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Recent entries


Through the Lens

What to Do if You Harvest an Alligator Gar in IL

Mon, May 22, 2017

There’s much ado about alligator gar in Illinois these days due to the recent release of the Alligator Gar Reintroduction Management Plan. Sadly much of that ado centers around the persistent myth that Illinois waters are level full of alligator gar already. This stems from the fact that many anglers and the public tend to consider or call all gar species “alligator gar”.

The most commonly seen gar in Illinois waters are the Longnose, Shortnose, and Spotted Gar. It’s important to know the differences, and to be able to accurately identify each species.

The images shown below from USFWS are an excellent tool to use when determining which type of gar you have in hand. An additional quick method when in the field is to look for the second row of teeth in the upper jaw. While some shortnose gar will occasionally also display a second row of teeth, it’s generally unusual enough that the second row of teeth is good indicator of an alligator gar.

Although alligator gar remain few and far between it’s still possible that anglers can encounter one.  IDNR has provided us with some tips and instructions should you be one of the lucky anglers to encounter an alligator gar.

First and foremost - take great care to insure that you have properly identified the fish as an alligator gar. Use the images above, look for the extra row of teeth. If your smart phone is handy, do a quick online search for images and identification tips.  Once you are certain you indeed have an alligator gar here’s a handy guide:

What to Do If You Harvest an Alligator Gar:
Notify your regional fisheries biologist of your catch/harvest. Directions for contacting the IDNR regional Biologists can be found on I Fish Illinois web site (http://www.ifishillinois.org) in the How Do I section under Contact My District Biologist. Alternately, contact Rob Hilsabeck at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or (309) 370-5296.  Per IDNR Biologist Rob Hilsabeck, “If the fish is kept, IDNR fisheries would like to scan the fish for a potential internal PIT tag, and take the front pectoral fin ray for age analysis.”

If the fish can be safely released alive:
Measure length, girth, and obtain weight. Note location where harvested, using gps if possible.
Take Photographs:
Side view, top view, view of the mouth open showing the two rows of upper teeth.
Also include photos of the tape measure with the fish as well when possible.
Take care not to overly stress the fish during the process.

If the fish cannot be returned to the water to survive:
Follow the same procedure as above, including photographs and measurements, but also place fish in a freezer so that IDNR fisheries staff can scan the fish for a PIT tag, examine the fish and take any needed samples.

It’s an exciting time for alligator gar in Illinois right now, and all anglers can help contribute to restoration and understanding of these wonderful prehistoric native fish by notifying IDNR if they encounter an alligator gar.




House Bill 3750 Proposes Free Licenses for Law Enforcement

Fri, April 21, 2017


HB 3750 introduced recently by Rep. Katie Stuart (D) of the 112th district amends the Fish and Aquatic Life Code and the Wildlife Code and provides that the respective fees for resident fishing, combination sportsmen, and hunting licenses are waived for current and retired State, municipal, and local law enforcement officers.

What’s to argue with there? It shows strong support for our law enforcement officers, both current and retired. It’s an action and a piece of legislation that feels all warm and fuzzy. It feels good. In an era when law enforcement seems to be constantly coming under the gun from a multitude of directions, it certainly sends the message that someone cares about them. It’s not a surprise that the bill passed out of committee in late March. On the surface it seems like a great andgenerous thing to do.

BUT – and it’s a big BUT – what’s the fiscal implication of this feel good, warm and fuzzy piece of proposed legislation.

At a time when DNR is facing so many budgetary constraints, does it really make sense to pull more from that very budget?
It really does not seem prudent to even consider this potential loss of funds – as evidenced by the fiscal note filed by DNR.

“Loss of both license sale revenue (hunting/fishing) and federal reimbursement funding totals approximately $96,095 annually. This estimate does not include the annual impact by retired officers. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Fisheries divisions DO NOT receive General Revenue Funds from the State of Illinois. Revenue for conservation work, aquatic habitat enhancement, fish stocking and research is generated by the sale of licenses, stamps, permits and other fees. Eroding the pool of funds available by making hunting and fishing privileges free to certain classes of hunters and anglers would continue to reduce the Department’s capacity .”

The additional Balanced Budget Note filed by the OMB goes into even more detail about the financial implications.

“In total, estimated revenue to the state would be reduced by more than $100,000 annually if House Bill 3750 were to become law due to less revenues in hunting and fishing license sales and federal reimbursement. According to the Department of Natural Resources, the loss of hunting license revenue for active police officers is estimated at $37,000 annually. This includes an estimated $12,000 directly from license revenue, plus $25,000 in federal apportionment funding. Additionally, the Department of Natural Resources estimates the loss of fishing license revenue for active police officers to be $59,095 annually. This includes an estimated $33,450 due to the loss in license revenues plus $25,645 in lost federal apportionment funds. Based on active police officers, the estimated loss in revenue would be $96,095. House Bill 3750 includes waivers for both active and retired officers, however at this time the fiscal impact can only be estimated for active law enforcement officers. As such, the fiscal impact of House Bill 3750 is likely to be greater than the above estimates due to the non-inclusion of retired law enforcement officers in the estimates. According to the Department of Natural Resources, conservation work, aquatic habitat enhancement, fish stocking, and research is funded by the sale of licenses, stamps, permits and other fees. Reducing the pool of funds available by making hunting and fishing privileges free to certain classes of hunters and anglers would reduce the capacity of the Department of Natural Resources to fund these duties and if continued could require reductions in service or general funds to support these functions.”

