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Illinois hunting and fishing

A hunter keeps watch behind him for deer moving through the woods in Pike County on Saturday.

Deer big business in Pike

November 21, 2009 at 07:27 PM


Anyone who doubts Pike County still is at the epicenter of the deer-hunting world should just ask someone — like someone from, say, England.

“Pike County is renowned for its big bucks, but I haven’t got one yet,” said Peter Sample, far-removed from his home in Amble, a North Sea town in Northumberland, England, not far from the border with Scotland.

Sample was just another in a row of blaze orange caps seated at the bar of Lindsay’s Tavern over the lunch hour Saturday. But the presence of visitors from far-flung locales points out the importance of deer hunting to the economy of the state, and communities like Pittsfield.

Sample has been visiting Pike County for a dozen years, hunting with his son-in-law Bill Cox of Springfield. The first segment of the traditional firearm season ends tonight.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report says hunting, fishing and wildlife watching activities account for about $32 billion in economic activity in Illinois.

Sample was planning to hunt Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning before returning to Springfield Sunday afternoon.

“Then I’ll be spending my hard-earned income in Springfield at your wonderful shopping malls,” he said.

Bar owner Walt Lindsay would like hunters to come to Pittsfield and stay a bit longer. The first segment of the firearm season is three days and the second, Dec. 3-6, is four days long. He would like to see the first season switched to four days, since most hunters get a deer during the first season and second season business normally is less.

“First season is better with less days than the second season with more days,” he said. “Millions of dollars are just gone. They (visitors) just take it home with them.”
How to keep those millions circulating is of great importance to public officials, from the local chamber of commerce all the way up to Gov. Pat Quinn. He visited a Pike County farm that supplements its income by offering bow hunting Saturday afternoon, bringing his message of the importance of nature-based tourism and the healthful aspects of outdoors recreation.

“It’s the Land of Lincoln,” Quinn said. “It’s also the land of the best deer hunting in the United States.”
More than 360,000 permits have been issued statewide for this year’s firearm season. In 2008, firearm hunters killed 106,018 deer during the seven-day season.

“Conservation and nature-based tourism is part of our economic recovery,” Quinn said.

Terry Rush, owner of Blue River Outdoors site of the governor’s visit, said his outfitting business supplements income from the farming operation.

“You just throw it in the kitty and it all adds up,” he said of the hunting venture. “We had an economic opportunity with a renewable resource. It’s interesting, rewarding and challenging.”

Rush said hunters come back to his business year after year, with repeat visitors making up 95 percent.

“One guy has hunted with us 16 years, so we must be doing something right.”

Illinois Department of Natural Resources conservation police officer Steve Drone said that so far, most everyone has been following the rules.

He’s written five warnings and only two tickets this firearm season as of Saturday afternoon, compared to 20-30 tickets in years past. He noted, though, that hunting activity seemed to be light, especially since he didn’t hear a single shot fired in the distance during the event at Blue River Outdoors.

Hunters determined to shoot their Pike County monster buck often are criticized for focusing on bucks and not taking management of the doe population seriously.

On Saturday, four guys from Chicago said they were doing their part.

Skip Saviano, Mike McAuliffe, Ryan McAuliffe and Don O’Sullivan each had a doe to show for their efforts.

“We’re good for Pike County, since we killed all does,” Mike McAuliffe said with a laugh. “At least that’s what the clerks at Wal-Mart tell us, ‘Shoot the does.’”

The four hunters were stopped for lunch in downtown Pittsfield.

Saviano, a state representative from River Grove, said the group still had unfilled deer tags and would be trying again.

“We’ll go back out to see if we can get the big guy, maybe.”

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