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March 2015 HO


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Recent entries


Through the Lens

Tournament Bowfishers in Illinois Rejoice

Mon, March 30, 2015

Tournament bowfishers celebrated a victory last week when letters were received notifying them of the removal of the language that related to bowfishing tournament harvest limits, in the currently proposed admin rule changes for sportfishing in Illinois.  Heartland first covered this issue when the 2015 season Fishing Digests were inadvertently released with the regulations shown as new regs for the coming season.

Through a concentrated effort launched by Bowfishing Association of America (BAA), Illinois Federation of Outdoor Resources, other bowfishing associations including Bowfishing Association of Illinois (not affiliated with Bowfishing Association of America or a state chapter/club of BAA), individual bowfishers and other concerned individuals, the proposed language was changes to remove the native fish harvest limits.

“The Department will remove the language regarding the number of native species that can be harvested. The genesis of this rule was concern the IDNR has over the decline in native fish species in some waters in the state. The proposed rule was designed to help protect those waters. After considering comments from the bowfishing community, the IDNR decided to remove the statewide 10 native species per person per tournament language. The IDNR can effectively manage the fishery without a statewide limit on native species’ tournament harvest but the IDNR will continue to monitor fish populations closely and may place site specific rules on certain waters where there is evidence of declines in native populations. ” said Anne Mergen, Legal Counsel for IDNR in a letter to this author.

This is especially good news simply because it handles the situation in a way that is equitable for the fisheries in IL.  Bowfishers consider themselves conservationists, and work diligently to help remove invasive / injurious fish species from the waters.  That said, bowfishers certainly don’t want to be harming any native fish populations, but were disturbed by the initial language that made this a statewide vs site specific regulation without any sound science to correlate that the decline of the native fish populations was due to bowfishing tournaments.

Additionally, in an effort to streamline the fishing tournament regulations, IDNR also removed the proposed Administrative Rule Section 810.95, which separated bowfishing tournaments from hook and line tournaments, putting all fishing tournament regulations under the Administrative Code section 810.90 which would cover all fishing tournaments regardless of type. This was also a celebrated move as bowfishers viewed this as helping to make it easier to find and comply regulations related to bowfishing, and further was perceived by some as effort to increase the acceptance of bowfishing as not a different animal so to speak, but as another form of take for fish throughout IL on a level playing field with hook and line, commercial, and other types of angling within the IDNR fisheries division. 

The current sportfishing regulation changes are currently in the JACR review process and first notice ended on 3/23/2015. No second notice has been published in the Illinois register at the time of this writing.
Riding high on the announcement of the change in the language of to the tournament regulations, Bowfishing association of Illinois immediately issued (via social media and internet forums) a call to action to support their request that catfish be placed on the allowable species list, reopening the debate from last year on this topic.

The proposal from BAI regarding catfish did not make it to the regulatory agenda, admin rules, or through the process last year. It remains to be seen if it will be successful this time in actually making to the next regulatory agenda, and on to the Admin Rules committee for consideration and how this new proposal will read compared to the previous.

In the same announcement regarding the request for catfish and heralding a victory in the tournament regulation battle to have all tournaments under one set of regulations,  Bowfishing Association President Ed Devries stated the following

“A very important precedent setting accomplishment as it is a first step to allowing a fair harvest of all legal species with bowfishing gear in the same manner rod and reel fishermen, trot and jug line fishermen can harvest fish. We hope everyone will fight for our moves to legalize catfish bowfishing in the coming month the same way they have these regulations as this is a very important and fair regulation for all who bowfish.”


That announcement bears watching. Will Bowfishing Association of Illinois be able to achieve it’s goal of being able to take by bow and arrow device ANY LEGAL SPECIES? Time will tell, but my guess is that there will be plenty of debates and lots of fine tuning of proposals and regulations before sport and game fish are opened for harvest by bow and arrow.

As always sportsmen and women in Illinois should routinely follow any proposals and legislation that relates to outdoor enjoyment and sports. Additionally, when issues arise, become active, comment during public comment periods, work with organizations such Illinois Federation of Outdoor Resources and activity specific organizations such as Bowfishing Association of America or Illinois Whitetail Alliance.

Stay informed, stay vocal, and help shape the regulations that guide outdoor enthusiasts across our state. This recent change in just this proposal alone shows that when concerned sportsmen and women, and conservation organizations work together in a professional, concentrated, and targeted effort they can indeed shape regulations and guidelines.


Meet “Blondie” the Leucistic Hen Scaup

Sat, March 28, 2015

Early this week I had the pleasure of meeting up with Heartland’s own Jeff Ideleman at Horseshoe Lake State Park in Madison County. While Jeff and I were actually meeting to run some dogs at the sites dog training area, I went early to see what I could shake out photowise of waterfowl.

There I was muddling along happily snapping photos of a variety of ducks, grebes, and other birds that were starting to display gorgeous breeding plumage when I saw “that duck”.

Slap dab in the middle of group of scaup and buffleheads was this odd looking white and blondish looking duck.
“Hand me the binos” I barked at my friend. “What the hell is that???”

My traveling companion for the day conceded that if I didn’t know what kind of duck it was, likely he wouldn’t.

With a little time, patience, and some terribly sloppy spot and stalk work I managed to get a few decent images of the duck in question before she flew off with her flotilla companions.

