Photo by IDNR. 2022 Hunt Camp logo courtesy of Illinois Learn to Hunt.

May 1, 2023

Hunting Matters – Introducing Illinois Hunt Camp to Help Narrow the Gap

Hunting means something different for everyone I reckon. People often listen to us, on the Illinois Learn to Hunt team, about the how, what and when of hunting in Illinois. When the “why” is brought up, we are the ones doing the listening. Everyone becomes a poet when describing what getting into hunting has meant to them.

On hunter wearing camouflage gear demonstrates how to skin a successfully harvest brown, orange squirrel. Two men also wearing camouflage gear watch the demonstration attentively. In the background is a snowing woodland.
After a mentored squirrel hunt won at Hunt Camp 2022. Photo courtesy of Illinois Learn to Hunt.

If you trace your history back far enough, you will find hunters. We all have that common bond, but the gap is growing wider and wider for lots of folks. So many of us get trapped in urban jungles as we navigate life, something like hunting seems exotic and unachievable. Admittingly, the highly regulated nature of hunting may as well be a hundred-foot ice wall for the solo outdoorsperson wanting to break into hunting. I should point out the success of the “era of regulated hunting and trapping.” Since the advent of regulations, hunting and trapping have never led to any species becoming endangered or extinct. As outdoor recreation has diversified, the regulations have grown more complex. This can be difficult for even seasoned hunters. The fact that most of the regulations are there to promote “fair chase” or to ensure an ecologically sustainable take, is of little comfort to the new hunter trying to find their own niche in the outdoors.

If your family is less than a human lifespan removed from the land, you may have had a hand to hold when you reach across the gap at the metaphorical “ice wall.” If that’s not the case, I hope you have your climbing gear and crampons. You are up on your alpine butterfly and Prusik knots, right? Be mindful of the climbing patrol and try not to interfere with all the other climbers who seemingly have it all figured out. Now you can begin to imagine what it’s like for someone without family ties to the outdoors to get involved.

We at the Illinois Learn to Hunt program are attempting to be that helping hand wherever it’s needed. We are trying to reach as far across that “ice wall” gap as possible. We think that everyone who wants to get into hunting or trapping in Illinois should have a well-developed educational pathway to help take them there. With resources for all hunters along the way to make the “climb” a little easier.

Besides connecting all of us to our past, hunting has a bevy of positive attributes that come out when our Learn to Hunt workshop participants explain what hunting means to them. It might be physical activity and how it gets you out at times of year when it’s all too easy to lay low. Not certain if it’s exercise, the sunshine or some magic forest fumes but somehow, it seems to make you feel better.

Then there is the access to wild and free-range meat that fuels some people’s fire. You can’t buy it, so if you want to eat local game, hunting and trapping is the way to obtain it. The same way that gardeners swear their veggies just taste better, this is how hunters feel about the meat they process from wild game. You can almost taste the adventure!

That’s another thing that modern day life often lacks that hunting can help provide, adventure. Hunting and trapping encourages you to get outside and if you do it long enough, the adventures will happen. Sometimes it’s the success when everything goes right and sometimes it’s when you are downright miserable, but both combine to form the poles of the human experience and help center the mundane, in my humble opinion anyway.

It’s often difficult to put your finger on exactly what it is about hunting that matters most to you. That’s probably because it impacts us in so many ways. It touches something innate within us that goes back to the campfire sittin’ days. Back then the hundred-foot ice wall wasn’t a metaphor, but the community was stronger perhaps. With enough helping hands, even a literal ice wall can be conquered.

In our best effort to try and rekindle the magic of the campfire sittin’ days, we introduce Illinois Hunt Camp 2022. Hunt Camp is an evening for hunters and trappers to come together. We, along with several big-name partners, hosted the first Hunt Camp in October 2022 in the Chicagoland area. Hunt Camp is a time to share knowledge and stories, and offer helping hands for those who need it. One of the most popular parts of Hunt Camp is the prize portion where outdoor gear and mentored hunting opportunities are awarded.

A photo of a group of people participating in a game where individuals must balance a cookie on their foreheads to win a prize.
Hunt Camp 2022: Final Showdown to win the Safari Club Henry Golden boy 22LR. Photo courtesy of Illinois Learn to Hunt.

We are busy getting Hunt Camp 2023 set up as you read this and it’s shaping up to be even bigger and better than last year. If you are a hunter who wants to help new folks discover all the benefits of the outdoors, contact us today to find out how you can help. We are hoping to get 50 mentored hunting opportunities to award to newer hunters at this year’s Hunt Camp. We can’t achieve that big number without helping hands like you. What do you say, will you reach across the ice wall with us? Even if not, feel free to come sit by the fire!

Stay tuned. The details for Hunt Camp 2023 will be coming to the Illinois Learn to Hunt webpage soon. We hope to see you there no matter what your experience level.

Thank you and see you in the woods or around the fire!

Curtis Twellmann has been with the Illinois Learn to Hunt program since 2020. Growing up in north-central Missouri, Twellmann hunted, fished and trapped from an early age. This led to a wildlife degree from Northwest Missouri State in 2012. From there he worked as a field biologist for the better part of a decade in Nevada, Nebraska, Texas, Alaska and California. Then he spent about three years as the Assistant Furbearer Specialist in Wisconsin before starting with the Illinois Learn to Hunt program.

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