots at nice bulls, but came up empty on the bulls. John tagged a big cow and is rebooked to hunt with me this fall.
Mike Krieg (McGregor, IA), Jason Hurda (Eastman, WI), Royce Walters (Prairie Du Chien, WI) and John Bunders (Prairie Du Chien, WI), packed into Colorado’s unit 19 wilderness to bowhunt elk out of a drop camp with Scott Limmer, owner of Comanche Wilderness Outfitters. The guys had a good hunt, and although they didn’t see many big bulls, they saw lots of decent bulls. Several shots, a few passed cows, a blood trail, but no tagged elk.
Bruce Gustafson (Luck, WI) and son-in-law Matt Parks (Luck, WI) hunted elk with Point Blank Hunts in New Mexico. Bruce and Matt had a good hunt, and they both had chances at nice bulls. Matt killed a nice 5x6 with his muzzleloader.
Ray Rantala, (Chaska, MN), hunted antelope with his rifle near Gillette, with Doug Miller, owner of Doug Miller Outfitting, and had a good hunt and killed a respectable buck.
Aaron Lamers hunted brown bear with his bow in Southeast Alaska with Larry Benda, owner of Alaska Fair Chase Guiding. Aaron had a great hunt and killed a bear over 8 ½ ft. This hunt continues to produce good bears consistently for our clients.
Steve Neuberger (Kingsman, AZ) traveled into the Pink Mountains of British Columbia, where he hunted wild bison with Mountain View Outfitters. Steve shot a nice old bull with his bow, an easy P&Y qualifier. Melinda Goguen (Whitefish, MT) was our 2nd wild bison hunter of the year, and like Steve, we sent her to the Pink Mountains with Mountain View Outfitters. She shot another old bull, and all the action captured on film, as the entire hunt was filmed by a professional videographer.
Statistically, 2011 was a “quiet year” for Close Encounters, as we did not send the typical volume of hunters to the field. Most our guys that hunted in 2011 booked their hunts in 2010 or even earlier, when economic conditions were a bit dicey. We’ve seen a rebound in the bookings in 2011, with most of those hunts scheduled for 2012, and we’re expecting big things this year.
We ended the season with 21 North American big game hunters tagging 11 animals, for a 52% success ratio. The antelope hunting was down this year, especially the early hunts, but as the season progressed the hunting improved dramatically. Opportunity rates were high, but hunters must expect to sit longer to see game and not be as picky as it was 4-5 years ago. Our outfitter does fine, but the numbers are down due to a series of harsh winters. Assuming our warm weather continues, winter loss and stress should be minimal, and we can look forward to a great fawn & adult buck crop. We’ve got a couple of these hunts specific to youth donated again this year. This is a great hunt to take kids as its relatively active, reasonably priced and the season starts in mid-August, before school starts.
Our elk hunting was a bit of a disappointment this year from a net productivity perspective, but for the most part, I was happy with the hunts. Our outfitters held up their end of the bargain, but for whatever reason, good polished hunters had a number of misses this year.
We sent only 1 hunter to Africa this year, but he did well and shot 7 real nice animals, about what we expect from a 10-day bowhunt with Dries Visser Safaris.
The spring snow goose hunting was good, something I plan to do every spring from now on. We had offered 2 styles of hunts with 2 different outfitters. I still consider our top-end hunt as “Best in Class”, but we’re looking to replace our entry level hunt as performance was below my expectations.
In closing, once again, I want to thank the “Class of 2011”.
Good hunting - Tom Close
Jim Wonzell (Wisconsin Rapids, WI) was our 1st sheep hunter of the year, as Jim went to Carmen Island, in Mexico, to bowhunt desert bighorn sheep with Sergio Jimenez, and the rest of the gang at Mexico Hunts. Jim had a great hunt and killed a beautiful old ram with his bow. Congrats to Jim as this completes his grand slam with a bow. Jim has only a handful of species to finish the “Super Slam” with a bow - pretty cool stuff.
