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More than 1,500 waterfowl enthusiasts turned out for the blind drawing at the Sanganois State Fish and Wildlife Area. Photos by Chris Young.

Hunting seasons draw closer

August 02, 2013 at 06:51 AM

The State Journal-Register

Last Sunday marked a turning point of sorts.

The weather was cool and fall-like, perfect for steering a hunter’s thoughts to the upcoming fall season.

Waterfowl blind drawings were held at public hunting sites along the Illinois River. And in Menard County, bowhunters took to the woods to sharpen their skills at a 3D target shoot.

At the Sanganois State Fish and Wildlife Area near Chandlerville, more than 1,500 people turned out for the annual duck blind drawing.

“It was a remarkable crowd,” said site superintendent Doug Jallas.

“Without a doubt we had a record crowd with the fantastic weather we had. It was more like September.”

Jallas said hunting season now moves to the front of the pack of outdoors activities.

“This is the kickoff to hunting season,” he said. “Once the duck blind drawing has come and gone people, start thinking about hunting.”

John Castro, who helps organize the public shoots at the Menard Archers 3D course, said summer is a great time to tune up for fall — or for a trip west to hunt big game.

“There are a couple of guys that are getting tuned up to go out west to elk hunt,” he said Sunday, as people came off the 30-target course at lunchtime.

3D archery courses are intended to simulate actual hunting situations, challenging bowhunters with life-like targets, odd angles and plenty of tree branches to peer around.

“The biggest thing is judging distance, and this gives you a great opportunity to be in an environment that is pretty natural for deer hunters,” Castro said. “It allows you to start improving your distance judging skills.

“A few of the shots are downhill, one is across a ravine, and you also are learning to judge where the vital organs are,” he said. “Those are two significant benefits for guys who go out in the woods.”

“Shooting a bow is a lot different than shooting a gun,” said Brandon Bulva of Virginia. “You’ve got to really take your time and find your spot and then hit that spot.”

Traditional archery targets have a center bulls-eye, but in real life that spot may not necessarily be in the center, depending on the hunter’s quarry.

To make a clean, quick kill, hunters have to hit the right spot.

Jamie Holmes of Bath said he practices every weekend during the summer.

“I come to the 3D shoots (around the area) twice a week throughout the summer, unless it gets really hot,” he said. “It preps you. Some days it’s cooler. Some days it’s hotter. It prepares you for the early season.”

Holmes said 3D shoots get hunters ready for other environmental conditions, too, such as judging the effect of wind on the flight of an arrow — especially at long distances.

Julie Bell of Beardstown has been shooting for about six months, and last Sunday’s Menard Archers 3D shoot was her second.

“I did a lot better this time,” she said with a laugh.

Bell has tagged along on deer hunts before, but is practicing to hunt on her own this fall.

“This will be my first time trying to shoot one myself,” Bell said.

Castro said he will “tighten up” the 30-target course to make it a little more difficult as the opening of bow-hunting season approaches Oct. 1.

Three more public shoots remain on the schedule: Aug. 25 and Sept. 22 and 29.

Doug Jallas (right) helps enter hunters in the blind drawing.

‘This is a big get-together’

At the Sanganois, Jallas said spring flooding caused some damage to levees, but he said repairs should be complete by the start of waterfowl hunting season.

Sites along the Illinois River still have plenty of water, and high levels have made it difficult to draw then down completely.

Jallas said hunters shouldn’t worry.

“They will have ample water to build their blinds,” he said. “And there will be plenty of ducks come through this fall.”

Teal season tentatively is set for Sept. 7-22. Other waterfowl season dates are being set now and will be available in September.

Blind drawing events have a long history.

“I started drawing when I was 16, 35 years ago,” he said. “This is a big get-together. Everyone looks forward to it.

“I love to see all these people come together, people I haven’t seen in a year, and everyone has a good time.”

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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