2017-10-12 / Outdoors

Outfitter to offer sporting clays, guided trips at game bird preserve

By Jay Bushen
Sports Editor


TONY WEST, left, and Chris Butz load up the truck after a day out with the dogs. Butz recently launched Gill’s Pier Outfitters with the intent of exposing clients to the shooting, hunting and fishing opportunities on the peninsula. TONY WEST, left, and Chris Butz load up the truck after a day out with the dogs. Butz recently launched Gill’s Pier Outfitters with the intent of exposing clients to the shooting, hunting and fishing opportunities on the peninsula. Chris Butz launched a new business in late 2016 with hopes of connecting clients to the outdoor opportunities available in Leelanau County — and he plans to do just that on a 120-acre game bird preserve on Hoxie Road.

Butz, who owns Gill’s Pier Ranch near Leland, said the Michigan Department of Natural Resources approved the preserve in February and that he expects to offer everything from sporting clays to upland grouse and woodcock hunts within about a month. The business, Gill’s Pier Outfitters, is a new and improved version of Soul Fish Outfitters, which he shut down in 2015.

“We’ve been trying to put this idea together over the last few years,” Butz said. “We’re trying to launch it alongside the ranch and try to tie it into our agritourism offerings. Not doing much fishing right now — that’s really something that we’re looking to develop more next year out on the big water, out on the flats, chasing smallmouth and carp. Right now, we’re doing a ton of gun dog training and sporting clays.”


CHRIS BUTZ hopes to have a kennel approved off of Kolarik Road to use for bespoke gun dog training later this winter. CHRIS BUTZ hopes to have a kennel approved off of Kolarik Road to use for bespoke gun dog training later this winter. The property, which is located just south of Cedar, is the only game bird preserve in the county.

Local sportsmen and their dogs will no longer have to make a trip to Antrim or Wexford county to hunt planted birds, he said.

“It brings an option for the outdoorsman in Leelanau County and gives him something closer to home,” Butz said. “For a guy who wants to have a place to train his dogs, it’s nice to be able to have birds put out and work on a specific aspect of training or just getting your dog ready for the season.”

The list of services under the Sporting Clays, Guided Trips, and Sporting Adventures tabs on the Gill’s Pier Outfitters website is extensive — but there’s even more on the horizon. Butz said he hopes to have a kennel approved off of Kolarik Road to use for bespoke gun dogs later this winter.

The move into the guided adventure market stems from what Butz saw as a lack of unique sporting experiences in Leelanau County.

“I’ve seen a lot of locals and summer residents who want a place to train their gun dog,” he said. “Most of them obviously hunt with their dog, but also we’re seeing summer people looking for a place up north. They want to hunt some birds on a preserve or shoot some clays. Being a past tournament competitor, I like to shoot some stuff that’s a little different, something that will simulate English driven bird or wingshooting. ... It’s a great opportunity all around for people to learn about what we do, enjoy the outdoors with our family and friends and get back to our roots, back to our heritage.”

The business ultimately gives Butz a chance to further his passion: being outdoors and bringing people with him.

To inquire about a trip or any of the Gill’s Pier Outfitters offerings, call 486-0531. Further information is available at gillspieroutfitters.com.

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