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Illinois hunting and fishing

A new youth hunting mecca?

September 14, 2010 at 08:44 PM

Illinois hunting and fishing

ICF information

Youngsters interested in special hunts at the Torstenson Family Youth Conservation Education Center are encouraged to contact the Illinois Conservation Foundation.

Plans call for youth doe-only deer hunts this fall.

To learn more, visit or call (217) 785-2003 or Mark Spangler at (217) 720-4389.

The ICF will also be selling deer and duck hunts in an effort to raise money for the new facility. Five-day archery packages are available.


For the first few hours shooting was slow.

Then a truck pulled up to the dove field where Dave and Joe Woodruff of Pekin were sitting. Out jumped Mark Spangler, director of the Illinois Conservation Foundation.

“He said, ‘It doesn’t sound like you’re getting much shooting. So load up and we’re taking you to another field,’” Dave Woodruff said.

Sure enough, doves were flying better in the next patch of sunflowers. By day’s end Joe, 13, was able to leave the field with seven doves. And a broad smile.

Similar hospitality is the aim of the state’s new Torstenson Family Youth Conservation Education Center near Pecatonica. The Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation recently donated the 750-acre property to the ICF, which hopes to use the northern Illinois site’s abundant wildlife habitat to promote youth hunting and conservation.

The property also includes a $3 million wood lodge building, wetlands, oxbows of the Pecatonica River, timber, hiking trials and fields.

“Our long-term vision is to never charge a kid to be on the property,” Spangler said. “Robert H. Torstenson had a vision for his Deer Yard Farm to become a place where young people could come and learn outdoor skills. The ICF is dedicated to making it a reality.”

For that to happen, the ICF will need considerable financial support — certainly more than it can count on the from the cash-strapped Department of Natural Resources.

That might be a tall order for the ICF, founded in 1994 to operate largely independent of the DNR. The idea was to keep money raised safe from meddling politicians.
And the ICF has generated more than $30 million for natural resources conservation and education.

But prior to Spangler’s appointment in March, the foundation was without a leader for more than a year during difficult economic times. Rumors started swirling about the possible demise of the ICF.

Those rumblings died off some after the arrival of Spangler, who has a 30-year career in the outdoors industry with Plano molding and various gun makers. The addition of the Torstenson property created a whole new buzz that Spangler hopes translates into money.

“We will be aggressively seeking corporate and individual sponsors and hope to be able to accommodate groups of up to 100 kids in the future,” Spangler said. “The possibilities for outdoor recreation are truly endless.”

Doves, raccoons, nesting sandhill cranes, migratory birds and deer are some of the many critters that visit the riverfront property.

“We hunted near some flooded timber and there were groups of 20 and 30 wood ducks circling us the whole morning,” Woodruff said. “And we saw quite a few geese.
It’s a beautiful property and we only saw a small part of it.”

In short, this is a rich man’s retreat that will now be open to kids. For free. That’s a great, though rare combination.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Count the Woodruffs among those who hope funding materializes to make the idea a reality. They headed north after reading about last weekend’s hunt on

The Woodruffs normally participate in the youth hunt at Mackinaw River State Fish and Wildlife Area. But since Joe was unable to get a permit at Mackinaw, his only option was to make the three-hour drive to the Torstenson site.

Long trip? Worth the time?

“I’d definitely go back and I know Joe would,” Dave Woodruff said.

“It was a really nice day up there,” Joe said. “Real enjoyable. Real fun.”

Illinois hunting and fishing

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

This is a wonderful opportunity to introduce our youth to the outdoor recreational opportunities that, until recently, only a few Illinoisans were able to enjoy.  The ICF will indeed need considerably more financial support in order to run an operation the size of this facility.  Youth are the hunters, fishermen, and conservationists of the future.  I applaud the ICF for taking this major step in securing such a beautiful facility for such a worthwhile cause, providing “a place where young people could come and learn outdoor skills.”

