Jim Sullivan gives Ed Creager a hug after the Sangchris Waterfowlers Association meeting Feb. 6. Photos by Chris Young.
Waterfowl group honors longtime volunteer
The State Journal-Register
Ed Creager figures he’s put the key in the door almost 1,000 times over the past 11 years.
Every morning during duck season, Creager went to the clubhouse near the East Boat Dock at Sangchris Lake State Park and opened up before waterfowl hunters arrived.
“The drawing is two hours before sunrise, so I would be down here anywhere from 3:30 to 4:30 a.m., depending on when the sun came up,” Creager said.
Hunters enter a lottery to see where they would get to hunt on the site each morning of the season.
That ritual provides an orderly start to a day that begins for hunters in pitch darkness as they head out to their assigned blind to wait for legal shooting hours.
“I opened this door one day, unlocked the door and came in and thought, ‘I’ve done this for 10 years, there are 90 days in a season, and I could be opening this door for the 1,000th time,’” he said.
On Feb. 6 the Sangchris Waterfowlers Association honored Creager for his years of volunteer service running the daily blind drawing.
An overflow crowd of more than 35 filled the clubhouse and spilled outside, where hunters peered in through a large open window.
Creager arrived moving slowly, coming off knee replacement surgery only a week or so prior.
“I’ve got a little hitch in my giddy-up,” he said with a smile as he entered the room.
At the meeting, site superintendent Randy Hawkins thanked Creager for his support of public hunting at Sangchris Lake.
“Eleven years is a long time to do this, getting up in the middle of the night, in the cold.” Hawkins said.
Randy Cooke of the Sangchris Waterfowlers Association made presentations to Creager, including a framed picture, a bottle of “Decoy” wine, a plaque, gift cards and a cake decorated to look like a duck pond complete with duck blind and a spinning wing decoy.
Ed Creager (right) takes a picture of a cake decorated by Janett Sullivan to look just like a duck pond and blind in honor of Creager’s volunteer service.
Fellow hunter Janett Sullivan made the cake. She said assembling all the parts took about two hours.
“I was blown away. I just couldn’t believe it,” Creager said. “All these guys coming up to thank me, they don’t need to thank me, because I enjoyed every minute. These are some of the best friends I’ve ever had.”
Part of the morning ritual was announcing the name of a hunter during the drawing.
“When I did the drawing every morning, I’d say the lucky dog today is number … ” Creager said.
The plaque presented by his fellow hunters read: “Because of you, my friend, we are all the “lucky dog.”
“Ed, I can speak for each and every one of us,” Cooke said. “Thank you.”
Fundraising banquets on tap around the state
Conservation organizations around Illinois are hosting annual banquets this time of year, raising money for wildlife habitat restoration, youth hunting and other outdoors recreation programs.
At the Sangchris Waterfowlers Association meeting Feb. 6, hunters heard from site superintendent Randy Hawkins and worked out schedules for various volunteer tasks, including repairing and brushing blinds.
Hawkins told the group that a new blind, accessible to hunters with disabilities, was approved for construction near the West Boat Dock, which is also undergoing repairs.
Another agenda item was the organization of a youth waterfowl hunt for next year.
Galen Johnson, state chairman for Illinois Ducks Unlimited, also spoke at the meeting, thanking groups like the Sangchris Waterfowlers Association for working together with groups such as DU.
“We have a common goal of conservation and habitat restoration,” he said.
Johnson said work was necessary to hold on to hard-earned gains.
“There was a great migration this year of over 120 million ducks,” he said. “And that is the largest migration ever that we are familiar with.”
About 200 people are expected to attend the Ducks Unlimited State Convention in East Peoria this weekend, he said.
Volunteer workshops are planned and DU biologists will talk about habitat projects in Illinois and elsewhere.
“DU just (achieved a milestone) of 13 million acres in conservation this year,” Johnson said. “We are out there doing it.”
Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.