One of my pet peeves in hunting is the downward spiral in rabbit hunting.
The opening of upland game hunting in Illinois on Saturday and good weather patterns for fishing stateline perch lead this Wild Weekend Wanderings around the Chicago outdoors.
But back to ranting on rabbit hunting.
I think the decline in interest and effort in rabbit hunting speaks to the broader decline in hunting numbers.
There's nothing sexy or expensive about rabbit hunting, unlike say turkey, deer or waterfowl hunting, which draw manufacturers and other big-dollar interests.
For rabbit hunting, any hand-me-down shotgun from a .410 to a 12-guage will work. And about any cheap box of shells from a general big box store will be OK.
Then permission to kick out a piece of cover.
And for kids, an adult to walk along and help kick. A dog, and just about any dog will do, only makes it better.
As a teen, I had a great dog, a mutt named Trover, for rabbit hunting. He would circle in front of me in cover and in essence drive rabbits back to me, or freeze them.
The point was it was easy to do. And I did it, sometimes in the hour or so of daylight left after school.
Deer hunting was more exciting, more of an adventure, and a getaway trip. But rabbit hunting made me a hunter, made me comfortable going in search of game and confident I could do it.
But I find the numbers on rabbit hunting now a frightening window into the possibility of hunting overall surviving as an outdoor sport in the 21st Century.
Just from 2007-08 to 08--09, rabbit harvest in Illinois dropped 36.7 percent and is less than half of what it was only five years earlier. Hunter participation dropped 18.3 percent from 07-08 to last season, and is only 2/3 or what it was five years earlier.
I think rabbit hunting is an important link to making true hunters for life. And that link is rapidly dissolving into nothing.
From that rant to a broader look at Chicago outdoors this weekend.
UPLAND GAME HUNTING: Hunting for cock pheasants, bobwhite quail, gray partridge and rabbits opens Saturday in Illinois. (The second dove season also opens.)
Opening day is not near what it was even a decade ago in Illinois, but it is still a big day with tens of thousands of hunters taking to Illinois' fields and woods.
At least from what I have seen, the farmers were able to get into the fields and do some serious harvesting the past few days. In that regard, field conditions look much better than they did only a week.
STATELINE PERCH: The perch are here in the stateline area around Cal harbor/Inland Steel.
That was the scene yesterday as limits of perch were cleaned at East Chicago Marina.
More good news came this morning while waking up to the extended weather forecast on WGN-AM--a stable weather pattern may be setting up all the way through Thanksgiving..
On Thursday, Indiana's Lake Michigan fisheries biologist Brian Breidert said, ``I think they will stay as long as they don't get that disruptive weather we had in October.''
BASORE AT BASS PRO: I consider any chance to see Dan Basore, the fishing historian and world-renowned collector from the western suburbs, a good time. Here's another good chance. He headlines the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance meeting at the Bolingbrook Bass Pro at 6 p.m. Saturday. He will report on his interview with the man who caught a 10-pound-plus smallmouth bass.
RIVER FISHING: Our rivers are coming down better than I had hoped and the weather forecasts suggest this weekend, at least on the Kankakee, could be a good one. Ken Gortowski said the Fox at Montgomery is coming down slower than he had expected.
But even so, I suspect by next week or even late this weekend, we should be talking about prime late fall river fishing.
DEER HUNTING: From what I have seen in the past few days on my prowls all over the area, and from my e-mails, the big deer are moving. This should be the prime weekend for bowhunters in Illinois. I look forward to see what falls over the weekend. Almost makes me wish I bowhunted.
TURKEY PERMIT REMINDER: Time to apply for resident hunters to apply for spring turkey permits. The deadline for the first lottery is Dec. 1. Best is to go online through http://dnr.state.il.us/license.html.
PERSONAL PICKS: I did my perch outing on Thursday. My weekend will be spent hunting upland game in central Illinois, and tracking down a couple related stories.