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Yep. Today is my last day as the luckiest person at One News Plaza. The prospect of my job change shocked Chef Todd but did not render him speechless, as hoped. Then again, nothing has ever silenced him. “Dude, are you sure about this?” Chef sputtered. “You’re leaving the best job in Illinois.” ... Well, call me crazy but I am excited about the future. Effective today, my wife, Farmers State Bank and I are proud owners of Heartland Outdoors, the popular statewide magazine started 24 years ago by Bill and Linda Love of Mapleton. Since Bill’s death three years ago, Linda has shouldered the entire operation. She’s eager for a break. We’re eager for a change. Starting in October you can find me on the pages of that magazine and at heartlandoutdoors.com. ... That said, I also have a column on inspiring deer hunter Drew Burton ready for this Sunday’s Journal Star.
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What are my most vivid memories from 12 years of losing cell phones, wrecking cameras and soaking notebooks while on the job? ... Duck hunting with The Farmer and living off his wife’s muffins. ... Catching peacocks, shocking fish, shooting deer and missing turkeys with Flathead. ... Hunting pheasants under a swingset in an Iowa park as Springer chortled, “This is wrong.” ... Big Knobs referring to me as “Hey you fat little bastard.” ... A breathless call from former reporter Mike Smothers telling me he was in Springdale Cemetery searching for a midget who had seen a mountain lion. I didn’t have the heart to tell Smothers that from a midget’s perspective, a tabby cat probably looked like a cougar. ... Watching a little red-headed chicken hatch that turned out to be the clucking image of Joe Bates, the heart and soul of the Journal Star sports department. ... Hunting teal with the Head Worm and meeting a grumpy Stanley Briney in the dark at the break in Hate Levee. ... Trying to make sense of Our Neighbor Ash, whose unique presence is truly missed.
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Into every reporter’s life come compelling stories. Some are coincidence, like the time my brother and I were hunting pheasants near Aberdeen, S.D., just 9 miles north of the field where Payne Stewart and Peorian Bruce Bourland died in a tragic plane crash. I can still see the crazed look on the face of cattle in that field. ... Some stories are objects of creation, like the Carp Armada. That motley crew consisted of Photo Joe (the one-legged carp snagger from South Pekin), Chef Todd, Flathead and a few other rascals with jonboats who escorted an international group of biologists on the Illinois River to see leaping Asian carp. As Dr. Woo said, “Oh, too many fish. Too many fish.” ... Ironically, one of my favorite assignments was indoors. I spent two March weekends with Peoria High hoops team during the Class AA tournament. Obviously there was talent on the roster of those back-to-back champs. There were also characters whose antics still make me laugh. Thanks to Chuck Buescher and Kirk Wessler for that. In homage to Buescher I stamp my feet periodically when coaching biddyball. If only I could recruit as well as Bish we would dominate in Elmwood.
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Obviously I owe thanks to anyone who read a word my fingers typed. But if any reader deserves extra credit, it’s Jim Lierle of Marquette Heights. Many is the morning Jim called from the factory to leave an encouraging message. Jim, your kind words were always appreciated. ... So were the many calls, e-mails and letters that flooded in after the passing of my Labrador retriever Buck. No story of mine touched a nerve so deeply. ... I’m also indebted to Minister Morris for the long hours he spent tracking down fishing reports. ... Now is also a good time for apologies. Sorry to youngster Matt Zehr of Eureka for forgetting to send you a jug of Hoss’s Hawg Bait dipbait. The package is finally in the mail. ... Sorry to Dave Reynolds, who I pestered and interrupted endlessly for these past 12 years. ... Sorry to anybody gullible enough to vote for that joke Rod Blagojevich. ... Sorry to anybody real important (or wealthy) who I forgot to mention. ... Sorry finally to the anti-hunters who spend so much of their lives fixated on a sad, misguided cause.
