Chicago Sun-Times
Stray Casts will intelligently report and observe, hopefully with a touch of wit, on daily occurrences, reports and releases related to Chicago-area outdoors from bucks to bass to birds to bugs

WWW Chicago outdoors: Flying all over

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Let's see--staring at backyard birds, a couple outdoor shows, multiple ice events, night ice fishing, Illinois River decoys, sturgeon spearing, and on. Well, And for me, bowling, but we will get to that. if you want to do it and can't find in this Wild Weekend Wanderings around Chicago outdoors, you aren't trying.


The first year I tried the Great Backyard Bird Count, I wasn't too sure what to expect. With good reason. We still lived on the North Side. My working desk overlooked an alley just off Devon. But I gave it shot.

Put it this way, you'd be surprised how many birds you can see if you are actually watching for them and writing them down. Of course it might have helped that we lived just a few blocks from the North Shore Channel.

The downy picture above was taken last February. I am sure I will see them again this year. And I should see hairys and probably even a red-bellied. I have seen seeing a red-bellied around my suet feeder nearly every day for the past week.

The GBBC starts today and runs through Monday. I just love the whole idea of it. If you're a teacher or a parent with kids home for the holiday weekend, I think this is an automatic idea.

CHAIN ICE: The big ice event for the weekend is Northern Illinois Conservation Club's 50th annual Chain O'Lakes Fishing Derby & Winter Festival. Headquarters are at the Thirsty Turtle on Channel Lake and with a satellite at the Sand Bar on Lake Marie, Looks like an absolutely perfect winter weekend for it.

SHOWTIME: The Tinley Park Fishing & Outdoor Show has become a south suburban favorite, well deserved because of how well it is run. It's at Tinley Park High School this weekend. . . . The Chicago RV & Camping Show is at Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont through Sunday.

WOW: Most years, there is some very good fish taken, as well as good done, in the annual Walk on Water (WOW) Ice Fishing Derby on Bangs Lake in Wauconda. I have yet to make it there, but it just sounds fun.

SHABBONA LAKE NIGHT FISHING The annual extended night for ice fishing at Shabbona Lake is Saturday. Fishermen must be out of the park by 10 p.m. Ice conditions look good. In honor of the special event, Eddie Valenzuela at Allen Outboard and Bait--(815) 739-4522--will give prizes for the biggest crappie, catfish, bluegill and legal walleye with his contest closing at 10:30 p.m.

DECOYS: The Henry Decoy Show has a special place this year. It is being held in memory of Don Clark, who passed away on Dec. 16. He was the show originator and the heart and soul of it since its conception in 1968. It's at Henry-Senachwine High School on Route 29 in Henry. Call (309) 364-4104 or e-mail

POWERTON LAKE BOAT FISHING: For the stir-crazy, boat fishing reopens Monday at Powerton, the Pekin-area cooling lake. Be aware that there will be no dock, site superintendent Stan Weimer said. It should be open every day and winter hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

ARCHERY: There's a Round Robin 4 tournament by the Lincoln Park Archery Club at Pulaski Park on Saturday. Open practice begins at 9 a.m. Go to

FUNDRAISING SHOOT: On Tuesday, the T. Stanton Armour Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society holds its annual Stan Armour and Sally Searle Invitational Live Bird Sponsor Shoot at Halter Wildlife Inc. in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. Contact Tom Dew at (847) 832-4224 (day) or (847) 741-8385 (evenings).

HUNTING NOTES: Monday is the deadline for hunters who received free permits to access specific IDNR public sites during the past year and were asked to complete harvest report surveys to return those surveys. Just a reminder, nothing quite like remembering on Valentine's Day that you forgot to fill our the survey.

STURGEON SPEARING: The 2010 Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season opens Saturday. Previous permits are required for one of the great retro fishing events near Chicago. This is something you should try to do at least once in your life. Sit in an ice shack and stare at a hole in the ice at a fish decoy on the bottom. But once is enough, at least for me. Click here for some details.

PERSONAL PICKS: In winter's like this, I usually try to do a mental health day and make the opening of Powerton. So far, I haven't decided if I want to finagle the babysitting or not. But I sure could use it. . . . I will put in time, hopefully each day, to star out at the birds at the feeder in the backyard and suet basket. . . . Otherwise, my weekend will be spent working on other sporting events, mainly for the Sun-Times with the weekend sectionals for the great charity bowling event, Beat the Champs. It probably shouldn't amaze me but there is quite an overlap between league bowlers and faithful readers of my Sun-Times outdoor column. Over the decade or so I've done Champs, I've been amazed how many people have given me fishing photos at sectionals or had outdoor stories for me. It is a nice overlap.

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We did something like this in the UK during Spring and found various animals are in decreasing numbers, including bees that is rather concerning. A backyard bird count is valuable so that you understand how many and what type of birds frequent your garden.

Which are migrating birds and which are US based birds, this way they can be tracked on their journey.

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on February 12, 2010 6:31 AM.

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