There’s something ominous about river bottoms. Flood washed forest floors and treetop flotsam testify to violent river tendencies. Today there isn’t a cloud in the sky, and after a healthy dose of OFF I sit in comfort, the mosquitoes just kind of hovering nearby. The Kaskaskia Wildlife Management Area is one of the largest state controlled public hunting opportunities in Illinois. A tributary of the Mississippi, the Kaskaskia river runs roughly 300 miles before entering the Mississippi 10 miles north of Popey’s hometown of Chester, Illinois.
I started hunting at about 3 o’clock. I think in the early fall with leaves on the trees, the canopy is good for hunting. Tree tops aren’t completely visible, but you quickly learn the difference between how a bird and a squirrel shake leaves. The added cover gives them a false sense of security and keeps you out of vision.
I hadn’t been sitting long, when from the tree I’m sitting against, comes a fat fox squirrel running down the limb directly above. He totally owned me. I jump up trying to circle the tree to get a shot while its timbering. No chance, the leaves quit shaking so he must have gone in a hollow.
I move across a small field and make another stand. Four minutes later, a grey squirrel comes bounding across my line of site about 30 yards away. He hops behind a bush, reappears and I take my shot. The squirrel is nowhere to be seen.
I hustle up to where I lost him, and see the bushytail scurry out from under a giant log and to the other side.
You can finish a squirrel at short distance with a shotgun if you take careful aim at their head, and so I do. These tend to be bloody messes even though the meat is spared.
So after these two shots I ease deeper into the bottom. I come upon a remarkably open place with massive Burr oaks and persimmon trees. I lean against an ancient tree who’d lost a battle with prior floods. Large acorns and persimmons intermittently crash to the forest floor.
Scanning the tree tops, something green catches my eye as it falls and lands a yard or so to my left. I continue looking into distance when whatever fell next to me begins rustling the leaves. I look to my left and a snake is trying to crawl underneath me! I’m instantly on my feet high stepping like an NFL running back but nowhere near as graceful.
It’s clearly nonvenomous, but the damage has been done. I don’t do well with close encounters of the reptile kind.
I walk a little further and sit down giving the snake his space and my nerves a rest. I’m now at the forest’s edge. From behind one of the Burr oaks, comes a fox squirrel with a giant acorn in his mouth. I level him. No tracking required. I let him lay. After fifteen minutes, another squirrel edges down a tree trunk to my right. Bam. Dropped him. I pick the two up, and leave the Burr oaks and start to the truck.
On my way, I see a squirrel timbering fifty yards ahead of me. I hustle trying to catch up, fire twice wildly. I guess I missed because he moved like his tail was on fire and disappeared into the forest. The sun was now getting low in the sky. I called it a day.
As far as natural beauty is concerned, river bottoms are underrated. Full of wildlife, often remote, and fairly accessible I love to hunt in them as well. Illinois’s Kaskaskia is no exception.