Showing posts with label Outdoors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Outdoors. Show all posts

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Legislation Filed to Abolish the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Advisory Board

Hunters, Anglers, Outdoor Enthusiasts - I write to you today regarding a piece of legislation filed this year.  My experiences with NRAB and the IDNR have spanned many years. My opinion is complex with lots of backstory.  If you wish to read the bill for yourself and form your own opinions, please do so here.   This article contains many of the same thoughts that have been expressed to me from IDNR employees, hunters, anglers and many who enjoy the outdoors. 

HB 4713 / SB 3908 was filed to Abolish the DNR Advisory Board.  The bill states the following: "Amends the Departments of State Government Law of the Civil Administrative Code of Illinois by repealing the Section that created the Department of Natural Resources Advisory Board. Makes corresponding changes in the Wildlife Code and the Illinois Open Land Trust Act. Amends the Department of Natural Resources Act. Authorizes the Department of Natural Resources to conduct regional yearly public forums to obtain public input and comments on subjects, matters, or programs under the control of the Department of Natural Resources. Requires the Department of Natural Resources to consider all comments received during a public forum."

What is NRAB?  The Advisory Board is statutorily created to advise the agency on long range policies to assist in guiding the protection and conservation of renewable resources of the state and recommend changes in hunting and trapping seasons and bag or possession limits. They also recommend to the Director which projects receive funding in bike, boat, and Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant programs. Members serve six year terms and are appointed by the Governor. The Board holds quarterly meetings with time allotted for public comment on any topic. You can read more here

I have attended numerous NRAB meetings over many administrations and this is my opinion of the board and the agency behind it. 
It's politics.  The members of the board are solely appointed by the Governor with some representing special interest groups whose voice seems to be heard louder than others.  Although the agenda may seem packed with discussion items, little discussion is had between board members with the department getting what the department wants. 

I have been constantly met by a stone wall when I want to get information from these agenda items.  I have wanted to see the reports that the board has been discussing and have been told that the information is not "public ready". There have been Open Meetings violations such as board members having discussions outside of the public forum and where meeting minutes are not posted timely. This board is run by the agency that many in the outdoor community have had problems with for years.  And this bill would give that agency more power and less oversight.

On the flip side, there are some members of the board that are very outspoken, that have tried for years to have certain voices be heard in regions of our state.  Who have time after time spoken up and have gotten nowhere. Who have had the same disappointments and struggles with this agency as many of you have had. This voice also happens to be the Chairman of the board.  Funny thing is, since that voice became Chairman NRAB has had very little meetings with the last being May 2021.  Coincidence?  

When Director Callahan came into office I had high hopes, silly me.  This bill is a slap in the face to outdoorsmen and women and was filed to silence the voices they don't want to hear.  When we reached out to the IDNR for comment Director of Communications -Jayette Bolinski stated the following:

The language contained in HB4713/SB3908 is placeholder language at this time to accommodate legislative filing deadlines. The proposal is not finalized, and IDNR will be working with sponsors to file an amendment.

IDNR has every intention of continuing the Natural Resources Advisory Board. However, state law established this panel 24 years ago, and today we believe the board can and should better reflect the diversity of the state, the current duties of the department as defined by state law, and those who seek to enjoy outdoor recreational opportunities throughout Illinois.

IDNR receives advice from numerous boards and commissions on matters such as endangered species protection, climate change and nature preserves. We work closely with conservation-focused organizations statewide to manage and protect wildlife, land, and water. We monitor comments on our social media channels and share that feedback with IDNR staff. This is an agency that values public feedback and participation in the decision-making process.

If the intent of the legislation is not to Abolish the Board, don't file a bill to abolish the board.  There are other ways to file legislation to meet the filing deadline that could accommodate said amendment.  WORDS MATTER and the fact that the bill as filed stated that the agency wants to abolish the board MATTERS.  Your intent can not be trusted.  Your intent has time after time slapped us in the face.   The board can already do what you intend for it to do.  It does not need legislation to do that. 

I have heard for years that the IDNR intends to do certain things, that they agree with me on certain items.   I have even gone to the board and voiced my opinion on issues and that goes unheard. 

I agree that the board needs to be revamped.  That things need to change.  But, I do not agree that the board needs to be abolished.  That is the farthest thing from what needs to be done with the IDNR.  Although the board has been mismanaged, misdirected and in my opinion, run haphazardly it should not be abolished.  It has a specific purpose. 

For starters, maybe instead of having the Governor solely appoint members of the board, "diversify" it by having appointments made from the four caucuses.  The make-up of many boards and commissions are done this way. 