Nathan Andersohn (Westminster, CO) flew into Faribanks to bowhunt interior grizzlies with Stan Parkerson, owner of Denali Hunts. Stan runs the only bow only outfit that we know of in Alaska, and does a nice job. Nathan had a really good hunt, as they saw in excess of 20 bears during their 10 days of hunting. Many of those bears were non-shooters, sows, cubs and immature boars, but they saw a few shooters too. Nathan had his chance on a good bear, but a grizzly at 20 yards can do some interesting things to a guys’ mo-jo, just ask Nathan. He missed, but will re-book.
Curt Bruns and son Jack (River Falls, WI) joined Al Bartz, and wife Dawn, owners of Scenic Taxidermy (Altura, MN) in South Africa, bowhunting plains game with Dries Visser Safaris. The hunters shot well and kept the skinners busy, shooting 15 dandy trophies during their 8-day bowhunt. Curt and Jack hunted together out of the same blind, which made for a pretty effective team, as Curt shot 5 animals - a kudu, gemsbok, zebra, impala and a blue wildebeest, and Jack shot 3 – a kudu, zebra and a blue wildebeest. Al Bartz had good luck too, and sent 7 animals to the salt – a mountain reedbuck, bushbuck, zebra, black wildebeest, gemsbok, nyala and a sable.
Gary Martin (Close Encounters Hunting Consultant) traveled to California to bowhunt tule elk with Twisslemann Outfitters. Gary shot a really good bull, a nice 6x6, that will easily qualify for P&Y. The Pope & Young Club just recently added the tule elk to their list of officially recognized North American Big Game species, and now Gary has all 29.
Steve Doroughty (winner of the Close Encounters / Powder River donation to the Lake Superior Chapter SCI) and Steve Gentry (Plain View, MN) drove to Southeast Montana to bowhunt antelope with Ken Greslin, owner of Powder River Outfitters. The guys had a good hunt and each of them tagged good bucks.
Allyn Ladd traveled to Oregon to bowhunt Columbian blacktail deer with Jim & Tinamarie Schaafson, owner of Arrow-5 Outfitters. Allyn had a good hunt, saw lots of deer, and arrowed a good P&Y buck after an exciting spot and stalk.
Mark Ketter and his wife Tana (Adell,WI) were accompanied by brother-in-law Dan Trapp (St. Cloud, WI) in Namibia bowhunting plains game with Dries Visser Safaris. They had a great trip and shot 9 animals. Mark shot a blesbok, red hartebeest, gemsbok, and a porcupine, and Dan shot a kudu, impala, springbok, black wildebeest and a gemsbok. They spent a little time at Etosha National Park, which they really enjoyed.
Bill Criego (Prior Lake, MN) and Bruce Robb (Fort Myers, FL) hunted elk in Colorado’s unit 20 with Scott Limmer, owner of Comanche Wilderness Outfitters. They had a great hunt and killed 2 mature bulls with their muzzleloader. Bill’s bull scored over 340”. This is a draw zone, but Scott can get landowner vouchers, which he did for the guys.
Brian Pedersen (Tomah, WI) and Kurt Rutlin (Warrens,WI) flew into Wasilla, Alaska for a rifle moose hunt out of a drop–camp with Bob Jewet, owner of Top Gun Treks. They had a good hunt, as both killed good bulls, but the hunt was tarnished with a little bad luck. Brian’s moose was not recovered immediately, and a Grizzly consumed or wrecked all the meat. Alaska does not allow you to fly out the antlers unless the edible meat is flown out too, so Brian could not bring his antlers home.
Barry Wickstrom (Cumberland, WI) and I drove to Southwest New Mexico to bowhunt Elk with Joe Jacab, owner of Point Blank Hunts. Barry and I had a lot of fun, and had a good hunt, passing shooting opportunities on 5 different rag-horn bulls. We saw trophy bulls regularly, but couldn’t close the deal. We hunted the 1st week of September because it was easier to draw, and had a pretty good hunt, but when I return, I’ll try to draw 3rd archery season, when you can expect better bugling.
Dave Smeltzer (Stevens Point, WI) flew into South Africa for a bit of a mixed-bag hunt with Dries Visser Safaris. Dave only hunted 7 days, but was busy, shooting 7 different animals. He collected a baboon, civet cat, jackal, caracal, white blesbok, waterbuck and a mountain reedbuck. By all accounts, Dave had a great time, and is currently planning a return trip with his son Nick in 2011.
