Nature Trails Day returns to Sugar Grove Nature Center on September 18. Learn more about what will happen from members of the Illinois Grand Prairie Master Naturalists. READ MORE HERE.



The sun rises in the cloudy eastern sky on a rainy morning, just over a week before the archery season arrives in Illinois.

It’s raining slowly and my old mare is happy to be inside her new stall rather than staying outside. At least that’s what I think she should be thinking. In fact, most horses would rather be outside in all weather conditions than be locked indoors. There are exceptions to this, and I’ve had a few in recent years. Only a few horses and a few dogs have enough common sense to get in shelter from the rain.

In fact, the rain is probably good for the personal hygiene of the animals. It’s the way nature takes care of them. I just shampooed, showered, and styled Rosie after one of our walks in Wolf Creek Park recently, so she’s pretty clean. Maybe not really clean in our opinion, as a recently bathed horse will go out into the pasture and turn around in the dust and grass at the first opportunity. Again, this is just nature’s way. She really enjoys taking a shower and having her mane combed. If I slow down with the curry comb, she will come closer and lower her head to encourage me to continue.

Back to the subject of archery season: I hope you are all set, have checked all your stands and blinds, and are regularly monitoring your surveillance cameras in anticipation of the opening morning and the possibility of this big money which is always in velvet.

The start of the season is the best opportunity to see the velvet billy goats as they will soon lose the wooden covering we call velvet. It is actually a covering of blood vessels that helps the growth of antlers. They’ll throw it away naturally and rub some of it on bushes and tree branches. Then they will start to do their “rubs” on tree trunks and create scratches.

These are efforts to mark their territories for the mating season. They do the scuffing by removing the ground cover of leaves and debris, then urinating into the “squeegee” to mark it as their own. Many times these scrapes will be located under overhanging tree branches where they can rub the scent glands around their heads, also marking their territory.

Archery season arrives October 1 in Illinois, which means the vegetation is always thick, as are the bugs. A good odorless insect repellent is essential at the start of the season. If you are sitting up there fighting mosquitoes and sweat bees, it greatly reduces the likelihood of seeing the deer of your choice.

If you are prone to being allergic to poison ivy, beware as there appears to be a good harvest this season. Just as most pole (nut) trees and fruit trees bear profusely, weeds are also prolific.

As the season approaches, make sure you have the proper permission to hunt selected areas and be aware and cautious of other hunters. This is especially true for those who hunt on public lands where the hunting population may change on a daily basis.

Also be aware of fences and gates on private property and make sure the owner knows where you are at all times. Harvest season is in full swing – make sure you don’t block access points to fields etc. If you block a driveway in the fields, you might find giant tire tracks on the hood of your favorite truck. These big tractors will go everywhere because of their size.

Make sure your bowstrings and other equipment are in good condition, by checking the cams and wheels on compound crossbows and crossbows. If you are using conventional equipment it is not as critical, but equipment failure on a compound or crossbow can be painful and costly.

Go hunting and enjoy the great experiences and gifts that God has provided for our use.






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Dave Shadow


Dave Shadow is a National Fishing Champion and Outdoor Columnist. Contact him at [email protected]


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