  • 2 members appointed by the Majority Leader of the Senate and 2 members appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate.  
  • 2 members appointed by the Majority Leader of the House and 2 members appointed by the Minority Leader of the House. 
  • 2 members appointed by the Governor. 
The legislation states that instead of the advisory board, public forums shall take place.  I don't know about you, but I have been to other IDNR forums, they are sparsely attended and the comments are taken with a grain of salt with no oversight.   The lack of involvement should speak volumes to the IDNR.  The public does not feel that they are listened to and after years of that treatment they just stopped showing up.  

If the IDNR wants to know what the outdoor community thinks, bring back Conservation Congress. PERIOD. 

But who am I.  I attended NRAB on my dime, representing noone. And for years I have tried to work with the IDNR on so many issues.  Have reached out to them on so many things but its just been yakety yakety yak with no answer back. 

The Outdoor Community needs to wake up, stand up and pay attention.   

This is not good policy. This is not okay. This is not how the IDNR Communicates, Collaborates or Connects. 

At the time of writing this article Director Callahan has declined to comment on this issue.  

Monday, October 9, 2017

Libertyville High School Kicks Some Bass at Lake Springfield / FLW High School Illinois Open

Any tournament angler knows that when you hit the water it is not you against the other anglers, its more like you against the fish.  From across Illinois and from our neighboring state of Missouri, high school anglers arrived Friday night for registration to take on that challenge.  It was then that they were informed that the tournament would be postponed a day.  A great call by tournament Director Dave Maxfield.  If you were outside on Saturday you can understand why.

Heather Rasmussen Photography
Top 5 teams from Sunday's FLW High School Bass Open on Lake Springfield 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Mistaken Identity of Mushrooms can be Dangerous

Mistaken Identity of Mushrooms can be Dangerous

The extent of my knowledge when it comes to mushrooms is ordering a mushroom swiss burger from a restaurant. However, with the lack of a turkey permit, what better way to spend a spring day then walking around the woods looking for these elegant mushrooms.  With family and friends telling me stories about how good these mushrooms are I decided to go out.

The best hunting buddy anyone could ask for. 
This past weekend I found my first morel mushroom.  It was an accident but thankfully there were six total, so I picked'em.  Now I have the mushroom hunting bug.  Just like the fishing or hunting bug, all I can think about are mushrooms.  One night this week, I hit the woods in search of this succulent mushroom.

After about 40 minutes looking I stumbled upon some morels.  It was great.  There was one, two, three, four five, six and seven.  What a find!  You can even ask the wife I was doing my happy dance in the middle of the woods.  Well, at least I thought they were morels.  

After posting a picture on Facebook several of my friends mentioned that these were not morels but Half Free Morels also known as Peckerheads.  After those comments, I started to do some more research and realized just how dangerous mushroom hunting can be.  Not only do you have to pay attention to the kind of mushrooms you're picking but in many parts of the country you have to watch out for snakes.

Half Free Morels or Pecker Heads
Being the first season that I'm actually looking for morels, I'm still learning the basics.  I know a lot about hunting and a lot about fishing, not a pro by any means but I do have a decent amount of knowledge in those areas.  However, I'm not afraid of admitting when I'm wrong or need to learn something and this is very true when it comes to mushroom hunting.

Our first batch of morals
A big thank you to those that helped me learn something about the outdoors.  Now this knowledge will be passed down to not only my family but to our readers as well.  That's what Capitol Outdoor is all about!  Education, learning and sharing information about the great outdoors.

New or a veteran to mushroom hunting?  Here is a good site (Michigan Morels) that I found that might help you out.  There is a saying in mushroom hunting that is relevant to any experience level.

When in doubt throw it out!

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources released the follwoing during the April 2017 News Bits.

Mushroom Collecting: No license is required for mushroom collecting in Illinois, but mushroom collectors always need landowner permission. On public sites, mushroom collectors must adhere to approved regulations and hours. Collection of mushrooms is allowed in many IDNR state parks, fish and wildlife, and other recreation areas, but it is prohibited in any area designated as a dedicated nature preserve. Areas under the jurisdiction of the IDNR that offer spring turkey hunting are not open to mushroom collecting until after 1 p.m. daily during turkey season to ensure the safety of all site visitors. Mushroom collectors should call ahead to the IDNR site they intend to visit to learn of any site-specific regulations.

This article is in no way to solely be used in identification of mushrooms. I wanted to show you that even we make mistakes and how when it comes to safety in the outdoors there are no secrets.

