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Recent entries


Versatile Hunter

Positive news and other ramblings

Tue, October 09, 2012

With elections right around the corner and a whole lot of negative ad campaigning and general media lean towards the negative, I thought I’d infuse some positive news reporting into the mix. This came recently from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website I visited:

Participation in wildlife-associated recreation increased in 28 states since 2006, according to the findings of the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation State Overview Report released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today. The State Overview Report is the second in a series of reports to be released by the Service over the next few months highlighting results from the National Survey.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar released the first report on August 15, 2012. The National Survey, conducted since 1955, measures participation in these activities and related spending on trips and equipment across the nation and in individual states. The 2011 National Survey data show that hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers spent $145 billion last year on related gear, trips and other purchases such as licenses, tags and land leasing or ownership.

Overall, the 2011 Survey found that 38 percent of all Americans 16 years of age and older participated in wildlife-related recreation in 2011, an increase of 2.6 million participants from the previous survey in 2006. Participation in recreational fishing increased by 11 percent and hunting was up 9 percent.  This increase reverses a trend over previous Surveys showing a 10% decline in hunting participation between 1996 and 2006.  The 2011 Survey reports a corresponding increase in hunting equipment expenditures, which are up 29 percent from 2006.

Other interesting facts:

• Of the 28 States with increases in the number of wildlife-related recreation participants from 2006 to 2011, the largest percentage increases were seen in Alaska (47 percent) and Louisiana (40 percent).

• South Dakota had the highest proportion of state residents who hunted– 21 percent.

• Alaska had the highest proportion of state residents who fished– 40 percent.

• Vermont had the highest proportion of state residents who wildlife watched– 53 percent.

The full AP article can be found here:

Executive Summary: Hunting participation is UP. 

Questions to Ponder: Why??  Is it mostly women?  Are we doing a better job of recruiting youth? Is it because of rising game populations (such as waterfowl, which had another banner year)?  Is it because people are more concerned about what they are eating (the organic movement that has given rise to more people wanting to harvest what they eat themselves)?  Is it because people are overall realizing the importance of being outdoors? Softening of state hunting regulations? Outreach programs? Or is it simply because the U.S. population is increasing? My guess is that it’s a mix.  Regardless of why, what a great story to hear.

On a related note, regardless of why you enjoy being outdoors (for recreation, wildlife viewing, hunting, fishing, camping, etc. . . .) we are all truly after the same thing.  I think we forget this sometimes and end up fighting about the more trivial things like how many bucks we can shoot, by which method (no crossbows for God’s sake—wait—make that no compound bows—wait make that no guns—wait make that only recurve bows with flu flu arrows—wait!!!), whether or not we should be able to shoot an animal with a gun or just with a camera. . . . . I wonder what would happen if everyone that enjoyed being outdoors for any reason whatsoever formed an alliance—think they might be able to get something done politically for the sake of all wildlife populations??  My guess would be a resounding yes. 

Ever see this (mis)quote from Henry David Thoreau?  It’s a good one:

“Many men fish their entire life without ever knowing it’s not the fish they’re after.”

Anyone else realize that by going out to hunt you get to see some of the most amazing things you would normally never get to see? Among my most memorable:

• watching a sharp-shinned hawk feed on a freshly caught dark eyed junco 10 feet from me while I was wearing a ghillie suit on the ground

• watching a hen turkey give me the stink eye on her nest not 3 feet from me in the woods as I stopped to take a break from an afternoon of morel hunting (I didn’t see her until I stopped)

• watching a thousand mallards land on top of us while we videotaped it all from a layout blind after shooting time in SD

• watching a mature buck clean out a scrape and pee in it 20 yards away

• hearing several gobblers spitting, drumming, and gobbling so close that you can literally feel the acoustic vibration in your body

• watching a cock pheasant explode from under my feet as I then watched it sail away in absolute amazement over what had just happened (my very first pheasant experience)

• watching shooting stars on a perfectly cloudless night while my dog and I waited for first light in the duck marsh

There are too many others to recount. . . . Hunting rocks!


Introducing blogger Shae Birkey

Wed, October 03, 2012

This being my first blog I need to first introduce myself and then I’ll get to the purpose of these things. I’m a central Illinois native living in rural Tazewell County with my wife, baby (due in the next week), and two thoroughbred mutts. I grew up hunting deer, turkey, waterfowl and upland game right here in the Midwest. Still chasing them all today, with the help of a Deutsch Drahthaar, Brahms.

Jack of all trades when it comes to the outdoors, with a love and attention for versatile hunting dog training and testing. I’m involved with NAVHDA, VDD-GNA, the NWTF Wheelin’ Sportsmen, DU and various youth hunting organizations as a guide, organizer, and advocate. I’ve spent the past 8 years as a biologist surveying and restoring wetlands, prairies, forests, and wildlife throughout the U.S. 

What am I going to write about? Whatever comes to mind involving Illinois outdoors — dog training, hunting events, conservation, hunting tips, a biography or two on Illinois outdoor businesses, and maybe even some questions for and from Heartland website viewers, because I know some things and openly admit not to know others.  Oh well, no one has all the answers. 

I have a lot of respect for my fellow Heartland bloggers and have learned a lot from this website and the magazine — I hope y’all feel the same about my blog. Enough about me.  Now to the reason Jeff let me blog on Heartland…

To start it off — has anyone noticed that the late season counties have changed this year? I hadn’t until a friend of mine at work mentioned it.  Several of our central Illinois counties no longer have a late season. That includes Tazewell, Mason, Cass (which effects me directly) and Morgan, among others.

I’ve attached a map showing the counties in the late-winter hunt.

late winter deer 2012-13

Could IDNR be slowly realizing that not all hunters are happy about the number of deer they’re seeing out there?  Note: I AM an advocate for IDNR and believe the current management is well intentioned but is working with minimum funding.


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