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Blind draw at Kankakee River SP: Wisdom of the years

Six kids rush forward to help with the drawing for waterfowl blinds Saturday at Kankakee River State Park.
Credit: Dale Bowman

BOURBONNAIS, Ill.–Come mid-summer, more than Bears training camp is big. On the last Saturday in July, there’s a draw for waterfowl blinds at Kankakee River State Park.

As a blind draw in Illinois, it’s small, 75-100 people. Some Illinois River sites pull in thousands, some even arriving the night before.

KRSP is special because many blinds are on shore or accessible by wading, usually if weather allows.

Drawing a public blind in Illinois is like having your own duck club for a season. It’s something you should do at least once if you’re a waterfowler.

A buddy and I drew a blind twice. It was one of the great experiences of my life, from having our kids wading and brushing the blind to hunting and watching the sun rise upriver while deer walked into our decoys.

Saturday, I was looking for experience; and found it in three guys chilling in lawn chairs. Bob Reichenbach, his younger brother John and their friend Bob “Buzz” Murnick, of the Joliet area, entered the KRSP draw for 16 years. In the previous 15 (I jinxed them this year), they drew a blind 13 times.

Bob ``Buzz'' Murnick (left), John Reichenbach and his brother Bob await the blind draw at Kankakee River State Park Saturday. Credit: Dale Bowman

Bob “Buzz” Murnick (left), John Reichenbach and his brother Bob await the blind draw at Kankakee River State Park Saturday.
Credit: Dale Bowman

They have rituals, a series of them built over the years. There’s visiting the graves of their fathers, Mike Murnick and Robert Reichenbach, and placing decoys.
“Some of the best duck hunting has been on the anniversary of his dad’s death [Murnick, Dec. 17, 1999],’’ John said.

On the morning of the draw, they eat breakfast at the Crispy Waffle in Shorewood.

“I have to buy,’’ Bob said.

One way to increase odds is to have multiple people enter. They don’t go as far as those who have non-hunting significant others put in for the draw. But they have added two in recent years with Bob’s son Bobby Reichenbach and his buddy Dan Heberer.

At one time, the Reichenbachs had a cottage along the Kankakee. Buzz grew up hunting the Des Plaines River near the quarries. That ended when the Empress went in.

So their experiences of waterfowling at KRSP build.

“A day doesn’t go by without seeing an eagle fly over or a deer in the decoys,’’ Bob said.

“One day, we had a flock of 30 turkeys,’’ John said.

They said weather is the big factor is hunting success. Best are the cold post-frontal days when the river is beginning to ice.

Another ritual extends to the waterfowl opener. They save dove breasts from the dove opener in September, then cook them in the blind.

In the early years, they arrived hours ahead of time for the draw and scouted blinds. Over the years, they learned the blinds thoroughly and now only arrive a couple hours before the draw.

“We have a batting order [of blinds to pick],’’ Bob said.

At 2 p.m., the draw began with six kids pulling paper slips (photo at the top) from the rolling barrel.

The crowd at Kankakee River State Park awaits the blind draw Saturday. Credit: Dale Bowman

The crowd at Kankakee River State Park awaits the blind draw Saturday.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Mark Christensen was drawn first. He picked blind 12. In the sheet staff put out, 12 “needs structural work.” That’s better than seven of the 21 blinds needing “complete rebuild.”

The Reichenbachs and Murnick take pride in their blind building, that it will be up and in good shape the next year.

As five alternates were drawn without any luck for his group, John said, “We’ll just free-lance this year.’’

Any unoccupied blind half an hour before shooting time, may be used by any hunter.

Click here for information on the blind draws at KRSP. Click here for the map of where the blinds are.

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STRAY CAST: As a Sox fan, the trade deadline on Monday felt like the opening of perch June 16 at Montrose Harbor; for Cubs fans, it was like smelt netting in the 1970’s.