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More memories? Sure. Just for you. ... Shaking hands with The Duck Commander, who said my beard made me look like Yasser Arafat. ... Catching 6-pound bass with Gordon Inskeep. ... Fishing with Fergie. ... Getting fired after 18 enjoyable weeks on the radio. ... Taking women’s golf scores. ... Seeing 100 deer heads staring across the gym floor at Elmwood High School last spring. We promise bigger and better things for the next Elmwood All Outdoors Show on March 5-6, 2011. ... Scouting geese with a tipsy Dave Beam in North Dakota as he steered the truck into fields without slowing. ... Settling bar bets. ... Chasing quail with Mace Reardon. ... Hearing Roger Cox tell stories. ... Trading verbal jabs with Stew. ... Driving to Peoria from the east and marveling at how lucky we are to live or work in such a scenic river city.
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So what am I going to do with my free time? Run for city council in my adopted home of Elmwood. If not for all the tornadoes, Elmwood would be the perfect place to raise a family. Being able to stay closer to home and my three boys is one reason for my career change. ... More immediately I hope to catch crappie and to shoot teal. Fall fishing is set to explode and the blue-winged migration heated up just in time. Sunday’s end to teal season should be good, as the latest survey showed 34,630 bluewings along the Illinois River compared to the average of 8,831. ... Beyond that I plan to read the paper each morning. Newspapers have been my life since I started delivering The Buffalo News as a 10-year-old. Moving from the city to join the Journal Star’s proud outdoor tradition is so far the high point of my working life. I’m proud to be mentioned with former scribes Jack Ehresman and Howard Kenny. And like you, I’m eager to read as the paper carries on that tradition.Story and comments
Any day now. The leaves are turning. The corn is going out. Soon the arrows and crossbow bolts can be launched at real critters.
But be patient. The best time of year is almost here.Story and comments
The corn is dry and headed to the bins.
In the past few days combines have been everywhere. And they were already pretty busy prior to that.
Through Monday more than 30 percent was out statewide. I’m guessing by next Monday that total will be closer to 50 percent unless the rains finally materialize. And bow season is still two weeks away. Wow.Story and comments
Here’s an Associated Press story from Montana to ponder as you gear up for our opening day of bow season.
Grizzly attacks Montana bowhunter
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - Wildlife officials say a grizzly bear attacked a bow hunter in the southern Gravelly Mountains near Ennis over the weekend.
Sam Sheppard, a game warden with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the Sunday morning attack left Matt Menge of Bozeman with a broken right forearm and large cuts to the head. The warden described the attack as fast and sudden.
“This is just something that has the potential to happen when people archery hunt in those areas with a resident grizzly bear population,” he told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “You’re stealthing along, cammo-ed up, being extremely quiet and you just bump into them.”
Sheppard said Menge was hunting near the west fork of the Madison River south of Ennis. The man, who had driven up to the area with a friend, was traveling back to his truck alone when the attack happened and couldn’t reach for his bear spray in time.
Sheppard said no management action is planned for t he bear.
“It’s bears doing what bears do when they are surprised and archery hunters doing what archery hunters do,” he said.
Story and comments
The Lampe monarch factory is about ready to close down. And just in time. We are running out of milkweed in the neighborhood. Those little caterpillars can sure eat.
And we’ve gone through plenty of milkweed this summer. But from a high point of 10 chrysalises hanging and 20 little caterpillars crawling in the butterfly aquarium, we’ve fluttered down to a more manageable number.
I say we, but truth is this is all my wife’s project. Every now and then I hold the lid while she cleans out the aquarium. But that’s about my only contribution.
Even so, I do like releasing the monarchs. There’s something very satisfying about raising a monarch from a tiny egg to the point where it can fly away.
Sometime tomorrow, someone in the family will get a chance to release the butterfly pictured above still in its chrysalis.
After that we’ve got about another 9 or 10 more to release. Then we’ll have to wait until next summer for their descendants to return.Story and comments