I could see the smile busting out on Garrett Glennon’s face Friday at Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area, even in the dark evening.
I first thought he and his dad, Randy, were just loading their tree stands and cart into a pickup at closing time on opening day of Illinois’ firearm deer season.
Then I saw a big 10-point rack sticking out of a blue tarp on the cart.
Good God, you all. An unremarkable opener turned remarkable.
‘‘It’s the only deer we saw all day,’’ Glennon, 19, said.
But this is not new for him.
‘‘He’s taken bigger deer than I have,’’ his dad said.
Glennon, a Conant graduate attending Harper College, started deer hunting at 11. At 13, he took a 10-pointer. The mount of that one is in his room.
‘‘I decided not to mount this one,’’ Glennon said. ‘‘It won’t fit in my room.’’
Instead, he will do something like a European mount.
On this buck, he made a good quartering shot at relatively close range. But the buck kept running on adrenaline in brush until it crashed to the ground.
Then came the hard work of bringing the deer — all 250 pounds of it — out at another parking lot than the one they had parked in.
‘‘I’m starving,’’ Glennon said. ‘‘That was a workout.’’
‘‘I’m so happy for him,’’ his father said. ‘‘I was wanting it for him more than my own deer.’’
The deer was so big that to hoist it to the back cargo-carrier rack, Glennon handled the rack and head while his dad and I each grabbed a back leg.
The rack was so big that it would have dragged on the ground. I dug a bungee cord out of my trunk, then Glennon’s dad roped the buck and its rack safely up.
Back at the check station, where we turned in our parking marker and back patch, Glennon’s buck drew the attention of every hunter and staffer. We stood around in a half-moon, half admiring and half paying homage.
‘‘It’s like a freaking cow,’’ a staffer said.
- Erin Henne continues to make memories. The 16-year-old bagged a nine-point buck in Edwards County. It was her second consecutive year with big-buck honors around her hunting group.
‘‘All the men here never killed bucks like that,’’ messaged Gary Bloom, the great Chicago angler and hunter who hunts with the same group. ‘‘Less points but bigger rack.’’
Henne took a 12-pointer last year.
- When the Illinois Department of Natural Resources releases the harvest report, I plan to post promptly at chicago.suntimes.com/outdoors.
The big push of sandhill cranes around the area and the counts at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Indiana were weeks behind.
On Thursday, Tom Jurich emailed: ‘‘They’re coming! Out briefly about 10:30 a.m. in Munster [Indiana] and heard, then saw, two groups of about 50 or so riding a strong tailwind from northwest to southeast toward Jasper-Pulaski. They were making great time!’’
On Sunday, reports came on Illinois Birders Exchanging Thoughts (IBET). My favorite was from Leslie Borns, who posted: ‘‘During a run on the lakefront path between 2:30 and 4 p.m., I witnessed continuous flocks of sandhills flying overhead. Some flew right over DuSable Lake Shore Drive and others were coming in off the lake, all headed south or southwest. I couldn’t hear their vocalizing over the traffic on LSD, but it was an awesome sight and one I will not forget.’’
On Tuesday, the count at Jasper-Pulaski had jumped by 24,200 to 28,652.
Tracking the Bears game on your phone while sitting in a deer blind does nothing for either experience.