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Plenty to like in Illinois

June 26, 2010 at 09:04 PM

Hunting and fishing prospects always look better just over the next state line. The grass is greener in another ZIP code.

That’s why we travel hundreds, or even thousands, of miles in search of bigger bucks, bigger bass and four or five covey rises a day.

Some outdoor enthusiasts who are passionate about their pursuits pull up stakes and move to places they believe will maximize their opportunities. Outdoor Life magazine regularly publishes an issue that lists the top 200 towns in America for sportsmen and sportswomen. The locations are categorized to accommodate specific hunting and fishing interests.

The majority of the Top 200 towns are west of the Mississippi River. The only Illinois city to make the Outdoor Life list this year is Quincy (which is on the Mississippi), coming in tied for 135th with Reserve, N.M. There is no indication these two cities will stage a hunt-and-fish-off to break the tie. I guess if 135 is your lucky number and you can’t pick between them, close your eyes and flip a coin.

This year’s all-around top hunting and fishing town is Rapid City, S.D. Before you pound a For Sale sign into the front yard and head to the Badlands, consider that the Top 200 list changes every year.

If you are dead set on being in the No. 1 spot, you might be headed to Keokuk, Iowa, or Pocatello, Idaho, before you’ve been in Rapid City long enough to buy South Dakota license plates. The movers will be happy, but your teenage daughter will be distressed. Unless, of course, you’re moving back in the direction of the old boyfriend — that stellar lad who lost your remote and backed over your tackle box.

Instead of reading about how good things are in another time zone, it might be easier, less expensive and less time-consuming to maximize the opportunities we have right here.

For the past 10 years, Illinois has consistently been one of the top states for the harvest of Boone and Crockett as well as Pope and Young whitetail bucks. Our grass is greener to hunters all over the country.

We have a lot of water — lakes, rivers and even farm ponds where the pan fishing is pretty good. Fresh crappie, bluegill or catfish for supper is pretty hard to beat.

Right here in our backyards, we have thousands of acres of public land where we can fish and hunt, shoot clay targets or just go traipse around. Other than the normal license fees required, this access is free, and it doesn’t take a trip-planning guide or a plane ticket to enjoy it.

Sure, it’s fun to go on a trip, meet some new people, walk over some different country or fish a previously untried lake.

But, when it comes to packing the moving van, Dorothy Gale might have known what she was talking about.

For outdoor enthusiasts in this neck of the woods, “There’s no place like home.”

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