WEEKEND CAMPING/BOWHUNT   Leave a comment

Shore Fishing 0025

All too often we hear the lament that there is just not any place near Chicago to bow hunt and experience nature. That is bunk. To prove it following is a diary of a bowhunt I took a few years ago while living in the Chicago suburbs. It was about 2 hours travel from home.

Following work on a Friday afternoon the drive begins. With all the gear packed on Thursday it is just a matter to load up after work.

The destination is Johnson Sauk Trail State Park near Kewanee, IL. The park is a multi-use state park that offers both hunting and fishing.

One reaches the park from Chicago via Interstate 80 west to Illinois Route 78, the Annawan exit. Once on 78, it is 5.8 miles south to Sauk Trail Road. The entrance to the park is well-marked. It is 137-miles to the gate.

Following the signs you arrive at the check-in station where the site superintendent or other IDNR employee explains the ground rules. Then it is off to the assigned campsite, either primitive or improved, depending upon the type of camping desired. The primitive campground is nestled in spreading pines and is near the fishing area.

There is just time to make camp, eat and then turn in for the night.

Early the next morning our squirrel hunt begins. During other legal season it might be a deer (bow only), quail, pheasant, rabbit or partridge hunt.

About 10:00 a.m. the squirrel action lets off and it is time to try the fishing. At the boat house we rent a boat with trolling motor. The fishing action can include bass, muskie, hybrid muskie, pike, catfish, etc. Later in the afternoon it is time to return to the squirrel hunting.

The hunting area includes some 1,300-acres of timber, brush and open or cultivated fields. The terrain is not particularly strenuous, being basically rolling hills with cultivated fields, small woodlots and brushy draws.

In addition to normal prairie state vegetation there is also sycamore, black willow, white pine and some great oaks. During the put-and-take pheasant season you can also add pheasants to your bag. There is a fee for that hunt but the success rate is high.

Squirrel hunters seem to do better on the eastern end of the park. The terrain is higher and it has a lot of pine trees. The taller trees hold a good population of these kinds of the treetops.

The entire park is within walking distance of the camping area. Many non-game species are available for wildlife watching fans.

In the evening dinner is fixed and one can settle into an evening by the campfire, reliving the day’s activity. Then it is off to bed for a well-deserved night of slumber.

Early the next morning, you break camp and head over to Big Bend Conservation Area near Prophetstown, IL. It is just a straight north trip on Illinois Route 78, past Interstate 80 to the town. A leisurely breakfast at a local eatery is welcome before heading west on Springhill Road to Van Damne Road. The latter is a gravel road that leads into the conservation area. A large wood sign pointing the way marks it. The Big Bend Conservation Area is about 3 miles from Prophetstown.

The area contains about 1,188-acres with 46-acres of water in the form of two ponds, a marsh and an old oxbow. The upper area is about 250-acres of flat, sandy soil with some hardwoods and grain fields.

The lower portion is 838-acres of maple, cottonwood, oak, shrubs, open land and grain fields. The grain fields contain sunflowers, corn, Milo, millet and soybeans. IDNR plants them as food and cover of game animals.

Check in is done at a station box on a post.   A quick survey of the hunting area is completed. Dove, squirrel, deer (bow only), rabbit pheasant, quail, woodcock, rail and snipe are in open season. Later in the year it is possible to hunt partridge, raccoon and opossum hunting in season. The site officials post season dates and bag limits at the check-in station.

Following a good day of hunting it is time to head back home. You have spent little money, have enjoyed good hunting on two state-managed conservation areas and were never more than 150-miles from Chicago.

These are just two examples of hunting areas available to Illinois bow hunting. For a more complete, and up to date, list of the thousands of hunting acres available check the Illinois Hunting Digest 2015-16 on the IDNR website at http://www.dnr.illinois.gov.

The observations listed above came from a number of years ago. The situations and areas remain much same now as then with some minor changes.

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