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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


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Bison roaming field near Sycamore

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................February 21, 2012

“Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam” is the familiar lead verse to “Home on the Range,” but to be accurate it should be bison, not buffalo.

I got educated in the terminology when visiting the new bison ranch Elliott and Sons Bison, where Joe Elliott represents the sixth generation of Elliotts to own the land. He and his father, Keith, decided a year ago to go into the bison breeding and meat business, and now they have a herd of about 30-40 in their field along Old State Road east of Sycamore. I drove the two miles out there last week and was pleasantly surprised to see the bison grazing, reminding me of trips to Starved Rock long ago where I got my first close look at beasts such as these.

To be technically correct, they are called bison; the name buffalo is more appropriate to describe the water buffalo, Joe Elliott said, even though the early explorers of the West referred to them as buffalo. They are romantically portrayed in many western movies, roaming the plains in herds of thousands, and were used as a staple by Native Americans who hunted them and used everything

Joe (left) and Keith Elliott stand near a couple of bison bulls at their Sycamore bison ranch.
Somewhere out west...

from their horns and hides to meat and bones. Then came the arrival of the railroads, and the white hunters almost drove them to extinction in the late 1800s.

Elliott shared information from the American Bison Association, which reveals the resurgence of raising bison as a lean, iron rich meat for health-conscious consumers. A 2007 Department of Agriculture census listed 198,000 head nationwide, plus another 25,000 bison on public lands in protected areas.

He showed us three of the larger bulls they had in a pen near the house, and I asked whether he would step inside the fence for me to take a photo. He reminded me that these are not domesticated animals and have to be treated with caution. Like lions and elephants, these 1,400-pound animals are wild and not pets.

The Elliotts feed their herd natural grasses and hay. He explained mothers can deliver a calf every spring, and it weighs 40-50 pounds at birth. A calf is usually on its feet and following the mother in just a couple of hours The Elliotts’ main intent is to raise the animals for meat. They process the animals at a plant in Eureka and take the packaged meat to local supermarkets and restaurants. Their website lists ground bison at $8 a pound, bison brats and dogs at $9.50 a pound and filet mignon at $19 a pound. Joe said he is thinking about preserving the hides, mounting heads and horns and even preserving the skulls, which are used as art objects.

So if you recall those old movies and want to see the magnificent beasts up close, give the Elliotts a call at 815-764-1838 or visit www.elliottbison.com for more information.

By the way, I found out Keith Elliott’s father was Ken Elliott of Elliott Motors in Sycamore, and his brother was the late Cliff Elliott, who was my philatelic mentor in my teen years. He used to share his stamp-collecting interest with me and once drove me to Freeport for the centennial celebration of the Lincoln-Douglas debate there. We each got a first day cover signed by prominent Illinois politicians, and I still have mine.

The last time I saw Cliff was at a Sycamore Steam Show & Threshing Bee back in the 1990s where he always provided the sound system. What fond memories of my days as a stamp collector.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115