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Steve Sarley: State should promote our outdoor resources

Are you sick and tired of reading about the financial troubles of Illinois?

I know I am.

Is hearing about the constant battling over the state’s budget and pension situations pushing you to the brink?

Well, take your place right next to me.

Bottom line is the state, like an irresponsible person who has overspent for many years, now has the collection agencies bombarding it with phone calls. We use the fact that we are flat broke as the answer to why we can’t pay for keeping existing programs in place, let alone starting needed new ones.

The simple answer the politicians use is to either cut services or hit us up for more taxes. My McHenry County readers and I are tapped out, sorry. Come up with another answer. How about spending a little money to bring in more money? That sounds good to me.

What I mean is, how about establishing a program to bring in more visitors to recreate in Illinois, enjoying our endless outdoor opportunities? Visitors spend money, which cultivates more tax income, doesn’t it?

Do you remember when you couldn’t put on a TV station or radio show without hearing that jingle that said, “Just outside Chicago is a place called Illinois.” When was the last time you heard or read about our state promoting itself?

I was looking for something to do for my anniversary with my wife and turned to Google. It sent me to the sites for Pure Michigan, Travel Wisconsin, Escape to Wisconsin and Discover Wisconsin.

We have a travel site at enjoyillinois.com and it looks good, is well-designed and easy to use. The problem is that the site doesn’t spotlight our opportunities for hunters and fishermen.

People need to hear about what Illinois is all about. You’ve heard about the tremendous whitetail deer population in Illinois. Why do the outfitters I talk to not see the business that they would expect in a hot deer hunting area such as the one we are in? To me, it’s because the sportsmen in our neighboring states haven’t heard about it.

When was the last time you heard advertising crowing about our Lake Michigan fishery? It’s been a long time. If a family of four comes to Chicago or the north shore for a fishing trip, they’ll stay in a hotel overnight, eat their meals here, pay for a charter, buy licenses, maybe they’ll see a show, they’ll fill up with gas, and they’ll probably spend some money shopping here.

Honestly, I cannot say that I ever have seen the city of Chicago spend a dime promoting the Lake Michigan fishery. What is the matter with the politicians responsible for this? We are blessed to have Lake Michigan and need to tell the rest of the world about it.

Sure, the operators of resorts and the like spend their money to advertise and promote their enterprises, but how about some help from the state? Go to any of the upcoming sports shows and take a look at who is paying for booths to draw in new customers. You will see areas from Illinois such as Lake Shelbyville or the Rend Lake Resort in attendance, but how about the state itself?

Walking the aisles, you’ll be in contact with representatives of Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky, to be sure. Thousands of people head out of Illinois to visit these places because they are being invited. They are getting sold on what those various states have to offer. Heck, we don’t even try to keep our own residents here, let alone drawing in out-of-staters.

Please note that I am not blaming the Illinois Department of Natural Resources; this does not fall on its shoulders. I am laying down a challenge to our state politicians to get on this.

Instead of looking into our wallets to get the state out of the jam that they have placed us in, take a look at extracting some money from the wallets of residents from our neighboring states. If they hear about us and make the decision to visit, I am sure they’ll enjoy Illinois so much that they’ll even book some return visits.

It’s called advertising and promotion, politicians. You use it for yourselves an awful lot. Now use it to help bail out the state.

Fishing and hunting report

Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “Deer season has gotten really good with the cooler weather. Now, if only Mother Nature would quit beating us up with all the rain.

“Make sure your watch is set absolutely correctly. You could find yourself in severe trouble if you shoot too late in the day and you are after the deadline. Hunters know that the later is often the better, but you don’t want to go over the limit.

“Musky fishing is still good if you have the will, stamina and proper clothing. Walleye and panfish are moving into position for the first ice. You can catch these fish in a foot of water right now.”

Deer hunting: Through Sunday, Illinois archery deer hunters harvested a preliminary total of 24,625 deer.

Preliminary harvest through the same period last year was 28,543. Harvest to date consisted of 61 percent does and 39 percent males, but last week it was 52 percent males to 48 percent females.

The top five counties were Pike (988), Fulton (712), Jefferson (602), JoDaviess (529) and Adams (505). Selected northern Illinois counties include: McHenry (259); Boone (76) Lake (134); DuPage (16); DeKalb (85); Kane (120); and Cook (46).

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