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La Salle County outdoorsmen were inducted into the outdoors Hall of Fame at the end of the night, but wild game and fish plates were the star attractions, at least in the early evening, at the semi-annual American Sportsman Show.
Before the dining began and as vendors’ and clubs’ booths opened Saturday afternoon, the aroma of stews, soups and other concoctions wafted through the Knights of Columbus Hall in Ottawa.
More than 40 crock pots and large electric roasters all were filled with the dishes from secret and not-so-secret recipes of area hunters. In an outdoorsy smorgasbord inside, crocks and pots on tables in the hall featured such delicacies and peculiarities as goose stew, rabbit stew, deer chili, elk Italian-style, squirrel stew, venison meatballs with sauerkraut, turtle, venison spaghetti, venison barbecue and venison stroganoff.
Mendota fish-frying expert Fred Reutner of the Better Fishing Association of Northern Illinois was in the house, too.
After the dining and a speech by a state biologist, the new hall of fame inductees were introduced: Gino Biffany of Ottawa, Al Simons of Streator, Bill Walsh Jr. of Ottawa, Randy Hooper of Marseilles and La Salle County Pheasants Forever Chapter 177.
In addition to Pheasants Forever, clubs and vendors represented at the show included Spring Valley businessman Frank Hylla selling plastic baits including batches in $1 grab bags; local taxidermists; a sales representative for foot-powered, human-propelled, one-man fishing kayaks; and the Masons seeking donations for Easter Seals of La Salle and Bureau Counties (which has its annual telethon coming up at 5 p.m. Friday, March 8 on local access cable channels from Ottawa Township High School).
Frank Nichols of Marseilles was asked by show promoter Hank Walsh to bring his deer mounts to the show as a representative of the Illinois Valley Big Bucks fraternal organization. So, he brought eight with him and created a display. One that wound up in the record books scored at 126, but the biggest, he believes would have scored at about 154 (It weighed 240 pounds, field dressed). It was the first year for him to bring the trophies from his hunts in eastern La Salle County and western Grundy County.
Also at the event were members of the Bowfishing Association of Illinois (www.illinoisbowfishing.net; www.illinoisbowfishing.info), including Kickapoo Bowfishing Team members Nate Schaefer and Ben Diss. Schaefer said bowfishing for Asian carp continues to grow in popularity — and that’s great, considering how quickly the bighead and silver carp are overpopulating the Illinois River and other rivers in the Mississippi River system. How widespread is the problem? Bow fishing tournaments for Asian carp are becoming a big deal as far away as the Kentucky River and the Land Between the Lakes region of southwest Kentucky.
Schaefer said in the Ottawa area or near Starved Rock, he and his cousin can go out on a summer night and get 80-100 fish — and 50 percent of those are leaping silver carp that jump in the boat.
Schaefer was at the Ottawa event Saturday because Kickapoo bowfishing leader Ed DeVries was at a bigger show in Hammond, Ind.