Illinois Outdoors at PrairiestateOutdoors.com
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Jeff Lampe
Jeff Lampe

Jeff Lampe has been outdoor writer at the Journal Star in Peoria for 12 duck seasons. He lives in Elmwood with his wife Monica, sons Henry, Victor and Walter, and Llewellin setter Hawkeye. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he is an avid fan of the Bills and still has mental scars from four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Outside of hunting and fishing, Lampe's main passion in Illinois was Class A boys basketball (which sadly no longer exists). Former publisher of the Class A Weekly newsletter, Lampe is a co-author of "100 Years of Madness" and "Classical Madness," both books focusing on prep basketball in Illinois.

Illinois Outdoors
 

Scattershooting

A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

DNR working on youth recruitment

September 13, 2009 at 09:12 AM

A handful of layoffs are still likely and the funding future is no clearer for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Despite ongoing fiscal woes, DNR may actually be making headway in one critical area: youth recruitment.

I say that because recent developments are actually making it easier for parents to get kids outside.

While that should be an obvious step to getting families involved, take nothing for granted where government is involved. Youth events are too often under-publicized and over regulated.

This despite the fact bureaucrats have for years talked around the issue of getting kids outdoors.

I worried that might be the case when DNR director Marc Miller made youth recruitment one of three priorities for the Oct. 24-25 Conservation Congress (the other two are public access and funding).

Instead, recent developments have been pleasantly surprising. Just this week came news of a free fishing day on Saturday, Sept. 19 in all state areas that offer public fishing opportunities.

Residents and non-residents of all ages can fish that day without a license.

That’s a nice gesture. But here’s one suggestion: expand the free days to the entire Labor Day Weekend next year. That would be a great way for families to end the summer outdoors together.

The free fishing day follows creation of an online calendar for youth activities (dnr.state.il.us/youthprograms), that is a clearinghouse for programs, application dates and the like. You can even sign up to receive e-mail reports of youth events in your area.

For instance, did you know the application period for youth waterfowl hunts is open through Oct. 1 for events at Banner Marsh (Oct. 24-25), Spring Lake Bottoms (Nov. 8) and Donnelley-DePue (Nov. 14-15)?

Or that if you dig deeper into the DNR Web site, you’ll learn there are still 13 youth pheasant hunting permits available for an Oct. 31 hunt at the Mackinaw River State Fish and Wildlife Area. Visit dnr.state.il.us/pheasant/index.htm to apply.

These events are typically well run, and last weekend’s youth dove hunt at Mackinaw is a good example. A group of 34 youngsters and adults shot 315 doves and 13 limits in two fields that had been reserved for the youth hunt. By comparison, adults shot 202 doves and no limits in the first four days of hunting elsewhere at Mackinaw.

Even so, there’s no question it’s hard to keep track of all the applications and other hoops a parent has to jump through to get their kid hunting. The calendar should help.

The same is true of new over-the-counter permits for the Oct. 10-11 statewide youth deer hunt.
In the past, people had to apply in advance for the youth tags. Many missed the deadlines.
This year all you need to do is to visit a license vendor and plop down the money for a youth permit. Permits should be available starting Tuesday.

Those are the kind of changes DNR must make to help get more kids outdoors.

Of course, the rest is up to you parents. So take time to get your youngster(s) outside this fall.

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