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Illinois Country Living

Hooked on hunting
Generations of hunters strengthen Illinois’ economy

Eldon Hazlet – multi-generational and accessible controlled pheasant hunt. Photo by Adele Hodde, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Outdoor Illinois magazine.

Deer hunt 1209 – father and son at Hennepin Canal State Trail. Photo by Adele Hodde, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Outdoor Illinois magazine.

Jim Thompson says, “It is important for me to pass down the hunting tradition to my family. The boys started hunting and/or accompanying me in the field since they were able to walk. Hunting is something we can do together for the rest of our lives. The boys are avid bow hunters taking many whitetails and turkeys with their bows.

“I have a lot of great memories and many stand out in my mind. The hunts I experienced with the boys are most satisfying. One time on Good Friday when the boys were very young, but still capable of shooting youth model shotguns, we shot two mature toms. The boys did rock, paper, scissors to see who had the first shot. My oldest son won. We called in two mature toms strutting at our hen decoy. Zak shot one of the toms. The boys ran out and wrestled the flopping bird and yelled out some war hoops. After several minutes of celebration, I was able to get them settled down. We stayed in the same spot and I started calling again. Within 20 minutes of the first episode two more toms came strutting in and my youngest son, Chad, shot one of those toms. The celebration started over. The boys struggled due to their size to carry their trophies back to the truck. They eventually made it. It was one great Good Friday.”


By Lisa Rigoni

It was a long time ago, but I still vividly remember the excitement that my younger brother and I felt when Dad would come home from hunting adventures with friends. Sometimes it would be bow hunting, other times gun season for deer, or our favorite, squirrel season. Chuck and I waited patiently as Dad unloaded all of his gear and then finally, he would give us the squirrel tails, and immediately follow up with the hunting tales. Hunting and fishing are time-honored traditions that not only strengthen families and friendship, but stimulate the economy.

The thrill of the hunt

Corn Belt Energy’s Vice President of Utility Services, Don Taylor, says it’s family tradition that initially sparked his interest in hunting, and keeps him sharing it now with his own kids and others. Taylor, co-owner of GameMasters ( in Quincy, which provides hunting gear, equipment, clothing, gun safes, hunting education, etc., says one of the best things about the store is watching multi-generations come in together to get ready for their next hunting expedition – grandfather, dad, grandson, for example.

“One of the cool things about hunting is that heritage. It’s something that has been passed down in a family or in a friendship function. It’s not necessarily that there are more stories or rememberings through hunting, but it provides those opportunities with Dad or Grandpa,” said Taylor.

“Most hunters have had it taught to them by someone close to them, and that runs across our other departments, too. Camping, fishing, athletics – that heritage is one of the neatest things about having the store,” he says. “You get to see that, to be a part of it. We’ll have kids bring in their pictures and they are so excited to show us their success! There is also a lot of education that is passed down from generation-to-generation. Kids from hunting families are usually taught to have a healthy respect for guns, bows and how to handle them safely. It’s a necessary part of the sport.”

Jim Thompson, General Manager of Adams Electric Cooperative in Camp Point, Illinois, echoes Taylor’s sentiments on the family tradition and bonds that hunting creates with others. “I started hunting when I was 15, and pretty much everything, though whitetails are my preference.” Thompson said. “The biggest (hunting) influence would be Tim Wells, a friend of mine from high school. We still spend a lot of time in the field with each other.

“I hunt because I enjoy it … the excitement, enjoyment, adrenaline and adventure are all part of the hunt. The feeling you get seeing a mature buck walking your way is indescribable.” Thompson hunts all over, but says most of his Illinois hunting is done in Brown and Fulton Counties.

Taylor says, “We get to enjoy a region of the country that is nationally known and recognized for its quality of hunting. Illinois provides that experience for families and friends.” The state is probably best known for its whitetail deer, though duck, quail, waterfowl and turkey are also among the gaming opportunities. With five regions – Northwest, Northeast, East-Central, West-Central and South – Illinois residents have ample choices for hunting in their own back yard, so to speak, or in neighboring areas. Non-residents find Illinois is a hunting destination and there are a number of hunting lodges and hunting land that can be leased or bought throughout the state.

While Taylor says the starting age for hunting varies, both his kids were in seventh grade when he first took them out. “It is something that can be passed down, experiences that are shared. Memories that end up in photo albums and shared. I know how much the time that my family has spent together hunting has meant to me and to my Grandpa, his Dad and my Dad. It’s a bond … memories that you can’t replace,” Taylor says. “That’s why the tradition continues today with my son and daughter.”

