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Northern Illinois Hunting & Fishing Days: Ups & downs

YORKVILLE, Ill.–Out of the corner of my eye, I caught glimpses of memory-making fun Saturday morning when the Northern Illinois Hunting and Fishing Days opened.

There was 2 1/2-year-old Lily Weihofen catching her first fish and touching it as Paul Pierce unhooked it. Then her twin Luke caught his first fish.

An oil on turkey feather painting by Suzanna Fairley.

Credit: Dale Bowman

I loved the paintings that Suzanna Fairley of Country Classic Oils does on turkey feathers. I loved how Alan Kato and others from DuPage River Fly Tyers (DRiFT) patiently taught fly fishing.

I loved talking with juniors Glenn Banaszak and A.J. Wojtowicz working the free canoe launch, part of a contingent from Minooka High School’s bass fishing club. The club has unheard-of community support (26 boats at the last tournament). That’s why both Banaszak and Wojtowicz said they needed to give back and why they were also volunteering in the afternoon at the weigh-in for the Illinois B.A.S.S. Nation championship at Stratton State Park.

Problem is the big picture at the NIHFD, the annual outdoors celebration at Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area, fades fast, like a grandmother’s favorite photo. With nearly a third of the booth spaces vacant, it felt like walking through a browning photo.

A rep for one of the main sponsors, who believes in NIHFD, asked if I would help pump it up for next year. Initially, I thought yes. But after a weekend of thought, I am not as inclined.

Every few years, for the last 20 years, somebody asked what I thought about NIHFD. My response has been the same. Target the urban outdoors world. It has not happened and I don’t sense much inclination in that direction.

Years ago, Bob Long Jr., “The Fishin” Guy” for the Chicago Park District, said, “The future of fishing is brown.” He was right then; and is still right.

Slowly, the retail outdoors world, notably at Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid in Memphis, touches the truth that the modern American outdoors must include the urban world.

The future of the outdoors, if it is going to remain mainstreamed, must include the urban and the hodgepodge of races and ethnic groups that make up America in the 21st Century, not some antiquated (and inaccurate) notion of what America once was.

Similarly, if NIHFD is to remain relevant, or survive, that idea must be embraced.

HUNTING: Bowhunting for deer and turkey opens Thursday in Illinois. Corn harvest rapidly picked up last week with fields 30 percent harvested statewide by Sunday, near the five-year average of 34.

STRAY CAST: Derrick Rose talks at news conferences like a propeller-scarred muskie swims Fox Lake.

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SHOW & GO

CWD MEETINGS

(All meetings with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources on chronic wasting disease start at 7 p.m. With a 40-minute presentation and discussion to follow)

Sept. 30: Pontiac High School

Oct. 5: Starved Rock Lodge, Utica

Oct. 6: Meadowhawk Lodge, Hoover Forest Preserve, Yorkville

Oct. 7: Four Rivers Environmental Education Center, Channahon

Oct. 8: Illinois State Rifle Association Shooting Range, Bonfield

Oct. 21: Stephenson County Farm Bureau Building, Freeport