Remember Enjoy the Outdoors, Good Luck and Stay Safe

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Family Adventure in February

Family Adventure in February 

Call it global warming, call it whatever you would like.  If you weren't outside this past weekend, let me tell you, you missed out on a record breaking weekend.  Not for fish, number of birds surveyed or whatever but for record temperatures. Like many of you we spent our weekend outside enjoying the beautiful crisp winter air. Even though it felt like spring, it's still winter. We were taking care of yard work, all the things that you would do on a normal spring weekend. However, those chores didn't stop us from enjoying our passion.

Like so many others that were out at Jim Edgar Panther Creek, whether in their boats, hiking or picnicing we enjoyed the sights, smells and sounds showing that spring is just around the corner. No trip out to a state park is complete unless you bring your fishing pole. From 38 to 42 degree water temps fishing was tough but that didn't matter because of just how beautiful the weather was.  Bouncing around from lake to lake and spot to spot, we kept ending up short. Finally, we hooked into one.  It wasn't a biggin' or a world record fish but it was a bass in open water in February in Illinois. 

What was also great about this weekend, was that the family was able to tag along to enjoy what they like about the outdoors. It was great to watch them walk along the shore as I fished and they were also there to cheer me on as I caught the only fish of the day. However, what really made this weekend was not the weather or the fish or the idea of open water fishing in February, it was sharing a memory that will last a lifetime.  They say to start people young in the outdoors so that they grow up loving it.

Autumn has been surrounded by the outdoors for the last 10 months of her short life.  As I landed my fish I called Heather  over so that I could get a picture with Autumn.  My little girl was so fascinated by the fish that I wanted her to hold it, not thinking that she would actually do it.  With little hesitation, she grabbed in awe of the texture of the teeth and slime of the fish. Could this be the start of something bigger? First Female Bassmaster Champion in Training?  Only time will tell. 

Remember Enjoy the Outdoors, Good Luck and Stay Safe

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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Raising an Outdoor Child in an Indoor World

Raising an Outdoor Child in an Indoor World

On average a child today only spends about 30 minutes outside and about 7 hours indoors in front of a screen. The relationship between society and nature is disappearing. Since the birth of our 6-month old daughter Autumn I have constantly thought about how we want to raise her and the kind of person that we want her to become.

Being a parent is an incredibly hard and overwhelming responsibility. Raising a child to be brave, confident, creative and independent among other things has its challenges. Being able to watch Autumn learn and grow with nature is something that I look forward to, watching her explore various trails, learning how the world works and seeing the amazement in her eyes as she watches a butterfly for the first time, or catches a fish by herself.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

25 Years in the Making

25 Years in the Making

The thing that I love about fishing is that you'll never know what you'll catch.  This past weekend was the opening for fall trout at over 50 lakes across Illinois.  Did you go out?  Many of you were probably duck hunting or sitting in your deer stand.

For the past several years we've been reporting about how the spring and fall trout release is perfect for teaching kids the basics about fishing, as well as having a fun filled adventure.  I know because there were two types of fishing that I can remember from when I was a kid.

The first is fishing Navy Pier for perch.  While the perch are not as abundant as they used to be perch fishing is another type of fishing that is great to teach kids.  The second is trout fishing.

This past weekend my dad and I fished Jim Edgar Panther Creek's Gridley Lake in Cass County.  As we launched the boat and started fishing the deep hole that we planned, we heard a lot of people talking about how they were finding the fish more in the shallows.

After trying several  areas that were more shallow and letting several hours pass, we were still unsuccessful.   All of a sudden my dad said what's that?  I as looked in the water I saw a golden trout.

You might be asking, what is a golden trout?  

A golden trout results from a genetic anomaly, and contrary to popular belief, this is NOT an albino, but simply a rainbow trout with different coloration. In the wild they are weeded out early by predation, but in a hatchery situation they are protected and do well. Since we stock trout in Illinois from the hatcheries, you have a good chance of catching a “golden.” Anglers love to catch them.  IFishIllinois
My dad grabbed is slip bobber and tossed it over by him.  Nothing... All of a sudden I caught him in the corner of my eye.  I grabbed the little Cleo we had tied on.  I tossed it out and it began following it.  Again nothing, so I tried it a couple times then finally a hit.  Reeling in this Golden Trout was amazing, after 25 years of fishing and I finally caught one :).  And the fishing continued, within 5 minutes I reeled a Rainbow Trout.  Finally, my dad tied on a Celo and after about 15 minutes he caught a  Golden Trout as well. In fact, that was my dad's first Golden Trout!

