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Following this advice might help you land a free upland-game permit

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Updated: July 23, 2013 8:18PM

Illinois’ free upland-game permit program goes back to what once was.

I’ve relished the mix of brush, woods, swamps and fields at Green River State Wildlife Area in the northwest part of the state; the oasis of 80 acres of brome, orchard grass, clovers, mixed prairie grasses and forbes at Clifton Pheasant Habitat Area in the middle of corn and beans in the east-central part of the state; and the ravines, hedgerows, woods, farmlands and grasslands at the Buckhorn Unit of Siloam Springs State Park in the west-central part of the state.

Illinois’ coolest hunting program allows lucky hunters to go retro on wild birds in restored landscapes for a day with their own groups at about three dozen sites. The problem is drawing a permit — odds are roughly 1-in-3 — during the August application period. There are ways to improve your chances.

‘‘I had this discussion about improving odds with the folks in our permit office a few years ago,’’ emailed Mike Wefer, the section head of wildlife field operations for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Two key things were to apply for weekday dates and for the maximum dates and sites allowed.

‘‘I also suspect that applying for some of the more out-of-the-way or less popular sites would help, too,’’ he said.

I follow all three strategies. But I really want to hunt Saybrook and Sibley once, so I always apply for one day at those premier sites.

I have a couple of other tricks. Try applying for a day during one of the firearm deer seasons. I learned that accidentally one year when I screwed up, applied then and drew a tough permit.

But best of all is to have a group that applies and goes together if somebody gets lucky. I have a loose confederation of about six with whom I do this. It pays off in having familiar companions to hunt unfamiliar landscapes.

Bring a dog or dogs. Then make a day of it and make history of your own.

Fish kills

The cooling lakes of LaSalle and Braidwood escaped significant fish kills during the heat wave. On Tuesday, fisheries biologist Ken Clodfelter said LaSalle had lost ‘‘just a few hybrids and a few blue catfish. Hopefully, we are all right for a while now.’’

But the South Branch of the Chicago River had enough of a die-off that ‘‘the water stinks,’’ according to Jeff Nolan of Bridgeport Bass.

Stray cast

Bears training camp is like scouting bucks in velvet. Cubs season is like hoisting spinnakers. Sox season is like bailing.

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