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I have very few things in the outdoors that truly aggravate me. It is the place I escape aggravation and even the worst days in the outdoors are better to me than sitting in my best chair, fiddling with things in my shop (I love that too), or watching TV.

It is inherently esoteric and random, plus you never know where those outdoor experiences will land you. It can start with a plan but end up entirely different. A walk on a nature trail may start as a way to get exercise, but may turn out allowing you to see deer, turkey, squirrels or other wildlife.

Because fishing and hunting seem calculated with planning, gadgets and gear it may seem like you can call your shots, but about the time you feel you have it figured out it can turn and everything you thought you knew may become rubbish. Sounds like life.

Bordering on aggravation, but something I have now became numb to, is when buddies say, “All I want to do is fish.” Honestly, it isn’t that easy nor is that approach healthy for our lakes and those who share them. We need conservation diligence not only of our parks and water, but also need to manage our fisheries with tender loving care.

The resource is a prized possession and here in the Midwest those are limited. The pressure for their use is heavy. Every angler and hunter has an obligation to do his or her part and hopefully leave the lakes and woods in better shape than prior groups.

Because of our short growing season, a trophy fish over five pounds is the beginning of the gene pool for more trophy fish. Selfishness is keeping too many or those that do not meet size limits.

Our lakes do get monitored by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and local agencies, but creel surveys are a thing of the past. Enforcement is the key for both hunting and fishing. Folks have to know there are consequences to taking more than they are allowed or undersized fish.

The IDNR is spread thin but still does an outstanding job managing our woods and fisheries, but its staff cannot be everywhere. It is incumbent on honest outdoor folks to report impropriety or just things that do not look right. They have a hotline number (1-877-236-7529) that anglers and hunters can use to report poaching.

“Targeting Illinois Poachers” is the duty of everyone who loves the outdoors. Noting vehicle or boat types, license numbers, description of the person in question and where it occurred are all important. This number not only works for poachers but also polluters.

Do not take the law into your own hands. Allow law enforcement to handle.

Most of our brethren in the outdoors are honest, law-abiding citizens and follow the rules. But it is important that we are all watchdogs of the outdoors.

A good rule when going to a new body of water or public hunting ground is to read the rules of said locations in advance. Slot and size limits, special use rules and permits may be in effect and ignorance of those rules is not an exception or an excuse.

Those who do not follow the rules not only hurt the resource but can also rob businesses and taxpayers of revenues generated from our sport. It may seem unimportant to take one extra fish or game animal but the numbers add up if too many do it.

Conservation of our fish and game allows for future generations to enjoy them and I hope that more people will see this issue as important to them as well. It doesn’t matter if it’s a squirrel, rabbit or bluegill. Regulations were put in place to maintain a healthy population and poaching is an enemy to that.

We are blessed in our area to have outstanding parks at Dawson Lake, Lake Bloomington and Evergreen Lake. Fishing has been outstanding on all three lakes and our deer herd is on the rebound about a couple of down years. Take what you will eat that meets creel and seasonal game laws but also don’t be afraid to release a few, knowing others may enjoy it down the road.

I have the utmost respect for hunters who help manage the herd but who also pass on a deer because of age and potential for a better gene pool moving forward. The same is true for anglers who release trophy fish. Take a photo and release that fish of a lifetime. There is a good feeling when you do.

Terry Brown is President of, an industry leading, daily website and social media fishing centered community that provides information on products, industry newsmakers and fishing techniques. You can read more by going to


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