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Illinois' upland game hunting: Opening day scenes

CLARENCE, Ill.–The most important image from opening day for upland game seasons in Illinois may have been the one I snapped in Iroquois County on my way home this evening.

That’s right, a combine headed out to harvest more corn.

An extended stretch of favorable weather is allowing farmers to do serious work in their fields.

But we start at dawn.

A dog snifts at the rolls and other goodies on a table, while some two dozen hunters lined up in what used to be called the shed, but has now been cleaned up enough now to be called by such dignified names as a man cave or clubhouse, to hear Gerry Rodeen lay out the day’s plans and strageties.

That’s Rodeen in the middle of his speech. He is the “five-star general” of the opening day festivities, loosely associated with the Pioneer chapter of Pheasants Forever, Illinois’ first PF chapter established in 1987.

By noon, it was obvious, between the hot day already warmed into the 70s and the high percentage of corn still in the fields, it would be a tough day of hunting.

There were only nine birds in the hand by lunch.

And what a lunch it was with 100 hunters and farmers from around Ford/Iroquois counties expected at the shed, the clubhouse or man cave, whatever it is properly called now.

Ribs, ribeye steaks, Italian venison, hot wings, brats with onions and peppers, smoked turkey, chili, potato salad and corn.

A lunch filling enough to thin the ranks for afternoon with some opting for afternoon naps. The smaller afternoon crew added only two more pheasants.

But the way the farmers were harvesting as we hunted, even Sunday should be a better day for hunting.

The best image of all, a cock pheasant just before being dressed out.