My question for the ICF would be: “Why would a Foundation set up to be “largely independent of the DNR,” and for the purpose of raising money for special projects for the DNR expect any financial support “from the cash-strapped Department of Natural Resources?” And, since “the ICF will also be selling deer hunts in an effort to raise money for the new facility,” does that make them an “outfitter” under Admin. Rule 610? Wouldn’t want to see anyone get in trouble over a little paperwork snafu. Perhaps some of the Illinois licensed outfitters would come to the aid of the ICF and help them out by referring some of their “high roller” non-resident clients to make a charitable donation to the facility, or perhaps they could donate the services of some of their guides to help on the youth deer hunts? The outfitters gain so much from Illinois’ natural resources, it only seems fair that they give a little back.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/15 at 10:16 PM

BigD, I don’t think they have to be concerned about outfitting laws, it would seem the ICF is a state agency.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/16 at 04:39 AM

There are a lot of people who are VERY concerned with the ICF & the IDNR trying to sell deer hunts now.
Remember the ICF & the IDNR are now selling deerhunts with heartland lodge. This is a very worry some trend that many hunters will be watching VERY closely.
Something else that worries me is that it sound like they are just letting the kids shoot does. Is only allowing a kid to shot does sending the right message about deerhunting ??????
Are we now teaching our kids if you want to shoot a buck, you have to pay a lot of money to do so ????
Who owns the nice pretty lodge in the pictures above, the IDNR ? The ICF ? IL tax payers ???
Will the hunters who pay to hunt their also be staying in that lodge ???
I sure hope that the new fee increases, are NOT going to pay for that lodge & the facilities that will house the ICF paying deerhunting CLIENTS ????

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/16 at 08:18 AM

Yes lynn i think that is what we have been teaching our youth for the past 10 yrs is that you have to pay to shoot bucks and in most areas does to.With all the outfitters the youth have even found out they have to pay even to hunt grandpas land also.Even if its small game.So sad for our youth its no wonder youth numbers are dropping.It is all about the money nothing else.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/16 at 09:17 AM

Calm down Lynn, you sound like you are about to have a high speed come apart on this issue.  First, I would like to clear something up for Cougs.  The ICF is a non-profit foundation organized under the laws of Illinois.  It is not a State Agency!  To my knowledge, there is no exemption for a non-profit organization from Admin. Rule 610.  If someone is selling deer or wild turkey hunts in the State of Illinois, they fall under the heading of outfitter, and must be licensed.  There are exemptions for land owners (farmers) under the Rule.  Secondly, I want it to be perfectly clear that I believe whole-heartedly in what the ICF,the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation and the Torstenson Family are trying to accomplish at the Pecatonica facility.  Lynn, as you have stated many times, the youthful hunters are the future of our sport.  It is absolutely necessary to educate, sponsor, foster, and ensure that those hunting youth who will be the leaders of tomorrow, will be instilled with the conservation ethic and sound wildlife management principles. The ICF has done great work in the past, and I believe under Spangler’s leadership, they will continue to do so.

Which brings us to your final point. The new fee increases, are NOT going to pay for that lodge & the facilities that will house the ICF paying deerhunting CLIENTS.  The ICF is a private, non-profit organization that has nothing to do with the recent fee increases by IDNR.  Except, the ICF like a lot of Illinois Sportsmen and Sportswomen supported those increases, with the mistaken notion that the increased fees would give the IDNR more money to manage our natural resources. We were all lied to by the Director, Governor Quinn, and your State Legislators, who treated the license and permit fee increases as nothing more than what it was…..a tax increase on the Illinois hunters and fishermen, for which, they received nothing. Those increased fees were swept into the General Fund and the IDNR budget was cut back to where it was before the fee increases. Please remember this when voting in November.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/16 at 09:19 AM

