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KC's Corner

Illinois Dream Hunt

Sat, October 29, 2011

While most of us are hitting the woods this weekend and watching the action heat up, another group of bowhunters are taking a weekend off from their favorite pastime. Oh, they’re still in the woods chasing deer. But they’ve put down their bows, and they’re guiding for a special group of kids at Sahara Woods in Southern IL.

This weekend marks the 9th annual IL Dream Hunt, a 3-day deer hunt for terminally ill and disabled kids hosted by the IDNR, United Special Sportsmen Alliance (USSA), and this dedicated group of guides and helpers, most of whom are members of Illinois Bowhunters Society (IBS).

Nine years ago USSA founder and CEO Brigid O’Donoghue approached IBS at the IL Deer Classic and asked if we’d be interested in serving as guides for a special group of kids. As luck would have it, IBS representative Jim McFarlane of Rockford took on the project and has turned it into an annual event that so many people look forward to every year. Jim’s passion for this hunt is truly special.

If you know Jim, you know how he gets when he takes on something like this. Jim organizes the roster of 12 hunters (from many different states), matches them up with 12 guides, and is the point person for communications on the hunt. He makes sure the guides contact the kids in advance to get to know them and their parents. He takes time off work to head down a day early to set up blinds and to tie up loose ends. Some kids are in wheelchairs. Many are weak from medical treatments, and Jim makes sure all their needs are met.

Most (maybe all) of the 12 volunteer guides return every year. Sahara Woods superintendent Eric McCluskey handles the permits, ground transportation, and the site prep. Accommodations are handled through a local church camp and local churches take care of preparing the food for the entire camp. The hunt is well-orchestrated and is truly a joy for these kids.

As of Friday night, 4 deer had been shot on this year’s hunt. Three does and a buck. A perfect weekend forecast will certainly allow for more before the hunt ends on Sunday. By then, this fine group of volunteers will have forged bonds with these kids that won’t be forgotten.

I’ll have more on this year’s hunt (hopefully some stories and pics) later this week when the guides return. But my hat’s off to these guys, and Jim, for all they do for these kids every year.


I was getting updates on friday as things were happining. I got the first text at 10am of the first deer down. I know the guides look forward too this event every year. I was hunting with a couple of them 2 weeks ago, many called the families they were guiding to just talk and see how they were doing and to make sure they were ready to come. The Dream Hunt is truely a great hunt for the kids(and the families). This hunt is just not for a kid but for the whole family.

My hat’s off to everyone!!! They do a great job and give the kids a true Dream Hunt!!!!

Posted by ilarcher on October 30

A great story and some great people! Individuals who take the time to prepare these hunts are the real heros. The Wells brothers,of Tazewell Co, ( and their friends ) who work all year making arrangements for the handicap hunts for Whitetail Unlimeted are of the same calber. People like these offer more to the image of hunting than any TV personality.

Posted by Marc Anthony on October 30

This is really cool.Wonder if H.O. could be apart of something like this????

Posted by WhitetailFreak on October 30

“People like these offer more to the image of hunting than any TV personality.”

Dead on Marc!

Posted by The Colonel on November 01

Thanks for the kind words Kevin.  We are lucky to have all the Illinois Bowhunters Society volunteers and dedicated DNR staff along with volunteer coordinators to handle the logistics of food and lodging to facilitate this multi-state hunter project.  Our goal is to have as many of our 12 Special Sportsmen travel from as close as practical to the Sahara Woods site and prioritize addressing our Illinois resident families.  This saves on expenses and allows United Special Sportsman Alliance (USSA) to best use their funding to get more children out in the woods.  USSA is trying to expand and have a State Rep in all states.  The Site Super’s coordination of blind placement and our Illinois DNR’s cooperation has made our state a model for others in the addressing of these special young hunters.  When I asked Brigid about how many families her not for profit USSA organization has served in the last decade she said “We have granted over 7,200 free wishes in 38 states to children, adults, and veterans with disabilities and life threatening illnesses”.  Our 12 hunters this year have come from 8 different states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, 4 kids from Illinois along with twins from Nebraska).  Their ages ranges from 9 to 19.

Posted by Jim McFarlane on November 04

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