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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Meat Shoot? What's a Meat Shoot?

8:54 AM 0 Comments

Yay me. I live in the only state in the nation that does not allow concealed carry. I also live in a state that has some of the most  ridiculously strict firearms laws. And then there's that who pesky FOID (Firearm Owners Identification Card) that is an Illinois resident requirement to own a firearm, posses a firearm, live in a house with firearms stored there, purchase a firearm or even purchase ammunition!. Yeegads.

However gun owners in Illinois are praying that change is coming.Yesterday was a long marathon debate  day at the capitol in Springfield as legislators debated the concealed carry issue. 

An often held belief by those of us who live downstate, those who live in deep southern Illinois, and those who live the rural areas of Illinois is that we are lost and forgotten by our State government in favor of the huge Chicagoland political machine.

This disconnect between Chicagoland and the rest of the state was never more evident than during the marathon debates  surrounding the concealed carry issue.

Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, asked Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, about her amendment, which would have prohibited carrying at places that serve alcohol.

"Have you ever heard of a meat shoot?" Costello asked.

"Thankfully not," Williams replied.

Costello explained that a meat shoot is typically a fundraiser for a worthy cause, where shotguns are fired at targets as a game where meat can be won. Alcohol sometimes is served. Costello said he feared the amendment could outlaw such events.

A meat shoot or shooting match is an integral part  of rural and southern Illinois culture. Many civic organizations, conservation organizations, and individual  businesses  sponsor and hold meat shoots to serve as fundraisers. When someone in a small town needs a hand with medical expenses, help after a house fire, any number of reasons - often a local organization or tavern will host a "shooting match" to help raise funds.

What exactly goes on at a meat shoot?

Participants at meat shoots, most commonly using shotguns, (although BB gun shooting matches are also popular family events in many areas) shoot at a paper target. The shooter who has the tightest grouping and the most pellet strikes in the center of the target is deemed the winner. And the winner traditionally gains a large bundle of meat- whole hams, turkeys. sides of bacon. Packages of sausage and chops, bundles of chickens - a good shot takes home plenty to fill freezer.

But perhaps what is so often overlooked about meat shoots is the community aspect of the event. Youngsters learn about firearms and firearm safety from their parents and grandparents in an informal  community based atmosphere. The meat shoot becomes a social activity that brings in multiple generations for a Sunday afternoon of visiting, learning, eating and drinking together.  Stories are told, children make new friends and play with others who are regulars at the matches.Older folks happily reminisce about days, hunts, and guns gone by.

The local economy is bolstered by these activities as well, and it's not just limited to the hosting establishment. The shells are purchased in bulk from local vendors. The local print shop benefits  by printing the cards/targets. Local farmers and meat markets  benefit from this activity as the meat packages are  purchased locally.  Many rural meat markets and processors have "shooting match packages" as part of their services.

A meat shoot is part of who we are. It benefits our communities on many levels.

Yet, this legislator had never heard of such a thing.

How can we expect to ever come to terms about firearms in Illinois when there is such a disconnect between the Chicagoland and their millions of votes and residents and the rest of us? 

I for one just want to publicly say thank you to the downstate legislators such as Rep. Costello for staying true to their constituents and culture and helping to educate those legislators from areas that have no idea what life below 1-80 is like!

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sharing the Secret Spots

6:02 AM 0 Comments
Thanks to years  and  years of burning boot  leather and wandering the public lands in southern Illinois I've been blessed to stumble into some pretty interesting and historical spots that are generally located off the beaten path. Some spots have historical significance, some have more significance as a spot where rare flora and fauna can be found.

One of the many little hidden waterfalls and pools  that  are scattered throughout the bluff region

One of the things that I truly  enjoy is being able to guide other photographers to some of these little known and hard to find photographic jewels. It's always a bit like seeing them for the first time all over  again when I take new person to the "secret spots".

Always fun to have a new set of eyes along and to see how other artists, naturalists, and photographers  interpret the area!

Since they are often rich in historical value, and many have already suffered damage from vandals and those who don't fully appreciate the historical or biological significance; I tend to screen folks closely. Yes I am indeed a bit protective of the spots. However it's it's only a rumor that I blindfold folks for the hikes in to some of the sites! 

It's been difficult to watch the vandalism that has occurred to this abandoned one room school. What once was a historical and well loved school building has become littered with graffiti, empty beer cans, and plenty of evidence that local young folks have found it to be a good place to hang and party. When I first discovered it, the interior walls were still intact, and a remnant of the blackboard and benches remained. No longer is that the case.

 I am especially protective of the hidden areas within the bluffs that contain small groups of petroglyphs and pictographs These areas are especially  significant and need protection. While some spots, such as Piney Creek Ravine and Millstone Bluff are open to the public and managed with trails and interpretive signs there are other areas that are not. Areas that are known only to those who burn the boot leather, climb the steep bluffs, and explore with not much more than a walking stick and compass.

Abandoned family cemeteries litter the steep bluffs in southern Illinois

The prickly pear cactus - one of Illinois  native cacti  that can also be found high on the arid bluff shelves

Spring fed waterfalls, creeks, and pools are easily found with a little footwork and research.

With a little research, a few phone calls, and visit or two to local libraries and watering holes, you too can find some of these out of the way spots. So, do some research with your Department of Natural Resources, the US Forest Service, local historical societies, and plan a a day to explore  the hidden gems in your own backyard!

Monday, February 18, 2013

I Survived!

5:08 AM 2 Comments
I'd like to tell you that I survived some great outdoor  adventure however  that just isn't the case. Much more mundane. I survived the flu.

I also realized while in the throes of a fever that simply would not go away, that I had not been appropriately sympathetic to my friends and neighbors who had also been suffering through the dreaded influenza this year.

One minute I was out snatching up photos of some crazy clouds that were rolling through, and he inside of two hours from that first horrifically painful cough, I was thoroughly convinced I was going to pass.I have to wonder if the clouds were some warning from Mother Nature, that I was about to take a faceplant for two weeks?

But thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, and the benefits of time, juice, a pile of concerned dogs and way too much time in the recliner I have survived. 

I made my maiden after the flu journey out yesterday morning in early morning hours, while I watched the sky start to lighten. Even if it killed me, I had to get back outside. While I was no longer suffering from the flu, I was suffering from a lack of forest and field time. A far more serious condition for me.

I knew as I watched the sky lighten I'd made the right decision. Even though those first few steps across the frosted crunchy grass were wobbly, and the first few breaths of cold winter air bordered on painful, I'd made the right decision. 

 Best of all, the deer, the turkeys and best of all, my friend Mr. Bob were there to welcome me back.
Must run friends - I have two weeks of missed time outside to make up for, and I'm hoping for a breakfast date with Mr. Bob again today!