Sorry BigD but just a few more questions since its non profit and not tied to the state I quote this"The ICF is governed by a 13-member Board of Directors appointed by the Governor and four legislative leaders, and chaired by the Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)”.
So why is the governor picking the board, why are law makers sitting on the board? To me it seems saying this is not a part of the state is like saying the joint deer task force has nothing to do with the state, how many other non profit organizations get their leaders picked in this manner?
Sorry while I support anything that will get youth involved I think this could easily be a smoke and mirror show to get the state into the outfitting bussines and needs to be watched very close. Seems they are on the path selling the racks to the high bidder and allowing the kids only does. Why not allow the kids to have either sex hunts?
That brings me to anouther point and one you touched on above, I’m wondering how many kids and adults sat out for the whole season or part of them due to the fee increases,
Really when you think about it the same people responsible for the fee increases and the lies associated with them are sitting on the board of this “non profit” organization.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/17 at 06:09 AM

Done a little more digging and answered a few of my questions and raised a few more.
“The Illinois Conservation Foundation was authorized to be created under the Illinois Department of Conservation (a predecessor agency of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources) by Public Act 88-591 on August 20, 1994. So yes it is a non profit corporation, but look it is being ran by the state.” Didn’t realize the state was in the non profit bussiness.
Now the purpose of this non profit corporation is interesting. ..
The role of the Foundation, an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, is to provide additional funding for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ conservation programs that either are not receiving adequate State funding or cannot be implemented because State funding is not available (20 ILCS 880/10)
This is the smoke and mirrors I was talking about, the ICF is a non profit corporation manged by the state to help fund a state agency, funds are going to be raised through corporate sponsors and selling hunting packages ie outfitting.
So the concerns about the state getting into the outfitting bussiness are valid its exactly what is taking place and yes in a round about way the state does indeed own the lodge and all the land since it is in control of the non profit corporation. Just take a look at the contact addresses between the the DNR director and the ICF director, they can probably walk across the hall to pick up their outfitting permit.
Anouther question is why is it next to impossible to find any info about any youth hunt or program on the ICF site yet one can easily get signed up for a 600 dollar quail hunt? Are they not using the kids as a front to justify things? I also wonder that since this is a private sector front for the DNR and helps sustain DNR programs does this mean once their funds from the outfitting bussiness picks up can we expect more cuts to the DNR’s budget?
You did nail it on the head though BigD everyone needs to be looking at who is up for election and what they have done their last term.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/17 at 02:13 PM

Keep Digging Cougs, you are half way there!  I am surprised someone else has not responded by now.  There is a lot more to this than what you have reported.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/17 at 03:52 PM

Getting kids into hunting isn’t about a pretty lodge. It is about access to land, and not just for the kids, most kids that hunt get started tagging along with the old man before they can handle a gun. Unless pops has access to some hunting land the tradition will not get passed on. Oh wait I forgot of course dad can hunt too….....“The ICF will also be selling deer and duck hunts in an effort to raise money for the new facility. Five-day archery packages are available.” Give me a break.

Posted by illin on 09/17 at 05:27 PM

I will keep looking into it, feel free to point in a direction. I have always wondered why we don’t more see any stories on here pointing out the smoke and mirrors.
Most stories like the one above just try and make a point of the positive, yeah its great some kids got to go dove hunting and had a good time, its also great they will have youth deer hunts, but what’s the real cost?
What’s not great is they intend to limit what those youths shoot, saving the horns for the highest bidders, its not great that this is a front for the dnr to get into outfitting, or the fact that they are hiding behind the kids to do it. I don’t think its a good idea to mix government with private corporations.
Think about it these corporate sponsers want to convince us their products work and then sell us it. Sorry kids shooting does will not accomplish that, paid hunters using the states outfitting service taking large horns will. What do you all think is going to be the focus of this facilty and property in the coming years? Outfittting and managing for big bucks or getting kids out there hunting?
Really this property is nothing more than a state park that has been burried in a state non profit company to be manged for paid hunts. Letting a few kids hunt some dove or does will not change that fact. Seems like the lies and deceit will never stop in this state.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/17 at 08:27 PM

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