Chuck Brewer (Golden, CO) was our 2nd desert bighorn sheep hunter of the year, traveling south into Mexico to bowhunt Carman Island with Sergio, owner of Mexico Hunts. This is just a great place to hunt sheep and Chuck got’R done, killing a beautiful ram with his bow. Congrats to Chuck, who, like Jim Wonzell mentioned above, finished his grand slam.
Gary Martin killed a nice whitetail buck with his bow on his land near Crivitz, Wisconsin. Gary’s Buck, a nice 2&1/2 yr old, is a real trophy in that hard-hunted neighborhood.
Jamie Grupe (Hudson, WI) flew into New Mexico to hunt elk with Joe Jacab, owner of Point Blank Hunts. Jamie only had 3 days to hunt due to a busy work schedule, and was not able to get a shot with his muzzleloader, but he had a good fun hunt.
My son Travis slipped out of school for a “long” weekend and joined Jeff Blomquist, Mike Bjelland, and Eric Butzler (all of Cumberland, WI) and I in Saskatchewan on our annual DYI waterfowl hunt. The Snows had a good hatch, which generally means good shooting in the fall, and it was. The highlight of the trip was a 100-bird limit of snows in less than an hour.
Gary Martin drew a desert bighorn tag in Nevada, and when Gary draws a tag, critters tend to bleed. Gary had a great hunt with Nevada High Ridge Outfitters and arrowed a really nice Ram on the 5th day. I believe this was Gary’s 5th ram, and 2nd desert bighorn.
My son Travis was home again from school to join my daughter Ashley for Wisconsin’s grand carnival – Deer (rifle) opener. For us, it’s more of a deer viewing season, as we practice quality deer management and see precious few adult bucks, but this was a different year. Ashley shot a nice 3 yr old 10-pointer around 9am after passing 2 smaller bucks. I shot another 3 yr old (8 pt) after passing 2 more bucks from the same stand about an hour later – we sit together. Travis shot a (2 yr old) 8-point by accident, one we should have passed, while tracking Ashley’s deer. We were tagged out and in the tavern eating pizza just after noon on opening day.
Gene Cesafsky (Fall Creek, WI) and nephew John Cesafsky (Lynchburg, VA) and I went to Atkins, NE to hunt bison with Tim and Wayne Braun, owner of B&B Trophy Bison hunts. The Braun’s run a nice preserve, with a good selection of animals. Gene shot the biggest bull on the ranch, a monster of a bull – over 1700 lbs. John got into the action too, and shot a really nice sika stag. I was the designated driver and did not bring my bow, or I would have something too, no doubt.
Statistically, 2010 was a good year for Close Encounters. We certainly didn’t send our typical pre-recession number of hunters into the field, but 30 hunters and 3 non-hunting observers is a decent year, far better than 2009. We ended the season with 16 North American big game hunters tagging 12 animals, for a 75% kill ratio. We all know hunting is hunting, and in most cases, there are no guarantees, but let’s face it, we are not booking camping trips, success (filled tags) is very important and 75% is pretty good. I’m really proud of this statistic and I’m especially thankful to our well-prepared, hard-working guides, outfitters and hunters.
The antelope bowhunting was good again this year, and certainly Ken’s success improved over 2009, so we’ll be promoting that hunt more aggressively moving forward. This hunt is priced right, generally good action, and the season starts in mid-August, all good reasons to take kids.
Scott Limmer’s unit 20 elk hunt is rock-solid and he did it again for us this year. Scott’s a really good outfitter with good ground to hunt. They kill a lot of good bulls every year, and I’m glad a couple of our guys got in on it.
Stan Parkerson’s grizzly bowhunt is yet another great hunt, and no longer a sleeper. The word’s out and it’s booking fast.
The 7 hunters we sent to Africa killed 31 animals, which is typical for Dries’ clients. There were a few top-end trophies, but Al’s sable has to be the highlight of the season. We’re just getting started in Namibia, as Dries has expanded his operation from South Africa into Namibia and the results were good. Dries Jr has built a new lodge and he’s moving his family and headquarters to Namibia this winter. They will continue their 1st class operation in South Africa, as they have a good experienced crew with a well-established game plan. Dries can focus on developing Namibia, which is a little cheaper, and different than South Africa.
