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The Great Outdoors in Illinois

Mon, March 28, 2016

I have not written much on Heartland Outdoors the past few months.  Last November, I changed careers, opting back into the public education sector as a high school agriculture teacher.  The job opened up during the school year, and I have been hard at it just to keep my head above water.  As you probably are aware, one of the perks to being a teacher is spring break.  I am off of school this week and I chose to spend my Monday in the great outdoors.

I started off the day by going shed hunting.  Right off the bat, I noticed a small 3 point side laying around a sapling.  When I approached it, I discovered that it was a shed from last year.  Nevertheless, I was happy.  It was in decent shape, and I have not found very many antlers the past couple years.  About an hour later, I popped up over a hill and there in the wide open was a big antler.  I snapped a quick phone photo, then I admired it for a moment before approaching.  It turned out to also be a shed from last year.  The woods I was in is thick and I was very deep in the heart of it.  Not a single human soul had been in this small valley since last year, as this antler was pretty much in the wide open and nobody would have missed seeing it. Once I got to it and started examining, I quickly recognized it as a deer I had been after during the 2014 season.  I never saw any sign of it in 2015, but this shed indicates it was probably alive.  I am hopeful that it is still out there somewhere and that maybe I will have an encounter with it this fall.

If you look toward the middle of the picture, you can see the antler laying there.

This one is easy enough to see!

Here is the two of them.

After an eventful morning, my brother and I loaded up and went to Kinkaid Lake in Murphysboro after the elusive musky.  I have been trying to catch one for the past several years and I still have not put one in the boat.  I had a close call in Wisconsin in 2013, but that is about it.  I only go a couple times a year, and I am hopeful that 2016 will by my musky year. 

Travis and I ended up arriving on the water around 3:30.  On my 3rd cast I had a fish.  It was a small bass that went after my 1 oz. rattle trap.  Just before 5 pm, Travis hooked into a fish, and there was no doubt it was a nice musky.  A few tense moments later, and his musky was in the net.  It taped out around 41 inches.  We were both very happy.  Travis has caught quite a few musky, but he still was very elated with his latest fish.  He took hold of her long enough to get a couple photos and she was back in the water in no time.  We watched her swim back into the depths of the lake.  That was the only two fish we put in the boat today, but it was enough.

As the light got lower, we noticed a loon swimming around the lake.  I see one or two every spring on various lakes in the area, but I never get tired of the view.  They truly are a beautiful bird.  Luckily, I had grabbed my long lens for just such an occasion, and I got a few photos.

A couple coots

A pied-billed grebe

All in a day’s work

We are lucky here in Illinois to be offered so many opportunities in the woods and the water. You do not have to try hard to find yourself knee deep in outdoor fun.  This was a special day to blend successes in two different hobbies all in one day.  Next time, maybe I will be the one holding the musky!


Semi-Live Hunt Firearm Opener

Fri, November 20, 2015

Okay, so I will try to do this semi live hunt this morning. Every 30-45 minutes I will provide an update (if possible). The players this morning are me, my wife Marj, my brother Travis, my mom Cathy and my dad Gerald. I won’t necessarily give you updates from each of them, but I might mention them in my updates.

6:40 am-The woods are very calm with a slight west breeze. To this point I have heard 4-5 shots. I can hear both owls and turkeys in the distance and the turkeys have attempted some broken gobbles. Travis has seen a spike so far.

7:25 am-I have basically nothing to report. I’ve heard approximately 22 shots (there is a large piece of public land nearby). I haven’t heard from my parents, my wife hasn’t seen any and Travis has seen the one spike. Phone service is sketchy, so these updates might be sporadic.

8:10 am-So far, it has been remarkably slow. Last I heard, out of my immediate family, one early spike from my brother is still the only deer. My wife saw a coyote. I’ve counted 40 shots, but only one was halfway close. This is all surprising, based on sightings while my dad was checking on his cattle and the trail cameras we have been using. I expected a very good morning. Shots have picked up significantly in the last 15-20 minutes.

9:00 am-We have added a couple to our tally. Travis added a 3 point, and dad saw a doe. Shots were much better this hour. I’ve now heard 68 shots, and I’ll surpass last year’s opening number soon. The surprising thing is, only one was anything resembling close. There are hunters in every wood lot around, and no nearby shots to speak of. I cannot say where all the deer from our cameras or our own sightings are, but I can tell you where they are not. As I was typing I did hear a relatively close shot.

9:45 am-I have heard 87 shots. That’s possibly the most I’ve ever heard opening morning to this point. The only updated sighting is my mom saw a “smallish buck”. I have to get down around 10:00 am, so this will be my last report unless something good happens soon. We are hunting large woods here in southern IL, so getting skunked is not all that uncommon, but I sure didn’t expect it today. I apologize for the boring updates that involved few deer, but that’s hunting sometimes. Signing off.


A Good Hunt

Mon, November 09, 2015

I had a fun day in the woods on Saturday.  It did not result in me shooting a big buck, or ever firing an arrow, but I did see pretty good action.  All in all, I saw 7 bucks and 6 doe/fawns.  This was hunting in pretty thick woods, so it was not a place that I could look out over hundreds of yards to see.  I never saw the buck I was after, but I did video a few of the bucks I watched.  If you have 4 extra minutes, give it a watch.


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