Sports

Sarley: Billy Kats' 'A Season to Remember' a film about family, love, the outdoors

Billy Kats (left) and his father, George Katsigiannis, share the feeling of accomplishment on one of their memorable hunts.
Billy Kats (left) and his father, George Katsigiannis, share the feeling of accomplishment on one of their memorable hunts.

The phrase “labor of love” often is used incorrectly to describe a personal project that doesn’t turn a profit. I don’t think that a true labor of love has anything to do with profit or loss. It is something that is done solely because of what is in the person’s heart that causes them to undertake a project.

That said, I have found something that I believe is the true, definitive example of a labor of love. It is Billy Kats’ DVD video, “A Season to Remember.”

Kats, short for Katsigiannis, a 44-year-old suburban resident, crafted this amazing 100-minute film for a number of reasons, all of which he has entrenched deeply in his heart and in his soul. He wanted to honor the memory of his dad, George V. Katsigiannis, and tell his story. He wanted to show the beauty of nature and the peace and serenity of the outdoors. He wanted to show how deeply love can run in a family and how the love of the outdoors can only strengthen relationships between friends and family. He wanted to show the excitement and rewards of a successful outdoors expedition, but also that the outdoors is not only about how many fish you caught or how big of an animal you harvested.

The film is about respect. It’s about Billy’s respect for his father and his family. It’s about respect for the sports and for our traditions. It’s about respect for nature. It’s about respect for the fish he attempts to catch and the animals he attempts to harvest.

“A Season to Remember” is a mixture of old family 8-millimeter film of his father intertwined with newly shot footage of Kats taken during some incredible outdoor adventures.

Kats’ modern exploits recorded on film include muskie and pike fishing in Ontario, a black bear hunt in British Columbia, musky fishing in the Northwest Angle of Lake of the Woods and a central Illinois whitetail deer hunt.

Kats is extremely likeable as the focal point of the film. He is sincere, and you can see a level of excitement in him that he tries to keep under control. He does a great job of explaining a lot of scientific things about nature and game, but does it in a manner that anyone easily can understand. His passion for his sports and his love for his father and family are things Kats never is able to keep hidden, however.

Please try to understand that “A Season to Remember” isn’t anything like you’d see on TV on Saturday morning. The camera work is Hollywood-worthy. This is a film like something you never have experienced in the world of the outdoors. It has been entered in film festivals across the continent. So far, it has won a number of best-of-show awards, including the Quality Deer Management Association, Kentucky and Utah West.  

If you are not a participant in the sports of hunting and fishing, I think that watching “A Season to Remember” will give you a solid understanding of exactly why those of us who do practice these sports do what we do. If you are a hunter or fisherman, “A Season to Remember” will reinforce in your mind why it is that you practice these sports.

The fishing video is tremendous. The black bear hunt had me on the edge of my seat as Kats and his guide stalked animals up a small river in the deepest and most secluded woods. The whitetail deer hunt was, and I mean this sincerely, totally epic. Gun hunting from a stand on a farm in central Illinois, Kats harvests a beautiful buck. Within minutes, another huge creature crosses his line of sight. He harvests that one, as well. Less than 30 minutes from Kat shooting the first buck, he takes a large doe. Three trophy whitetails in less than a half hour. You never have seen anything like it.

Last year I wrote about the guy who took a big bear with a spear. I wrote that I didn’t like watching it because he acted like “an overamped frat boy” with his hooting and hollering and repetitive fist bumps with his buddies. I truly loved watching Kats react after he caught a fish or harvested an animal. He was solemn. He was somber. He was reverential. Kats showed the ultimate respect for the animal he successfully had taken. He behaved in a manner I believe was absolutely appropriate and sincere.

When Kats cries in thanks because he believes his father and grandfather have herded the whitetail deer into his gunsights, I never questioned the reality of the tears. It was not an act for a camera. It is the way I believe Kats to truly be.

I cannot say enough about Kats’ “A Season to Remember.” You owe it to yourself to check it out. Right now, the only way to see it is to order a DVD copy at www.billykats.com. Kats has plans to have “A Season to Remember” available for one-time streaming for only $4.99 per showing in the near future at his website. I’ll let you know when that happens, but for now, I recommend that you don’t wait.

HUNTING AND FISHING REPORT

Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “The cold weather has returned, and we are making new ice on a daily basis. That said, always think safety first. I have heard ice reports of up to eight inches, but with shorelines having only two to three inches of ice. Be careful getting onto the ice. Conditions should improve with the continued cold weather.” Call 815-455-2040 for an updated report.

NEWS AND NOTES

Summer job openings for teens: What a great way to spend a summer. There are summer positions available for teens at the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge near Havana. The Youth Conservation Corps is accepting applications for the program tentatively scheduled to begin June 5 and end July 28.

YCC enrollees work on wildlife habitat improvement projects, refuge maintenance projects, trails, boundary posting, brush cutting and other outdoor work. Environmental education field trips are scheduled to provide enrollees a diverse experience with other conservation activities. Applicants must be at least 15 when the program begins and not turn 19 before it closes. Enrollees will be selected in a random drawing to participate in the eight-week program.

YCC enrollees will be paid the state minimum wage of $8.25 an hour, 40 hours a week. The daily reporting site is the refuge headquarters located nine miles northeast of Havana, just off the Manito Blacktop. Working hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Applications must be received at the refuge headquarters by 3 p.m. April 14. If selected, applicants younger than 16 will be required to obtain a work permit before May 2. The work is primarily outdoors, so exposure to insects and poison ivy is inevitable. Appropriate personal protective equipment will be provided by the refuge. Information on obtaining YCC enrollee applications is being provided to area schools. For information, contact Ron Fisher at 309-535-2290 or Ron_Fisher@fws.gov.  

Island Lake ice fishing derby: The Island Lake Lions Club is holding its annual ice fishing derby at 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The event headquarters is at Eastway Park on Island Lake. The cost to participate is $15 for adults and $5 for kids 15 and younger. Prizes will be awarded at nearby 3-D Bowl/Sideouts at 3 p.m. Prizes will be awarded to kids and adults for the longest fish caught in the categories of largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye, channel catfish, crappie, bluegill, smallmouth and perch. There also will be a $50 carp derby. Head to Island Lake for fun, refreshments, prizes, raffles and more.

• Steve Sarley writes about the outdoors for Shaw Media. He also hosts the WeFishASA podcast at wefishasa.com. Write to him at sarfishing@yahoo.com.

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