The spring snow goose hunting was okay, but not great as expected. We had offered 2 styles of hunts with 2 different outfitters. I still consider our top-end hunt as “Best in Class”, but we’re looking to replace our entry level hunt as performance was below my expectations.
In closing, once again, I want to thank the “Class of 2010”. To all of our clients and outfitters, without you guys and gals, there is no “Close Encounters”.
Good hunting - Tom Close
Our season started out with a bang, as Jim Gabrick (Fountain City, WI) killed a monster grizzly with his bow while hunting with Stan Parkerson, owner of Denali Hunts. Jim and Stan were hunting in the Brooks Range of Alaska, somewhere between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay. Denali Hunts caters exclusively to bowhunters, and they do a great job. Stan has been 100% on grizzlies the last 3 years.
Close Encounters Hunting Consultant, Gary Martin (Union Grove, WI), Gary’s friends, Aaron Lamers (Racine, WI), Mike Lamers (Racine, WI), Dale Olesen (Franksville, WI), Ralph Malicki (Franksville, WI), Jason Campbell (Union Grove, WI) were in Powder River Outfitters’ camp for Montana’s archery antelope opener. The hunting was very slow, with only a handful of shots, and one buck that was tagged. Jason shot a nice P&Y. There were far fewer animals in Powder River’s hunting area for the 1st week, and the weather was miserable, with rain showers almost every day. This was the worst week we’ve ever had, but the guys were happy and most are re-booking for 2010.
Don Nelson (Union Grove, WI), Keith Elliott (Franksville, WI), and Kevin Bushberger (Wind Lake, WI) arrived in Broadus the day after Gary’s group left for home, just as the weather straightened out. They had a couple of good hot, dry hunting days and whacked 3 nice bucks, one of which was un-recovered.
Dan Ellyson (Co-owner of A1 Archery – Hudson, WI), Bob Zabrowski (River Falls, WI), Tom Link (Cottage Grove, MN), Dave Skattet (Hudson, WI), John Klatt (Luck, WI), and John’s son Mitchell Klatt (Luck, WI) started their hunt as Don, Keith and Kevin were leaving. The antelope were scarce by normal standards, and wet, windy weather certainly didn’t help, but this group hunted hard and tagged 4 nice bucks.
The antelope found their way back into the area, and the weather improved for Joe Bell (Siren, WI) and Jim Grove (Webster, WI) when they arrived into Powder River’s camp on the 2nd. They had fun and good hunting, as they both had shots at nice antelope. Unfortunately, only Joe tagged a buck.
Eric and wife, Brook Burling (Wisconsin Rapids, WI) were the last of our Powder River antelope hunters for 2009, arriving into camp on the 6th. They had good, (typical) hot and dry weather, and found good numbers of antelope. They had a great hunt, tagging 2 nice bucks.
Lee Seeley (Minneapolis, MN) and Scott Johnson (Ham Lake, MN) traveled to western Alberta to bowhunt Canadian Moose with Eric Rauhanen, owner of Silver Fox Outfitters. This year’s moose hunt was a disappointment for several reasons, and neither bowhunter was able to tag a bull.
Tim Cotton (Hudson, WI), Leon Spencer (Stillwater, MN), and I hunted Whitetails on a farm in northern Missouri. We were scouting the farm, as the owner, a good friend of mine, was interested in doing a little outfitting. Wet, windy and then hot weather is not what we had in mind. The area was loaded with sign, but we didn’t harm so much as a mouse.
Gary Martin (Close Encounters Hunting Consultant) drew an Iowa tag, and hunted with an outfitter we had been researching. Gary had an exciting hunt, with several Close Encounters with real stud whitetails, but filled his tag with a decent buck on the last day.
Travis Close was home from college for a couple days of Wisconsin Gun hunting and was able to put the whack on a nice, 3 ½ yr old - 10. Our gun season was quiet, about the same as last year, nothing like we had 3-5 years ago.
