Schuckman: No matter the weather, hunters need to be prepared

Posted: Jul. 28, 2012 12:01 am Updated: Sep. 7, 2012 11:44 pm

Herald-Whig Sports Writer

Jerry Pellman couldn't get himself in the right frame of mind.

With the oppressive heat keeping him from taking on any outdoor chores, Pellman decided it would be best to work ahead. He could clean his guns, organize his shells, make weights for duck decoys and basically get everything ready for hunting season.

"That way I could spend more time hunting when the cool weather gets here," Pellman said.

In theory, the plan was perfect. In reality, the Quincy hunter had one major flaw to his agenda.

It was too hot to go hunting, let alone think about it.

"I started digging around in my basement, and I lost interest quick," Pellman said. "How quick? I had a baseball game on the radio when I started. When I sat down in front of the TV upstairs, it was only in the second inning. Let's just say I didn't get much done."

Pellman may regret it.

The first official hunting season of 2012 in Illinois opens Wednesday with the start of squirrel season. The forecast calls for temperatures in the upper 90s, which will likely keep most hunters out of the woods. There will be a few diehards who won't let the heat bother them, but most hunters will be like Pellman.

They'll play the waiting game.

"Give me temps in the 80s and I'll be right there beside you," Pellman said. "When I start sweating as I walk out the door, well, that just doesn't make hunting much fun."

It doesn't change this unavoidable truth: You have to be prepared for the hunt.

Hunters who wait until the last minute to check their gear, buy their licenses and tags and set up their blinds and stands are often the ones who come home empty-handed. The same goes for those who wait to shoot their guns or test their bows until they have some sort of game in their crosshairs.

That's when the big one gets away.

"I've missed two record bucks. We're talking monsters," said David Smith, another Quincy hunter who was shooting his bow at a backyard target despite 100-degree temperatures early in the week. "Why did I miss? I asked that over and over and over again. I thought I had bought the best equipment. I felt I had the right place. I believed in my ability as a marksman. So why?

"The more I examined the situation, and trust me, when you miss a big one, you replay it over and over and over again, I figured out what I had done wrong. I hadn't practiced. I hadn't check my gear. I hadn't taken the time each week during the summer and fall to get myself ready. That was foolish."

So despite sweat dripping from the bill of his cap, Smith stood there and shot 10 arrows from 20 yards. Then another 10 from 25 yards. And another 10 from 30 yards. He went as far as 50 yards from the target. Then he went through the process again.

"I won't say I'll never miss again. I know I will. I'm not perfect," Smith said. "I'll never miss again because I was unprepared. The heat may wear me down, but it won't keep me down."

It won't keep him from hunting, either.

Smith is one of those hunters who relishes the opening day of any season. Since he won't have to be to work until 3 p.m. Wednesday, Smith plans to take a few hours in the morning to go squirrel hunting. He's already sighted in his .22 rifle and will go out Sunday for a little extra practice.

"OK, I'll admit it, I go a little overboard," Smith said. "I'm kind of psycho about hunting. There's nothing I'd rather do. So any opportunity to hunt, I just can't pass up. Heat, rain, sleet or snow doesn't bother me. I'll weather any storm."

Told what Smith said, Pellman shook his head.

"Not me," he said. "Not a chance."

The time and temperature eventually will be right for Pellman to get into a hunting state of mind.

When it is, he hopes to be ready.

"I'll give it a shot no matter what," Pellman said.

Even if he misses.