Giant Goose Ranch

The News Outside

Midwest Summer Fishing Report, Dale Bowman , Jul 21

Ticks are becoming growing problem, Jeremiah Haas, Jul 19

Lake Iroquois Huge Fish Kill, Kenya Ramirez, Jul 19

The Science behind Fish Oil Supplements, NPR Illinois, Jul 19

Redear Sunfish Record, Dale Bowman , Jul 19



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Recent entries


Through the Lens

A Year of Firsts

Fri, December 31, 2010

One of my most favorite parts of being an outdoor photo journalist is attending youth events and working with the young folks. This year I’ve had the pleasure of being on hand for some really great “firsts” with some really great young folks!

Orion Rutkowski of New Athens with his first bowfishing sucess and his first gar

Jenna Solcani of Chicago with her first pheasant

Mackenzie King of New Athens, handling her dog at her first HRC Hunt Test

Trevor Smith of Sparta, IL a third generation handler and trainer at his first HRC Hunt Test

Restin Shubert of Coulterville with the first hen of the woods he has found on his own

Zachary Huschle and his first quail and pheasant

Lainey Deterding of New Athens, IL with her first deer and her first buck

John Schoentag of Columbia with his his first successful duck hunt and harvest on Southern zone opening day











Merry Christmas Heartland!

Sat, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas to all of of the Heartland community! Let’s remember that we are blessed with great gifts each and every day that we venture into the outdoors!


Short Eared Owls - Everywhere you look!

Tue, December 21, 2010

Short Eared Owl Hotspot

Note the two small tufts of feathers atop the owls head - it’s these tufts that are responsible for the name “Short Eared Owl”

Bird watchers, wildlife enthusiasts, and outdoor photographers throughout the state often travel to Peabody Fish and River King Wildlife Area in New Athens in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the endangered Short Eared Owl. While the occasional sighting is possible at Peabody a new short eared owl hotspot in Southern Illinois has appeared.  A recent visit to the World Shooting and Recreational Complex (WSRC ) in Sparta revealed large numbers of the small endangered ground nesting owl feeding and flying throughout the complex.

Note the dark bands or wrist straps on the underside of the short eared owls wings which can be used as a key when identifying the owl in flight.

While “making my rounds” Saturday afternoon I drifted through the World Shooting and Recreational Complex. The complex offers good wildlife viewing and photography opportunities this time of year. The skies above the grasslands there seemed to be almost littered with multiple species of birds of prey as well as groups of waterfowl coming in to feed or look for the few bodies of open water. Strangely enough I began to notice the owls, and lots of them. It seemed as if every little tree and sign post had an owl perched upon it. They were up and down.. gliding.. low over the grasslands to suddenly drop and snag a quick snack, they could be found perched on what seemed like every small tree and signpost.

I began snapping away and also wondering what in the world was up with these owls feeding in the afternoon, and so many of them. I’m almost ashamed to admit this, having looked at them repeatedly through the lens, but I just couldn’t understand this strange barred owl behavior. The answer was revealed when I got home and began processing the images. The owls were NOT smallish barred owls but rather the ever elusive, often sought after, endangered short eared owl.

The distinctive yellow eyes,black beak , and black “wrist strap” on the underside of the wings gave them away. I excitedly called Chris Hespin at the WSRC to ask how and why and just marvel at the sheer numbers of these endangered birds that were creating such a great show throughout the complex. Hespin told me that it was primarily due to the habitat found at the shooting complex and the large grasslands there. “We have the right habitat, the right food sources. Primarily the types of grassland that we have combined with bodies of water here make it a prime spot for them. We are excited to have them visiting us here.”

Good numbers of the endangered owl can currently be spotted at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex with ease. Bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts taking a leisurely drive through the complex grounds can be treated to what appear to be unusually high numbers of the small yellow eyed raptor perched in trees and on sign posts and actively feeding throughout the DNR managed site.

In addition to the endangered short eared owls, visitors are treated to host of other wildlife viewing and photography opportunities at the complex where large numbers of birds of prey can found utilizing the grasslands as well as deer, turkey, migrating waterfowl and host of small game and mammals.
It was noted that one of the owls has seemingly taken up the signs at the entrance to the Shooting complex as a favorite roosting place, almost as if the owl has decided to serve as an official welcoming committee for winter visitors and bird watchers at the complex.

The short eared owl who can usually be found perched on the Welcome to Sparta sign at the WSRC

The best times for viewing the short eared owls hunting , as they glide low over the fields and grass lands are early mornings and late afternoon.

For more information about the short eared owls and wildlife viewing opportunities at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex or for directions phone 618-295-2700 or visit the WSRC’s   web site at