As we all know, 2009 was a year not soon forgotten, and many of us are still trying to recover from the economic woes. Statistically, 2009 was a hard nut to swallow. We sent about a third as many hunters to the field in 2009 as a normal year, and THANKS to each and every one of them!
We ended the season with 26 hunters tagging 12 animals – 46%. Jim Gabrick’s monster grizzly was certainly the highlight of our season. This was the 1st year in a long time, perhaps since I started (1997), that we did not send a hunter to Africa or New Zealand.
The antelope hunting in Southeast Montana was tough again this year. Much like last year, Southeast Montana experienced far more rain in August than usual, which made for tough hunting. The animals were very difficult to locate those 1st few weeks of the season, which frustrated hunters and guides alike. They materialized again once the weather straightened out, and most all of the hunters in the last 2 weeks killed nice bucks, and all had shots. We’ve promoted the 1st couple weeks of the season, but looking forward, we’ll recommend hunters think serious about early September, as the hunting has been more consistent. Thanks to a rather hard-hunting group of bowhunters we ended up with 10 nice bucks out of 20 hunters, with an opportunity (shot) rate of around 80%. This is a great hunt, and normally hunters can expect to pass several mediocre animals with shooting opportunities on solid P&Y Bucks.
In closing, I want to thank our “Class of 2009” – all of our clients and all the outfitters.
Good Hunting - Tom Close
Leon Spencer (Stillwater, MN) flew into High Level Alberta for his 2nd black bear bow hunt with Silver Fox outfitters. Leon is an accomplished bowhunter, but had the worst of luck, wounding and losing two good bears on this trip.
Don Rogalsksi (owner of the Bowhunter Shop in Black Creek, WI), and his son Sgt. Robert Rogalski (Rapid City, SD) traveled to High Level, Alberta the last week of May for their 3rd annual black bear bow hunt with Eric Rauhanen, owner of Silver Fox Outfitters. The Rogalski’s had another great hunt, tagging 3 more big bears.
Paul, (Co-owner of A1 Archery in Hudson, WI), Stewart and Billie-Jo Korn, Dan (Co-owner of A1 Archery in Hudson, WI), and Keely Ellyson (Hudson, WI) Bob and Linda Zabrowski (River Falls, WI), Jimmy and Jane Primos (Primos Calls), Bruce and son Seth Hudalla (Perm, MN) all traveled to South Africa in search of plains game with their bows. They were hosted by my friends, Stef and Lenett Swanepoel, owners of Numzaan Safaris. By all accounts this group had a great trip, sending 54 animals to the taxidermist. The highlights of the trip would include Keely Ellyson whacking her 1st animal ever – a Nyala that should score top-10 for women archers. Not a bad start. The boys followed her lead with a bunch of good animals. The group did well on Kudu, as everyone who wanted one took good bulls. Jimmy Primos actually shot 2 the same afternoon. The 1st one was a nice bull, but the 2nd was very nice, and both were over 50 inches. Stewart Korn, the youngest of the group (8) shot a nice red hartebeest. This was not Stew’s 1st critter, and certainly not the last.
Paul shot a beautiful giraffe, and the Hudalla’s created a few blood trails themselves.
Mark Fagerland (Somerset, WI) and Leon Spencer (Stillwater, MN), and Dennis and Mary Johnson (Madison, WI) traveled to South Africa to bow hunt plains game with Danie VanJaarsveld, owner of Thabazimbi Bushveld Safaris. The group had a great hunt, and shot 15 animals while in camp.
Dennis was hunting Africa for the 1st time and led the way with 6 animals. The highlight for Dennis was a 56 inch kudu. Leon and Mark making their 6th and 4th trip respectively, had a hard time finding stuff that they hadn’t killed already. Leon did shoot a nice Gemsbok.
Dave Wendel (Eau Claire, WI) was our 1st antelope hunter of the 2007 season. We sent Dave to hunt with Ken Greslin, owner of Powder River Outfitter. Dave arrived on August 15th to tough conditions as Southeast Montana was hit hard with late summer rains, but he was able to capitalize on limited opportunities and tagged a nice 14” Buck.
Gary Kilmer (Fond Du Lac, WI) arrived at Powder River’s camp shortly after Dave left and found more rain and less antelope. Gary is a good hunter, and hunted hard, but did not get a shot.