The whole day out fishing and we caught our only three fish within 20 minutes.  Fishing, you never know how it is going to go.  But, hey we caught our trophies for the day and made memories for a life time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ice Fishing at Jim Edgar Panther Creek

Ice Fishing at Jim Edgar Panther Creek

There's nothing quite like going fishing on a crisp winter morning. We took to one of our favorite lakes at Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Park. While it took a long time along with multiple holes we finally got onto the fish.  Watch our video and learn some of our tips that we use that allow us to catch more fish through the ice.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Eagle Day Festivities

Eagle Day Festivities 

For outdoor enthusiasts any opportunity to get out and enjoy nature, we take it.  Regardless if it's fishing, or hunting, we don't think twice.  This past weekend was Eagle Day at the Nature Conservancy's Emiquon and Raptor Awareness in Havana, Illinois.

With great weather and the opportunity, this is something that we normal don't take advantage off, and this year we did.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

(HB 4428) Bow Hunting on Private Property during Shotgun Season for Deer in Illinois

Bow Hunting on Private Property during Shotgun Season for Deer in Illinois

That's right.  A new bill was introduced by Brandon Phelps, Chairman of the Illinois Sportsmen's Caucus.  The bill was filed with the clerk on January 11, 2016.  We'll continue to monitor this bill, check back frequently for more information.


"Amends the Wildlife Code. Provides that a person may hunt with a bow and arrow on private property during a shotgun hunting season if he or she has the consent of the owner and any tenant of the premises."  
If passed by the senate and signed by the Governor this bill will become effective immediately.

Continue to check back with Capitol Outdoors as we monitor this and other bills for you.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Illinois Upland Game Hunting Clock Dwindling Down

Illinois Upland Game Hunting Clock Dwindling Down

It's the night before the big opener, doesn't matter if its deer, duck or in this case upland game.  You probably wake up every hour counting the time before you can get out of bed and head toward your favorite hunting grounds.

Pheasants, quail, rabbit dates

Sunday, September 20, 2015

National Hunting and Fishing Day - Enjoy Hunting and Fishing in Illinois

National Hunting and Fishing Day - Enjoy Hunting and Fishing in Illinois 

Illinoisans can celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day this weekend by either going to Northern or Southern Illinois Hunting and Fishing Days or by attending their local state park.

What is National Hunting and Fishing Day? 

Does the date May 2, 1972 ring a bell for you?  No, well it should.   "I urge all citizens to join with outdoor sportsmen in the wise use of our natural resources and in insuring their proper management for the benefit of future generations" wrote President Richard Nixon while signing the first proclamation of National Hunting and Fishing Days.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Illinois Conservation Police Could See Staffing Levels Increase by 2020

Illinois Conservation Police Could See Staffing Levels Increase by 2020

On September 2, 2015 as hundreds of dove and early season goose hunters hit the field the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee met to discuss House Bill 4104.  As you may know 33 Conservation Police Officers received layoff notices in the month of August that will go into affect on September 30, 2015.  However, while layoff discussions continue due to lack of  budget, some members of the Illinois General Assembly push to strengthen the Illinois Department of Natural Resources by supporting HB 4104.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

5 Tips for Dove Hunting.

Mackinaw Dove Hunting

5 Tips for Dove Hunting. 

We still remember the first permit that was issued to us by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to dove hunt.  That was seven years ago and we've learned a great deal during that time. Here are a few things we wish to share with you before you head into the field.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Illinois Conservation World Promises Good Times

Illinois Conservation World Promises Good Times

2015 Conservation World
Walking up to the gates of Conservation World the crowd was growing and waiting to enter the 30 acres of fun for all ages.  Director Wayne Rosenthal was there to greet fair-goers as they entered and we felt the enjoyment of IDNR staff talking among guests.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Our 2015 Illinois Duck Blind Drawing

Our 2015 Illinois Duck Blind Drawing

Sanganois Duck
Passing hundreds of cars and people to drawing site
For duck and goose hunters across the State of Illinois, waterfowl  season started this weekend.  Thousands attended state park sites to enter  their name in a drawing in hopes to win a blind for the 2015-2016 hunting season.  For Capitol Outdoors and for countless others it's not so much about winning the blind, as it is about breaking the ice for the upcoming season. Tradition, that what it's really all about, food, stories, and reuniting with hunting buddies.
Sanganois Duck Blind Drawing

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Impact of Technology on Today's Youth: Get your Kid's Outdoors

