Illinois

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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