Few things in the outdoors illustrate the Great Divide in Illinois–Downstate vs Chicago area–quite like the Illinois Deer & Turkey Expo.

You would think in the greatest state for hunting whitetail deer such a show would be a no-brainer. But the show roams. It began in 1990 in Decatur. It landed in Peoria from 1995-2000, then did a decade in Bloomington, before returning to Peoria in 2011, then the last few years in Springfield.

Well, Friday through Sunday, the Deer Expo with its near orgasmic celebration of big deer is back in Bloomington at the Interstate Center. I am curious how the shift to a late summer date–it will be in Bloomington the same weekend next year, Aug. 11-13, 2017–will impact the show. It might work. It is before corn and bean harvest begins, and before pre-season scouting becomes focused.

Here’s where the Great Divide in Illinois matters. The bulk of deer hunters are in the greater Chicago area. When the show moved farther Downstate, particularly to Springfield, attendance plummeted. Bloomington is a far simpler drive. I expect much better crowds.

One big test of success will be the celebration of big bucks being officially measured in the Trophy Deer Contest and Display. At the show’s peak, that display drew more than 500 big bucks and you could lose yourself for hours ogling them.

Entry in that official measuring and display has tanked in recent years, for a bunch of reasons, including hunters becoming more tight-lipped. Again, participants in the official measuring receive a discounted weekend pass ($20) for entry.

Beside the great display of big bucks, what draws me to the show is the glut of advancements in technology in deer hunting. I mean everything from intense tinkering on food plot seed mixes to deer stands better equipped and higher tech than some cabins.

I like to think of Conservation World as a wild oasis at the Illinois State Fair. Credit: Dale Bowman

I like to think of Conservation World as a wild oasis at the Illinois State Fair.
Credit: Dale Bowman

FAIR ENOUGH: Conservation World at the Illinois State Fair, Friday through Aug. 21, is another example of the Great Divide in Illinois. I remember how surprised Carol Knowles, then press secretary for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, was when our family walked into Conservation World years ago. Chicago-area families are not common at the State Fair.

I would not drive to Springfield just for Conservation World. But it you’re going for the State Fair–that sultry mix of amusement rides, fried foods, prize animals, and Daisy Dukes and cowboy boots fashion–save an hour or two for Conservation World.

NOT FAIR: Putting Jim Scheer, the man behind the gerrymandering of the waterfowl zone line in Will County, into the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame is like allowing Pete Rose, who bet on baseball, into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

INDIANA SALMON/TROUT: The Indiana DNR holds a presentation on salmon and trout decisions for Lake Michigan at 7 p.m. tonight, Aug. 10, at the American Legion Post 451 in Michigan City, Ind.

WINGSHOOTING: A few spots remain for the wingshooting clinics this weekend at Shabbona Lake. Saturday is for youth (10-15); Sunday is girls and women. Contact Richard Carlson at (815) 758-2773.

STRAY CAST: Illinois reintroducing alligator gar the last couple years reminds me of Green Bay drafting Tony Mandarich in 1989.