The Impact of Technology on Today's Youth:  Get your Kid's Outdoors

Dodge-ball, hide-n-seek, water fights, climbing trees, all activities that invoke freedom in a child and the urge to pursue adventure.  Today, we see more video game playing, TV watching and screen time.  This impacts children and their imagination, relationships and future.  Some may not see it as a significant impact on our children, but the increase in technology and the increase in new advancements in video games will have a major impact on their future.  According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids spend approximately 53 hours a week on electronics.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Illinois Retriever Hunt Test Part 1

Illinois Retriever Hunt Test

Good Looking Labrador Retriever
This weekend Linc has a hunt test.  Excited, nervous and anxious are just some of the words that come to  mind.   Linc is a year and four months old and has over half dozen waterfowl retrieves under his belt and that's only having him in the field three times.  His obedience is great, drive is indescribable and he just keeps improving each training session.

However, Linc does have one weakness. He may seem scared, but he is still working on his social skills and we are building his confidence. He can handle a gun shot fine, but freaks out when he sees people and runs away.  This is one of my jobs as trainer to make sure that he knows that he is OK and safe. I need to keep him pumped up and make sure he knows that he's a good dog.  Introducing him to people at places like Bass Pro and Scheels helps him adjust.

Monday, May 11, 2015

May is Invasive Species Month

May is Invasive Species Month

While you're taking a few minutes to surf Facebook, Twitter, and who knows what else, remember that May is Invasive Species Month.  For some, you maybe asking, what is an invasive species?
invasive species

Invasive species are plants, animals, and other organisms that have been introduced outside their natural habitat.   With little to no predators, this allows for high reproductive success which causes problems and destruction in their new environment both physical and economical.  The biggest problem we have is the number of invasive species.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Becoming a Professional Hunter or Fisherman or Woman

Becoming a Professional Hunter or Fisherman or Woman

Growing up I can remember entering  fishing tournaments at Heidecke Lake outside of Morris, Illinois, watching hours of Babe Winkleman, In-Fisherman TV and Midwest Outdoors.  There were times I've even played 'hookie' to stay home and make my own show.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Get more involved in Illinois Outdoor Recreation: Hunting // Fishing // Camping

As you know Capitol Outdoors focuses on Legislation, Conservation, and Education regarding the outdoors throughout the state of Illinois. In today’s world, the internet and social media outlets such as; Facebook and Twitter throw information at us at such a fast speed. We all read articles about new fishing and hunting techniques, or the latest product, but what about pending legislation or research on new topics. The U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife and Illinois Department of Natural Resources have studies and research papers that have recently been published. These contain vital information for all those who enjoy the outdoors.

The Illinois Department Natural Resources and The Illinois Natural History Survey last week published the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) and the 2013 – 2014 Illinois Waterfowl Hunter Report: Harvest, Season Preferences, and Digest Use. Capitol Outdoors recommends that you read both of these reports. Both are a hefty read but are worth your time and contain educational information.

SCORP isn’t the most exciting read but it “is an examination of Illinois’ outdoor recreation resources and needs”. “The purpose of the plan is to evaluate the outdoor recreation needs of Illinois citizens and determine how best to meet those needs”. SCORP breaks down information into various chapters regarding the natural resources, demographics, outdoor recreation supply and demand, priorities for outdoor recreation, and plan implementation. Earlier this year Capitol Outdoors attended Conservation Congress, which “was a valuable source of input for the DNR”. SCORP used the input from those that attended Conservation Congress for research purposes. It is important that outdoorsmen and women begin attending events and seminars like this to not only become more engaged, but to voice your opinions.
Now, as far as the 2013 – 2014 Illinois Waterfowl Hunter Report: Harvest, Season Preferences, and Digest Use goes; it seems like it is more geared toward waterfowl hunting and research obtained for that purpose. If you hunt waterfowl in Illinois we highly recommend reading this study. The objective was to “survey waterfowl hunters annually to determine their activities, harvest, characteristics, attitudes, and opinion”. This study is jammed packed full of information that will make you a more productive waterfowl hunter.

These are just two examples in the past week that a lot of outdoorsmen and women overlook. Part of being an outdoorsman/woman is to be involved. You hear it all the time, its not about how many geese you get or how big that buck was, but it’s about sitting in your boat enjoying the great outdoors. The most troubling part in both of these reads is the lack of involvement by the outdoor community.
A 46% response rate from waterfowlers in the annual survey is just unacceptable. We can and we must do better! Remember, there are organizations out there that want our way of life to cease to exist. If we can’t get half of our people to send in a survey that was mailed to their homes; how do we ever expect to be strong enough to stand and fight for our right to hunt and fish?

Remember Enjoy the Outdoors Good Luck and Stay Safe -
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