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George Little: A time for optimism

November 08, 2013 at 12:10 AM

The State Journal-Register

Optimism can be the triumph of hope over experience.

If nothing else, upland bird hunters are optimists. The season opened last Saturday. Tony, Buckwheat and I put the dogs on the ground in the morning and went for a walk.

This particular day, our optimism was rewarded. We found some birds, and got to watch the dogs lock onto points. All in all it was a real good day — even though it remained grounded in the reality that, as the season progresses, what we experienced is likely to be the exception rather than the recent upland-hunting rule.

Had you looked into your crystal ball 20 years ago and forecasted there would be a time when the annual deer harvest in Illinois would exceed the number of quail harvested yearly, you would have been laughed right out of the coffee shop. Now it’s a fact.

If you’re up for a road trip, the public land hunting opportunities for quail in Kansas or pheasant hunting in North Dakota are likely to be more productive than those you will find in these parts. That’s big country. Do your homework. Study the maps, and keep an eye on the weather. Have a good pair of boots and at least two tough dogs.

This year’s Illinois upland game forecast isn’t much different than it’s been in recent memory. Quail and pheasant populations seem to be steady to slightly down. Some farmers have told me they have seen more quail this year than they did last. I hope they are right. Those of us who hopscotch into stiff chaps and collar up dogs that are rarin’ to go on frosty mornings will take all the good news we can get.

Optimism aside, wild bird hunting in this neck of the woods can be a lot of hunting and not much finding. It’s still too good to pass up.

Birds or no, upland hunting offers opportunities for personal enrichment that are not available sitting by yourself in a deer stand, or lying out in a duck blind in the pouring rain.

Walking the fringe areas and grass draws with one’s pals, while hoping the dogs will hit a scent cone, provides plenty of time for conversation. Oftentimes, the best part is that you really don’t need to know what you are talking about, as long as it sounds good. Free of the fingertip confirmation provided by computers and smart phones, there is room for unchallenged speculation and theory. The information represented as absolute fact is sort of a verbal Wikipedia. It may be completely true, or it may be salted with equal parts of truth, conjecture and myth.

Therefore, everything learned on an upland hunting trip should come with a warning label. “All information gathered should be confirmed by three reliable, independent sources before being repeated, or acted upon, especially if it has anything to do with personal relationships, recalls on your truck or investment opportunities.”

Contact George Little at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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