Taylor says that hunting is still a male-dominated activity, and most of his customers reflect that trend. “However, the number of females who hunt is growing, and during the holiday season, it’s often the women coming in, buying gifts,” Taylor said. He said hunting is popular, in large part, because it crosses all economic, social and gender barriers. People can spend as much or as little as they want, except for the expense of the required licensing, education and permits. Folks may buy hunting gear, ammunition, clothing and more as they prepare for their excursion.

What the numbers represent

That preparation is, in part, a huge boost to the Illinois economy. In fact, according to the last National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Association Recreation study (2006 – the study is done every five years), 1.1 million hunters and anglers in the state of Illinois spent an average of $3.3 million per day for a total of $1.2 billion.

Economic impact of Illinois hunting industry

  • 22,000+ jobs (fishing – 13,700/fishing – 8,500/hunting)
  • $709 million in salaries and wages
  • $170 million paid in federal taxes
  • $138 million in state and local taxes, with a ripple effect of $2.1 billion.
  • $816 million in revenue
  • $389 million in revenue
  • Illinois Rankings Nationwide

  • 11th with 1.1 million resident sportspersons
  • 13th with 795,000 resident anglers
  • 16th with combined 795,000 resident anglers and 258,000 resident hunters
  • 15th with 58,000 non-resident anglers
  • 42nd with 78,000 non-resident hunters

    These statistics show that Illinois sportspersons, both hunters and anglers, have a strong impact on the economy of Illinois and also of the nation. These sportspersons, averaging almost one out of 10 residents, spent 4.2 million days in the field hunting, which ranked Illinois as 19th, and they spent 16.1 million days on the water for a ranking of 9th.

    With numbers like these, it is obvious to see that fishing and hunting do have an economic impact at all levels – local, state and federal, and they certainly make an impact on families and friendships.

    Just like my brother and I waited in anticipation for Dad to come home from his hunting adventures, hunters like Taylor and Thompson wait in anticipation for their trophies and then share the stories from generation-to-generation.

    Websites of interest

    For additional information on hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and other recreational opportunities in Illinois, visit the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Web site at:

    To learn more about Illinois’ cultural and natural resources, check out the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ monthly magazine, OutdoorIllinois at

    What Makes a Better Buck?

    by Alexandra M. Newbern

    Most people know staying hidden is an important part of being a successful hunter. They don camouflage and sit in tree stands to remain unseen. But what is it that will give hunters an edge over a deer? A few sprays of Fatal Attractants.

    “Hunters are looking for the real fresh stuff, straight out of the deer,” said Kevin Cox, owner of Drop Tine Creek, a deer farm in Dongola. His company bottles and sells Fatal Attractants, or deer urine, to hunters.

    According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ (IDNR) Communication Manager, Januari Smith, 643,041 deer hunting permits were issued in 2009. It was also cited by the IDNR that approximately 7,000 deer were killed during each of the last two hunting seasons. The total deer killed annually has steadily climbed in Illinois for the last 25 years.

    Taking into consideration the growing number of hunters and witnessing others’ success in the industry, Cox saw an opportunity for a profitable business. “The business didn’t cost too much to start. My co-op [Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative] gave me poles they couldn’t use anymore. I was able to use those for fencing. Then, I bought one breeder buck and eight doe. Initially, I invested about $20,000,” said Cox.

    “It’s really important to get deer with good genetics. I go to Ohio to buy my deer because of the chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Illinois,” Cox said. “The Amish in Ohio seem to raise the most genetically sound deer.” CWD is a fatal neurological disease found in deer and elk. Although CWD has been an issue in the past, the IDNR has been taking precautions to control the problem such as regulating the sale and importation of deer born in captivity, banning the feeding of wild deer and controlling the parts of deer which hunters are allowed to bring into the state. According to the website for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, CWD has not yet been detected in Ohio. Genetics are the deciding factor in the fiscal value of a deer. Depending on their genes, a deer can be sold for about $2,000 to upward of $100,000.

    Cox stressed the importance of his deer being raised in a domestic setting and not wild. “All of our deer are bottle fed from day one. They are treated like kings and queens,” said Cox, “They even enjoy snacking on Animal Crackers. Those are their favorite.”

    The deer go into an air-conditioned room with a sloped floor, when the deer expel waste it is collected in a drain. All of the collected contents go through a filter and into a bucket. The urine, which ends up in the bucket, is then bottled and sold to hunters. This year, Cox hopes to sell between 4,000 and 6,000 bottles of Fatal Attractants.

    Drop Tine Creek’s Fatal Attractants are currently sold via their website and will soon be found in Gander Mountain. For more information on Drop Tine Creek or Fatal Attractants visit the website at

© 2016 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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