Sportsmen have many reasons to be thankful this time of year

Hopefully you had a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by family and friends, and were reminded to be thankful for all of your blessings. As sportsmen in the Midwest, we have a long list of reasons to be thankful. Firearms deer seasons are open across the region, with arguably the best white-tailed deer hunting in the country happening in the Heartland during November and December. Duck hunters are spreading decoy sets in marshes and backwaters this time of year, and upland bird hunters are burning boot leather all over the plains. Fishing is still hot on open water in the lower reaches of the region, while ice anglers are chomping at the bit to get out on the ice up north. When it comes to being blessed with outdoor opportunity, this is a special time of year to be thankful for. Here are a few opportunities around the region for you to enjoy.  

Illinois – Firearms Deer 

The Land of Lincoln has long been a top producer of trophy white-tailed bucks. The state doesn’t give hunters a large quantity of days to hunt with a firearm. The second half of the state’s split season runs Nov. 30 – Dec. 3, so clearly. What the state lacks in days to hunt, it makes up for in quality of deer. Giant bucks can be found anywhere in the state, but the west-central region, which is home to Pike and Brown counties, is a top producer of record book bucks. There are a number of public hunting opportunities at Fish and Wildlife Areas along the Mississippi River and the Illinois River that all have the potential of producing giant bucks.

Iowa – Quail 

The rush of the flush is speeds up a hunter’s heartbeat like few other outdoor experiences. It’s true, bobwhite quail numbers are far from what they used to be across much of the Midwest, but that doesn’t mean good hunting is gone. There are pockets of healthy quail populations in Iowa, especially in the southwest part of the state. A good bird dog helps locate coveys, but a simply walking field edge and brushy fencerows can produce excellent wing-shooting for the upland hunter without a canine companion. Quail season is open the entire month of November. Hunters may harvest 8 birds per day with a possession limit of 16. 

Kansas – Ducks

With 27 species of ducks cruising through Kansas air space, hunters never know what may head for their decoys next. Mallards, northern pintails, teal, and gadwall are the most common. Duck season is open across Kansas. Hunters can harvest six ducks, but there are limits to different species, so make sure you understand the regulations. The northeast corner of the state, along the Missouri River, offers excellent duck hunting. Cheyenne Bottoms, near Great Bend, is a famous waterfowl destination.

Michigan – Grand Traverse Cisco

Cisco aren’t the most common fish pursued in Lake Michigan, but they can offer fast action and excellent table fare. Often referred to as “Lake Herring”, Cisco are comparable to whitefish and are excellent smoked. Like many other species of fish, they are attracted to the warmer waters of Traverse Bay. Anglers can catch them throughout the year. Spoons and plugs trolled behind boats is the main method of filling a cooler with Cisco. Downriggers are often employed to help put a limit in the boat. 

Minnesota – Pheasants

Minnesota may not be its neighbor to the west, but that doesn’t mean the southern portion of the state doesn’t have good pheasant hunting. The season is open the entire month of November, and the limit at the time is two roosters per day. Hunters must possess a Pheasant stamp and small game license. Shooting hours are 9 a.m. to sunset. Minnesota has a lot of public land and Walk-In land that holds pheasants. On the DNR website, you can search for WMAs by county and species. This tool will help you find a few pheasant spots close to home. 

Missouri– Mississippi River Catfish 

The Mississippi River near St. Louis produces giant catfish. Few anglers are as good at putting these river monsters in the boat as Captain Ryan Casey. Casey is a guide pursuing trophy catfish on the Mississippi River near St. Louis. Many of his trips take place right in front of the Arch. “We’re looking for trophy blue catfish. We catch a lot over 50 pounds, and quite a few much bigger than that,” Ryan said. Catfish in the Mississippi River grow to be very large, with the largest topping out over 100-pounds. Two previous world record blue catfish were caught near St. Louis, weighing 124 and 130 pounds. 

Ohio – Saugeye

Saugeye are common across Ohio. They’re a hybrid cross of sauger and walleye, and are identifiable by dark bars or oblong vertical spots between the spines of the first dorsal fin. Saugeye average around 15 inches, but can grow double that length. They hug the bottom near rocky structure where they eat shad and other bait fish. You’ll find good numbers of saugeye in many tailwaters across the state. Around Columbus, O’Shaughnessy and Deer Creek are good bets. 

See you down the trail…
Brandon Butler

Pic: For sportsmen, this is a special time of year to be thankful for. 

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