Randy St. Ores (Hudson, WI) found the conditions a little better on the 20th of August and shot a nice buck on his 3rd day of hunting.
Wade Johnson (Minneapolis, MN), Peter Beenen (St. Paul, MN), and Jared Mertes (Savage, MN) were our last antelope hunters of the season, arriving into Powder River’s camp on the 8th of September. The weather had begun to normalize, and so did the hunting. The guys shot 3 nice bucks, and were pleased with the hunt. Wade had won the hunt (Donated by Close Encounters / Powder River Outfitters) at the auction during the FNAWs banquet in 2007.
Steve Baaken, (Hudson, WI) took his two sons, Andy, and Eric to the Brooks Range of Alaska to hunt caribou with Joe Miller, owner of Alaska Statewide Guides. The Baakens were guided by my friend Paul Korn (Baldwin, WI) and had a great time, tagging 5 bulls. Andy tagged the biggest, a bull that would score over 350.
We sent Ryan Holt (Westby, WI), Jim Ekern (Viroqua, WI) and Todd Spaeth (Viroqua, WI) to British Columbia to hunt elk with Tim and Ozzie Faers, owners of Shadow Mountain Outfitters. This is an early season rifle hunt right in the middle of the rut. The hunters did well, as Jim and Todd each tagged 6x7 bulls that scored over 300. Ryan hit and lost a big bull the 1st night, losing it to a local hunter – “Grizzly”.
Gary Martin (Union Grove, WI), Glenn Klomsten (Trem, WI) Correy Feyen, Daryl (TX) John MacPeak (TX), Eugene Drinkman (Clear Lake, WI) rallied in Montreal for our Quebec labrador caribou hunt with Tuttulik outfitters. The winds blew in excess of 60 mph for 2 days and shut down the airport. Tuttulik offered to reschedule (08 of 09) at no charge or fly into camp for an abbreviated hunt. Glen, Correy and I neglected logic and went hunting, while the others flew home and will return. We arrived into camp for tough hunting, but we each arrowed nice bulls.
Gary Martin (Close Encounters Hunting Consultant) took his 28th North American big game animal, his 26th with a bow, when he arrowed a desert bighorn in Mexico. Completion of the super slam, coined by Chuck Adams, is really one of the most difficult goals to achieve. It requires pure dedication to archery, a good deal of time and cash, a good booking agent, and razor sharp skills.
I arrived in Edmonton for the Thanksgiving week to hunt big whitetails in the Edmonton bow zone with Jim Hole Jr, owner of Classic Outfitters. We had a slow week by Jim’s standards, and I did not arrow a deer. I saw lots of deer, several over 150", one of which was a mega-hog between 180 - 200 inches. Everyone saw big bucks, and 3 of the 10 hunters tagged good deer. The smallest was 138 and the biggest grossed 178.
Statistically, 2007 was another pretty good year. We sent 32 hunters and 8 non-hunting observers into the field, and ended the season with 87 animals. The (9) African hunters killed 65 animals, or just a tad over 7 animals per hunter and the (22) North American clients shot another 19 animals, or 86% success. Our African plains game bow and rifle hunting outfitters continue to produce world-class hunting at a great value and is the bread and butter to our business. I have good outfitters, the clients always come home happy, and re-book I’m booked for my 4th trip to South Africa in August of 2008.
The antelope hunting was a disappointment this year. It rained every week of the season, which is rare, but guaranteed to wreck the hunting. Thanks to a great area, and good shooting our (6) bowhunters ended up with 5 nice bucks, in spite of the poor conditions. This is a great hunt, and normally hunters can pass several animals as you wait on shooting a solid P&Y buck. Next year should be awesome.
We added a new Quebec labrador caribou hunt and I was very pleased with the outfitter, his camp, his personnel, and the area. Caribou are one of our core species and I am really excited to have this outfit.
In closing, I want to thank the “Class of 2007” – the hard working, ethical outdoorsman that we sent to our outfitters. I also want to thank our outfitters. We currently work with 32 different outfitters, Africans, Russians, Canadians, you name it. We all speak with some sort of accent, but we all love to hunt.
Good Hunting - Tom Close