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Press Reports:

Sailor's Creek Outfitters offer history and hunting
By: Andy Thompson | Times-Dispatch | Published:September 04, 2011 

Hunting Guide Service Opens In Rice
by Mark Wagstaff, Ed. D.

Published in:
The Farmville Herald, Farmville, VA
Wednesday , January 28, 2009

Chris is living his dream. Raised in Farmville, Virginia, Chris McClellan was a self- taught outdoor enthusiast with a passion for hunting. He relied on gracious local farmers and like-minded friends to access the productive hunting grounds of central Virginia. Proficient with shotgun, rifle, or bow, Chris consistently stocked his mom’s freezer with venison, wild turkey, deer, dove, duck, goose, rabbit, and squirrel. He spent countless hours of his youth roaming rural areas of Prince Edward County perfecting his art. I’ll never forget when I first met Chris. He enrolled as a Recreation, Parks, and Tourism major concentrating in outdoor recreation at Radford University. He would straggle into my 9 a.m., fresh off his deer stand. Wearing his signature “camo” outfit complimented by a full head of thick, black disheveled hair topped with a well-worn ball cap, he sat quietly in class, appearing detached, contemplating his kill that morning or the big one that got away. The uninitiated would assume that Chris represented the classic disinterested pupil seeking a quick degree before getting on with more important things. This could not be further from the truth.

Chris had a dream. He aspired to be a professional hunting guide. When he publicly shared this in class, my immediate, unspoken thought was, “Good luck my friend. Get in line with the rest of your idyllic hook and bullet buddies because it’s a tough business for a select few.” Most are unaware that many young men and women of southwest and central Virginia share Chris’s dream. Growing up in environments where hunting is a social tradition, young people develop related passions that form future visions. As I got to know and appreciate Chris’s determination, I realized he was not going to let go of his desire. He used coursework and assignments to build upon his foundation. He obtained an internship with a well-know outfitter in the New River Valley. He guided world-class smallmouth fishing trips down the New River and made sure customers bagged their duck and goose limits on fall float trips.

Chris graduated in 2007 and headed west of the Mississippi to study the ways of the big game outfitters. He was an apt student with an agenda. A year later, Chris stood at my office door and dropped a glossy brochure in my hand. I could hardly believe my eyes. “Sailor’s Creek Outfitters – Guided Hunts – Deer, Turkey, Dove – Your premier hunting outfitter in central Virginia.” He had done it!  Chris is now the manager and head guide of Sailor’s Creek Outfitters.

It’s a business endeavor he shares with Jimmy Garnett, a local farmer and landowner in Rice, Virginia, who knew of Chris and of his dream. At the age of 60, Jimmy epitomized the plight of the American farmer. Struggling to survive the changes in the tobacco industry and the small returns of dairy farming, he and his family searched for new and interesting ways to utilize his 3,200-acre farm. He asked Chris for a business plan. Chris eagerly produced the document, and a partnership was born. 

Chris and the Garnett family are diligently preparing to officially open their doors for the 2009 spring gobbler season. As his old professor and friend, Chris invited me to check out the operation this past December. He tempted me with bait that a few coveys of wild quail roamed the farm’s cutovers. A sucker for the chance to chase wild quail, I graciously accepted. Armed with my shotgun, two setters, and my deer rifle, I showed up at the Sailor’s Creek hunting lodge just eight miles east of Farmville. It was three days before Christmas, and a cold front followed me to the door from Radford. The lodge, an old cabin built in the 1700s, is being refurbished to house as many as eight guests at once. Three wood stoves kept the old wooden structure toasty despite the frigid temperatures

Upon my arrival, a hot bowl of venison chili prepared by Chris awaited me. I quickly ate, wanting to take full advantage of the short day. I walked the promised cutovers accompanied by my two Lewellen setters. Instead of quail, deer erupted from the brush like the coveys I sought. I could not believe the number of deer and turkey streaming out of the gullies and briars in an attempt to elude my dogs. I did manage to find a small covey of six wild birds. In truth, I didn’t have the stomach to take a shot at these precious birds on the verge of disappearance. (The demise of Virginia’s bobwhite population is another story to be told another time.) That evening, Chris took me to one of his favorite deer stands and instructed me to take only deer scoring eight points or more and any doe that strolled into range. The farm is being systematically managed for a healthy deer population and, of course, trophy bucks.

I settled down in my 15-foot perch overlooking an open pasture surrounded by the great hardwoods dispersed throughout the area. The pasture extended to a point that would require a 300-yard shot if the situation presented itself. Not long after my arrival, a regal four-point buck eased out of the woods 200 yards from my vantage point. His antlers spread wide beyond his ears as he cautiously entered the pasture. I enjoyed watching him graze peacefully in the orange glow of the setting sun and found my thoughts elsewhere.  I was soaking up the somewhat disturbing notion that some 143 years earlier, thousands of confederate and union soldiers fought and died in the now serene forest and farmland that surrounded me. Jimmy’s farm is planted firmly in the middle of General Lee’s famous retreat. It was Jimmy’s kinfolk that inhabited the Lockett House, just a half mile from my deer stand, and who relinquished their home as a field hospital after the battle of Sailor’s Creek. Jimmy and his wife, Sondra, are restoring the old Lockett House as their new residence and are ensuring that the bullet holes left in the wood siding are preserved. The quiet country road that traverses the Garnett farm is scattered with historical markers telling the tale of war. I watched my four pointer creep back into the forest at dark and was truly thankful to be spared the experience of my country’s bloody Civil War that took the lives of many.

Chris picked me up at dark, disappointed I was not waiting with a deer. I was happy to be out of the 18 degree temperatures and headed towards the supper table. Chris, exercising his culinary skills, prepared a delicious spread of grilled rib eyes fresh from the farm, green beans, baked potatoes, and salad. The whole Garnett family migrated over to the lodge that evening to have supper with me. We discussed trophy deer, farming, Civil War history, and the fact that Jimmy’s ancestors were originally awarded the land by King George. The entire family, including Chris, portrayed an optimistic attitude towards their new outfitting business. Of course, they wanted to hear my critical feedback on what needs to be done to ensure a successful business. I’m probably not the one to ask. Even though I’m a professional in the business of outdoor recreation and a former guide myself, I am a biased, proud teacher. The experience was fantastic. I experienced one of the few professional guiding services in central Virginia. I left with plenty of fresh venison thanks to Charles, Jimmy’s youngest son and guide-in-training. He shot a doe the morning I left and gifted me with plenty of meat for my smoked venison sausage. I can confidently say it was the best Christmas present bestowed upon myself in many years.

If you are looking for an adventure, if you want to experience Virginia wildlife, relive our nation’s history, or have a quality hunt, then contact Sailor’s Creek Outfitters.

They are open for business and can’t wait to serve you.
Contact Chris McClellan at:      Sailor’s Creek Outfitters     
Phone: 434-603-2803