Once I got home took the images off the cards and really started looking, it tool a bit of effort to decide for sure exactly what I had found. My initial thought was a leucistic scaup, but I will freely admit I wasn’t completely certain. And frankly I didn’t want the humiliation of posting any images with an incorrect id. Oh the horror that would have been!

Once I felt comfortable with the fact it was indeed a leucistic hen scaup, thanks to several friends who are far more knowledgeable about waterfowl than I, I shared the images on social media.

Whooee - those posts lit up! Come to find out, two waterfowl hunting friends had also seen it the day before, but weren’t able to get any close photos. The the birding community jumped in to the fray since this a relatively rare bird. Next thing you know “Blondie” as I had started calling her, was getting some pretty serious attention.

The great part is that Blondie brought together birders, waterfowl hunters, biologists, CPO’s and all sorts of folks together in pleasant conversations. One little duck.

Maybe we should try to learn a little from Blondie, and no matter what group we identify with the most, have those positive conversations with others who value conservation and wildlife. Seems to me if all it takes is one little duck, that shouldn’t be too difficult of a task.


Bowfishing Goes Big Time!

Thu, March 05, 2015

I was a bowfisher before bowfishing was “cool”. If you had told me even just ten years ago that bowfishing would have the popularity it enjoys today, I’m not sure I would have believed you.

The 2015 Bass Pro U.S. Open and World’s Bowfishing Fair shows just how far the sport of bowfishing has come. Seemingly overnight, bowfishing has gone from being viewed by many as a bit of a fringe redneck sport to a “respectable” sport with several national level tournaments.

The Bass Pro U.S. Open is clearly the largest national bowfishing tournament event in the nation, and the world as well.

The World’s Bowfishing Fair, held June 12-14, 2015, at the Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri, promises to be a mash-up of free seminars, exhibits, celebrities, live music, giveaways, and great deals on bowfishing gear. Additionally the Bass Pro Shops U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship, the world’s biggest bowfishing event will take place during the World’s Bowfishing Fair.

According to Bass Pro Shops media release, within a mere 11 hours after registration opened for Bass Pro Shops U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship, the max number of 275 four-person teams had already signed up for the June 12-14 event. The world’s biggest bowfishing event will feature more water to fish, a whopping $100,000 in cash and prizes, and tons of free activities at the World’s Bowfishing Fair.

image courtesy of Bass Pro Shops

The World’s Bowfishing Fair, June 12 - 14, 2015, is fun for the whole family. The event is held at the Bass Pro Shops flagship superstore in Springfield, Missouri, and includes vendor booths, giveaways, seminars, and live music.
“One thing I can promise you – if you come to the World’s Bowfishing Fair and U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship at Bass Pro Shops flagship superstore in Springfield, Missouri, no matter how far you travel – the trip will be worth your while,” said John Paul Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops U.S. Open Bowfishing Tournament. “The World’s Bowfishing Fair has something for everyone who loves bowfishing, archery or just spending time on the water.”

The World’s Bowfishing Fair will feature custom bowfishing boats from around the country and vendor booths from the leading bowfishing companies. The event at Bass Pro Shops Springfield store features free seminars and panel discussions led by the experts including winners of the U.S Open and World Championships and bowfishing guides. In addition, attendees will have a chance to meet their favorite TV show hosts and other celebrities as well as enjoy live music and shooting contests.

Throughout the weekend, customers can take advantage of great deals on the latest name-brand bowfishing gear, including hot, new ArchEnemy packages. Those registered for the U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship can receive special discounts and pricing at the biggest sale of bowfishing gear ever assembled.

The tournament portion of the weekend is bigger than ever, too. U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship competitors have access to over 3,500 miles of shoreline at the following five Ozark area lakes: Table Rock, Bull Shoals, Truman, Pomme de terre, and Stockton.  Plus, the tournament’s purse is fatter in 2015 with a $25,000 grand prize, $5,000 big fish prize, hourly drawings, and a $10,000 state record jackpot, meaning there’s $100,000 in cash and prizes up for grabs. The tournament features a Big 20 format and up to four bowfishermen per team.

Event organizers expect the 2015 event to be huge, based on last year’s attendance. Though 2014 was only the U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship’s second year, it was already the biggest bowfishing event in the world. The 2014 tournament was almost twice as big as the inaugural event, hosting nearly a thousand of the nation’s top bowfishermen. Teams from over 30 states took more than 32,000 pounds of rough fish in one night. Removal of these undesirable species not only improved habitat conditions for game fish, all fish removed were processed into organic fertilizer for use on organic farms.

Those who attend the World’s Bowfishing Fair at the Springfield, Missouri, Bass Pro Shops can enjoy other activities such as touring the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum and the Archery Hall of Fame, which features the world-famous Fred Bear collection. Plus visitors can see over 100,000 gallons of aquariums, including those featuring giant alligator gar.

“This event will be three days packed full of fun activities for the entire family, so make your plans now to attend the World’s Bowfishing Fair and U.S. Open,” Morris said. “Whether you’re a seasoned tournament fisherman or a casual bowfisherman, you won’t want to miss out on all the action.”

If you love bowfishing, make your plans today to attend the 2015 World’s Bowfishing Fair! You can bet barring any unforeseen disasters I will be there bring all of the action from the event to the Heartland family!

Check out this U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship video-

For more information visit Bass Pro U.S. Open



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