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Upland-game opener unproductive, but fun anyway

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Updated: December 7, 2013 6:35AM



HUTTON, Ill. — The sun caught the cockbird flying by in all its shimmering blue, green, brown, red and white glory.

It was beautiful. I never expected to see it again.

Otis Kirchhoefer swung, then held fire. We were hunting wild birds Saturday on opening day for upland game in Illinois at Paul C. Burrus (Hurricane Creek) Habitat Area near Charleston.

Wild pheasants are smart, wary and far different than put-and-take birds. Kirchhoefer, his son Kyle, Steve Palmisano and I marked where the bird landed on the corner. We made a quick half-moon around it while Kirchhoefer’s Dixie ranged ahead.

I assumed a wild bird would run and be long gone before we came near it.

But it flushed within range, and Kirchhoefer made a perfect shot. At least our success percentage was perfect: That was the only game we rousted all day.

Yet it was a wonderful day. And a learning experience.

When applying for a free upland permit, I’ve learned to increase my odds. The usual success rate is
1-in-3 for the applications in August. I increase my odds by applying at more obscure sites and applying for many Wednesdays.

And I’m part of a group that spreads successful draws. Most sites allow a permit-holder to invite three guest hunters. I’ve hunted about a third of the three dozen sites.

This year, I drew an opening-day permit, the first I ever heard of that happening.

You always can learn more. At lunch, somebody asked if I knew how many birds had been shot last year on the site.

On Sunday, I checked the last Illinois Public Hunting Areas Report (2011-12). Two pheasants and one quail were harvested in 27 hunter visits. Ouch. Before applying in the future, I guess I’ll check how previous years were. Paul C. Burrus needs habitat work, burning or brush-clearing.

Yet I enjoy the adventure of hunting a new site, even a nearly fruitless trek.

The first field looked promising. We started south and worked into the wind. Nothing.

The second field was too overgrown to hunt, so we moved
to the third field, which produced the lone bird.

There were other rewards: memories of previous hunts together and other dogs, plus finding a turtle shell and the skull and skeleton of a seven-point buck.

It was good to work behind Kirchhoefer’s English setters Dixie, 10, and Dakota, 8, something I have done nearly every season. Dixie nears the end, and Kirchhoefer hunted her in only two fields. Yet when he left her kenneled, she bawled relentlessly, wanting to hunt with all her heart, even though her body is going.

I want to grow old like that. Fighting time.

Places and faces

To extend the Green Bay buzz, catch Kevin Pischke of Lay in a Line Guide Service at the Midwest Musky Club at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Village Sportsman Club in Alsip.

Deer

The rut is here. For the first time, males topped the weekly harvest (52 percent) by Illinois bowhunters. Through Sunday, archery hunters had harvested 24,625 deer, down from 28,543 at the same time last year.

Stray casts

That football game was like arrowing a one-sided 10-point.



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