I get that in the grand scheme of the entire financial mess that is our current reality, these seem like pretty insignificant dollar amounts. After all, what’s a mere 100,000 dollars give or take when DNR has an 800 million maintenance backlog and there are state parks that have ZERO assigned staff?
It may seem insignificant, but those dollars do indeed count. In this fiscal climate EVERY penny counts. Every single penny.

The next issue with this piece of legislation is the precedent it sets – Essentially a certain user group or class of sportsmen is given free privileges.  That opens the door for additional classes or user groups to also seek a waiver of fees. How do we effectively decide who is and isn’t worthy of hunting and fishing for free?

As much as I support the members of our law enforcement ranks, I just can’t get behind this bill. Not when it threatens the financial status of our already cash strapped and struggling DNR.  Heck, even though I don’t HAVE to buy my licenses because I hold a P2 card, I still do, just to contribute to the cause.

It will be interesting to see how this bill progresses or if it the fiscal issues associated with it cause it to die on the vine.

What say you Heartland friends and readers? Is a show of support for our law enforcement officers worth the loss to the DNR coffers?



Gear Review: Field And Stream Women’s Every Hunt Clothing

Mon, April 17, 2017

At the onset of hunting season last fall I was given the opportunity to field test some items from the Field Stream Women’s Every Hunt Line.
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It’s no secret that women are the fastest growing segment of new hunters, but it remains difficult for many women to find adequate hunting attire.

When asked, “What women want in hunting attire?” the answer is short. We want the same things that men want, flexibility, durability, great functionality, and most of all a good fit. The next hurdle women often face is finding affordable gear. It’s hard for many new hunters to plunk down 2-300 dollars for a coat or 150 - 200 dollars for a pair of good pants.  I’ve long wished for a moderately priced yet well-made and functional line of clothes that women just beginning to explore hunting would feel comfortable purchasing. 

The Field and Stream Women’s Every Hunt line of apparel has met those goals – and I might add, without slapping pink all over things!

The items I field tested throughout the entire season were Field and Stream’s Women’s Every Hunt Softshell Pants and the Field & Stream Women’s C3 Midweight Mock Neck Base Layer Shirt The pants have proven to be absolutely the most comfortable pair of hunting pants I have ever worn. They are as comfortable as hunting in a pair of pajama pants! Same with the shirt – comfort is key for me for long days in the field and the shirt makes an excellent addition to anyone’s collection of hunting clothes.

The Field & Stream Women’s C3 Midweight Mock Neck Base Layer Shirt features NOSCENT™ C3 technology with antimicrobial and Zeolite scent control which provides an extra measure of scent control. SMARTWICK™ fabric wicks moisture away from your body for a dry, comfortable feel. The interior of the shirt is a very soft and comfortable almost fleecy like material that kept me warm under just a hoodie on most days. The Thumb holes are an especially welcome addition to keep sleeves from bunching up. This shirt became my winter go to base layer as the season wore on.

The Women’s Every Hunt Softshell pant feature quiet bonded fleece with a 2-way stretch for mobility. They are indeed very giving with mobility, I could bend, stretch, squat, climb and manage to wallow around and get myself in several messes without ever feeling like the pants were binding, too snug, or not forgiving. These pants are indeed very quiet – despite all my thrashing and crashing around in the blind and the brush there were no crinkles and crackles, and extraneous noise from the pants.

The waistband on these pants is somewhat wider than my other hunting pants, and with elastic inserts on the sides provides a snug no gap fit, that expands easily and remains comfortable when adding an extra layer underneath. The wider waistband also makes for a bit wider belt loops, that make easier to add a good sturdy belt. I like to hang things off my belt, and often find pants have too narrow of a waistband and belt loops to accommodate my wider sturdy belt.

I also preferred the elastic inserts in the waist band over those annoying adjustable tabby things that never stay in place, get caught on things , and ultimately fail me every time.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how warm the pants were despite not being at all bulky or heavy. They were not too warm and heavy in the warm early season and during spring turkey hunting weather, yet provided plenty of warmth when paired with a base layer such as Field & Stream Women’s Base Defense Midweight Mock Neck Base Layer Shirt and Leggings during colder days afield. 

The front pockets are deep and large enough to hold a fair number of items without risking loss, including a large smartphone. Not only are the front pockets deep enough to be useful, the openings are cut wide enough it’s not a struggle to get your hand in out.

The additional zippered cargo pockets on the legs also are roomy and afford the added protection of a zippered closing so nothing is at risk of tumbling out.  The back pockets feature a flap closure and are of good useful size as well.

With the bonus of NoScent™ C3 Scent Control Technology to assist in containing and concealing odors and Hydro Repel™ fabric to keep you dry, these pants are a versatile, comfortable, functional item that I can easily give a full five stars.  The only improvement I could think of would be to either add side zippers to legs for ease getting boots on and off, or a drawstring bottom that could be cinched up around the boot to help keep out drafts.

Both pieces performed well with frequent trips through the washer and dryer and after a long busy season in the field nearly every day, still come out of the dryer looking and feeling like new. Big thumbs up for durability!

Field and Stream Women’s Every Hunt Softshell Pants and C3 Midweight Mock Neck Base Layer Shirt have convinced me that now I need be “on the hunt” for one of Every Hunt jackets for a complete combination that truly does work well throughout the varied conditions hunters face from beginning of season until end.  I highly recommend both pieces for the woman who is looking for durable, comfortable, technical and affordable hunting clothing without breaking the bank.

Field and Stream Women’s Every Hunt apparel can be purchased at Dicks Sporting Goods, both online and in retail stores. 


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