“I got one!” yelled six year old Jaxson as he spotted his second “shed”at the annual McClean County Sportsmen’s Association Deer Antler Hunt. The Easter egg hunt-like event drew about 100 kids age 15 and under to search for deer antlers in three small fields at Comlara Park, outside of Hudson, IL.
The kids spent 45 minutes tromping through dormant grasses and brush in spite of light mist and an unseasonably cool spring morning.
Parents and grandparents cheered on the kiddos after listening to volunteer sportsmen give a few ground rules about staying in the marked areas and allowing kids to select two antlers to take home as mementos. Our nephew David Fulton, a member of the Sportsmen group, explained the sheds were purchased at an annual antler auction in Maquoketa, IA, not far from our house.
When David mentioned the event I envisioned a scavenger hunt with a map directing us to tour cute she-sheds and quaint tiny houses. Silly me I mused mid-morning as I glanced at the muddy water soaked up to the knees of my jeans. But I found myself inspired and happily reminiscing about times my dad took us to Leroy Oaks Forest Preserve in northern Illinois for nature hikes. The intent behind Dad’s lessons about respecting wildlife was similar to what the Sportsmen who organized the event had in mind.
“We hope to get kids involved in the outdoors — which doesn’t just mean hunting and fishing — and we try to instill conservation ethics and the love of nature,” said Mike Steffa, the Sportsmen group’s president. Some of those lessons include always observing rules and regulations about hunting and fishing, not tampering with wildlife habitat and never littering. “The only thing you should leave is your footprints,” urged Steffa, quoting naturalist Aldo Leopold.
Earlier this year the group’s annual wildlife banquet raised $128,000 for civic groups, youth sports and scouting and area conservation programs.
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