Phil Pash’s Great Outdoors

PF Dinner Set: The fast-growing Winnebago County Chapter of Pheasants Forever will hold its 13th annual fund-raising dinner Thursday, Feb. 19, at Giovanni’s, 610 N. Bell School Rd., Rockford.

Among the highlights will be the auction of an African safari, several other hunts, a “Big 6” gun raffle and signup for a sporting clays event. More than 50 firearms will be auctioned or raffled, along with other merchandise.

Sponsors and Table of Ten organizers will be eligible for an early bird raffle if their tickets are purchased before Sunday. A pre-dinner raffle ticket package, valued at $160, is available for $100. Otherwise, full-membership tickets are $55, with $30 tickets for a spouse or 16-year-olds through college age and $25 tickets for 15-under Ringnecks.

Tickets may be reserved by calling (815) 399-4610. Social hour will be at 5:30 p.m., with a buffet dinner from 6 to 7:30 p.m., followed by the program.

The African safari auction will be for two people for seven days through Thormahlen & Cochran Classic African Safaris. Peter Thormahlen will be present at the event, but you can get information in advance by going to

The “Big 6” gun raffle includes a Weatherby .22-250 Fibermark rifle, Ruger Red Label 12-gauge gold engraved over-under shotgun, Remington 1187 SPS super mag camo 12-gauge shotgun, Browning Gold sporting clays 12-gauge shotgun with ported 30-inch barrel, Winchester Model 70 super grade .300 Remington ultra mag rifle and Beretta AL 391 Urika semi-auto 20-gauge shotgun, plus a Remington Gold Elite 25-gun safe.

Total value of the package is $8,000. Only 1,000 tickets will be sold at $20 each, and the tickets can be purchased prior to the dinner at the above number. The winner need not be present.

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Of course, Gov. Rod Blagojevich would be the Illinois official to announce that the Amateur Trapshooting Association (ATA) has agreed to bring its Grand American event to Illinois to the World Shooting Complex in Sparta beginning in 2006.

Politically, this is good news for the southwestern part of the state since the World Shooting Complex is a project in the governor’s Opportunity Returns economic development plan for southwest Illinois that he unveiled in December.

The ATA Grand American is the oldest and most prestigious shooting competition in the world. It is estimated that it will bring 150,000 people to the 10-day event in August 2006. Along with other ATA events, the annual economic impact to Illinois is anticipated to be about $13.5 million.

Of course, there would be a politician out in front of that kind of announcement. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to see the Grand American coming to Illinois, and I hope it stays a good, long time.

But what sticks in my craw is the overt political hypocrisy that is so common in this state. Blago’s political ally—and fellow Democrat—Chicago czar Richie Daley would be tickled pink if all guns, including the shotguns used in trap shooting, were outlawed in Illinois.

Daley even tried to get it done last year with gun-grabbing Senate Bills 947 and 1195. They eventually failed, but Blago didn’t do anything to stop them. Yet, when he realized he might be able to make some political hay with guns, shooting and the World Shooting Complex, he was Johnny on the spot.

And he still hasn’t done anything to protect the rights of legal gun-owners in this state, and we all know there is a monumental difference between law-abiding gun owners and those who use illegally obtained guns in an illegal manner. Don’t we?

I mean, how many felons have FOID cards?

Anyway, this pat on his own back from Blago about the ATA move: “This is great news for Illinois—particularly the southwest region—where we are developing the World Shooting Complex at Sparta. Opportunity Returns is giving more people the ability to earn a decent living, and this premier event will create even more jobs and spur economic growth and development throughout the Metro East area.”

Metro East means it is very close to St. Louis, which also will help Missouri’s economy.

The ATA Board of Directors voted overwhelmingly to move the Grand American, which first debuted in 1900, from Vandalia, Ohio, to Sparta.

“We look forward to a great partnership with the state of Illinois and the Department of Natural Resources,” ATA President Dave Kaiser said. “We believe the new, state-of-the-art facility to be built in Illinois will mean the grand traditions of the Grand American will continue and grow.”

Let’s hope so. Let’s hope all of the ATA members can bring their guns into Illinois (refer to my Jan. 14 column for more details on the WSC).

“It is very gratifying and exciting to see our vision for this facility coming together,” said Illinois DNR Director Joel Brunsvold. “Rep. (Dan) Reitz and I began working on this project three years ago when we served in the Legislature together and, with the governor’s strong support, we are making it a reality. We’re pleased the ATA is bringing the Grand American to Sparta, an event that we believe will be a cornerstone at this landmark development project.”

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Safe Boating Class: Rockford Sail and Power Squadron will hold an open-to-the-public boating safety class starting Monday, Feb. 16, at Bell School Annex of Rock Valley College, Rockford.

The class will run for eight consecutive weeks starting at 7 p.m. Cost is $35 per person. Signup or more information is available from Robert Canfield at (815) 968-7200. The Rockford squadron is a unit of the United States Power Squadron.

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Anglers to Meet: Rock Valley Anglers fishing club of Rockford will hold its regular monthly meeting Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the Harmony Club, corner of 7th Street and 15th Avenue, Rockford. Meeting starts at 7 p.m. Denny Carroll is president of the all-species club, reachable at (815) 988-0298.

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Carroll County Show: The first Sportsman’s Paradise Show is set Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 7-8, at Buck’s Barn, three miles north of Thomson on Illinois 84. The show seeks to promote the recreational assets of the Carroll County area.

The widest spot of the Mississippi River north of St. Louis is located at Thomson Causeway, Pool 13.

More information on the show is available from (815) 259-3168 or

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Camping Reservations: Reservations for the 2004 camping season for Illinois DNR campsites, group campsites and picnic shelters may be made in person beginning Monday. The sites started accepting mail-in reservations Jan. 2.

Call the site in which you are interested for particulars or go to the DNR Web site of and click on the appropriate link on the left side.

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To Work Together: The Illinois DNR and the National Wild Turkey Federation are teaming up to promote more outdoor recreation opportunities and events for women in Illinois.

The agreement focuses on collaboration in providing instructors, equipment, facilities and promotion for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting and other hands-on outdoor activities to be conducted throughout the state as part of the DNR’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) program and the NWTF’s Women in the Outdoors program.

BOW weekends hosted by the DNR in 2004 are scheduled for June 11-13 at the Lorado Taft Campus in Oregon and Sept. 17-19 at Pere Marquette State Park near Grafton. More information is available on the DNR Web site at

The Illinois chapter and local chapters of NWTF have scheduled a number of Women in the Outdoors events throughout the state in 2004. More information is available on the NWTF Web site at

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What’s Happening: In the wilds of Illinois in February—

• Large numbers of snow geese arrive in southern Illinois on their way north.

• The first squirrel litters born mid-month.

• Male turkeys start gobbling to attract hens.

• Woodcock begin migrating north according to
snow cover.

• Increasing day length triggers break up of pheasant flocks.

• Bald eagles lay eggs in southern Illinois.

• Resident Canada geese pair and select territories.

• Peak breeding season for coyotes.

• Full moon Feb. 6, new moon Feb. 20.

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