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On its way to Wrigleyville, a white Joe’s Limo Service party bus parked along the side of Huston Road by the Mazonia/Braidwood State Fish and Wildlife Area offices.
The party bus was part of a far-ranging bachelor party for Nathan Quinlan. The 29-year-old from Ludlow is getting married this weekend. The main destination was Wrigleyville, but first came Braceville for the waterfowl-blinds draw at Mazonia.
Quinlan’s party fit in with the crowd of more than 300, many of whom arrived hours before the draw for 29 blinds and three alternates. They spread lawn chairs, canopies, grills and ‘‘what’s important,’’ as Quinlan put it: brats, hamburgers, potato chips, Doritos, beer and soft drinks.
Multiple groups grilled and picnicked. Setters and retrievers lounged. Pickups and people piled in as the draw drew nearer. Boys and men (it was nearly an all-male crowd) threw footballs. Earth tones — greens, browns, beiges, camo — dominated, though one dude sported a vivid tie-dye.
The line into the office was constant enough for hours that staff posted a handwritten sign to have FOID cards and hunting licenses in hand.
Knots of people collected by the paper that listed the order of blinds picked the last three years. The top picks were 28, 29, 19 and 15. Lucky drawers have to build or maintain a blind, then have first dibs for the waterfowl seasons.
That’s a lot of to-do for Mazonia, which ranks well down on the list of success rates for state sites.
I asked Quinlan, who started duck hunting a few years ago while living in Chicago, why he would drive more than an hour to Mazonia.
‘‘Me and my dad and the guy there shot three ducks right off the bat one morning, cooked breakfast and went home,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s a good day.’’
The other pull for Mazonia is that it is next to Braidwood Lake, the only solely daily-draw waterfowl site in northeast Illinois. If unable to hunt Braidwood, waterfowlers can shift to Mazonia lakes.
At 2 p.m. sharp, the crowd compacted around a Department of Natural Resources pickup, which held an easel with the available blinds. Bill Handel of Morris was drawn first. He picked 28, a blind on a little piece of land in the middle of a lake at Mazonia South.
Handel hung around to watch with his friend, a character known as ‘‘Cookie Monster,’’ who has been at every Mazonia draw and never drawn a blind. Jerald Meier, who drew 28 last year, said it was in excellent shape. All Handel and ‘‘Cookie Monster’’ needed were a couple of loads of brush for camouflage.
On the way out, Quinlan said someone in his party, Chris Jones, drew one of the last blinds.
When I asked Quinlan what he expected from the Wrigleyville stop, he said, ‘‘It’ll be a mess.’’
Bachelor parties should be.
The Kankakee River is in perfect wading and floating shape for those visiting Bears training camp.
Marc Trestman reminds me of the late John Husar: a guy who would sit and contemplate on an island in Eagle Lake rather than fish for muskie.