Monthly Archives: December 2011

Deer Hunting at Silver Springs?
Might want to have a Plan B

Archery deer season ends January 15, 2012, but at Silver Springs State Park it pretty much ended in November.

Because I am currently unemployable and have time on my hands to kill, by 3 PM every day I’m buggy and wander the five minutes down the road to Silver Springs State Park for a walk. I also check in to see how the pheasant hunters have been doing and if there is anyone out deer hunting. I seem to do this at least every other day.

With the mild December weather we’ve had, the pheasant hunting has been pretty good. I noticed that practically every one on the list gets their limit of birds. There’s a sign on the bulletin board saying that this year has seen a record harvest of birds. You feel sorry for the occasional hunter on the list that records a zero for the day.

According to my only source at Silver Springs, Larry is his name, there are fewer hunters getting out. He said that there was only one day where they couldn’t let all the standby hunters go out. Getting out on standby here used to be pretty rare. The afternoon hunts seem to also always have open slots, but they don’t allow standby hunts in the afternoon for some reason.

Up until the day after Christmas, I can’t recall seeing more than a half dozen deer hunters on the list. 10 deer hunters are allowed out at a time. The day after Christmas the list was filled twice. Twenty hunters had got out and a few were still out in the woods for the sunset hunt.

The areas set aside for deer hunting at Silver Springs are pretty small. Most of the land is set aside for pheasant hunting and another big area doesn’t allow hunting of any kind. The day after Christmas was the first time I had noticed, stuck to the bulletin board, a deer harvest list. I forgot to write down the exact numbers, but for October about 5 deer were taken. For November I recall only 5 or 6 deer taken with the last one on the 24th.

For December, only one doe was taken and that was on the 18th. Considering the amount of pressure these small areas get, that didn’t surprise me. I also drive through Silver Springs on a regular basis on my way to other places. Along the road, through the areas where you can only bird hunt or not hunt at all, I regularly see deer. In the surrounding areas, I see deer out wandering around all the time. A friend that regularly explores the nearby Hoover Forest Preserve has been posting pictures of quite a few deer in the preserves, including a nice shot of a good sized buck. Of course, you can’t hunt in the preserves.

It’s impossible to tell where they are coming from, but someone has been getting deer in the area. So far this year, dumped on the edges of the hunter parking lots at Silver Springs, have been the remains of seven butchered deer. One deer, a doe, was never butchered. It had been gutted then dumped about 20 feet off one lot. Seems like such a shame to waste all that good meat.

For the remainder of the deer season, if I were a deer hunter, I would find someplace else to go. I have a feeling the chances of getting a deer at Silver Springs aren’t going to improve.

For the pheasant hunters, Silver Springs is one of the Public/Private Partnership Sites run by T. Miller. Hunting for birds will continue there till January 8th. Since the other Chicago area controlled pheasant hunting areas are shutting down, a quick check of the T. Miller site shows that there are no more permits available. Up until now, there were quite a few permits that could be had up until the last minute. If you really want to get out and don’t live that far, it might be worth going on standby.

You just never know.

The Evolution of a Picture

The other day I was out in the woods pretending I was hunting for squirrels. The squirrels weren’t cooperating so it turned into a long walk, which is what was actually intended to begin with. I needed the walk.

I always have my camera with me. I have no clue what stops me to take a picture. Something in the shapes, colors or light. All I know is I have to take the picture. Digital cameras have been a godsend for this. If it doesn’t turn out, no big deal, no money was wasted on film, development or printing costs.

The other benefit is to not have to press the camera up against my face and peer through a tiny little hole. The screen or monitor or whatever you want to call it on the back of the camera suits me much better. I can move the camera around to get an angle or a view that otherwise would have required getting down on my knees or climbing up on something. Now I can just keep moving the camera around till the image on the little screen looks remotely interesting for some reason and press the button.

When I get it home and open it up, my usual first response is…why the hell did I take a picture of that?

There’s a good chance that the picture looks nothing like what I remember. I remember an intense blue sunrise sky. Shadows were much deeper. The light on the edges of trees and branches had more gold on them and stood out starkly against the intense blue of the sky. The forest floor had much more color to it, the browns and golds were richer.

I’ve been using Photoshop since it came out, so a little over 20 years. You would think I’d be an expert with it, but I use it more to manipulate images and not so much to manipulate colors. I have taught myself to make some color adjustments. Now, in about 10 seconds, I can come up with a picture that better suits what I thought I saw when I took the picture. Sometimes they look okay.

I always thought I should do more with the images and I have done some playing around with a few of them over the years. I’m never all that happy with the end result and most of them get deleted. I stick to enhancing colors and pretty much leave it at that.

My mother-in-law has been spending the holiday season doing rehab in a nursing home. While walking down a long hallway to pay her a visit, the walls had paintings hanging on them. All of them were landscapes, no real different than the pictures I take, only they were all done in oil paint. The brush strokes were somewhat loose, but not wild. Not quite as loose as most of the impressionist painters. They looked a lot like some of the images I had deleted over the years, my failed attempts at, something.

Again, it goes back to taking the original picture. What did I think I saw?

In my own head it’s a jumble. There are thousands of years of art history rummaging around between my ears; images, theory, colors, how it all balances. Countless hours spent in museums, galleries and wandering art shows adds to the noise. Long nights of drunken conversations with other artists makes matters worse.

Having grown up a city boy, this natural world is still a mystery at times.

The early art I did were what I referred to as my urban nightmares, whether paintings or photos. Moody, depressing, sometimes violent, a direct reflection of some of the shitty neighborhoods I lived in for the cheap rent. The bulk of my photography was all in black and white, I had my own dark room and never learned color.

And yet, my paintings were all intensely colored. At the end I was using mostly primary and secondary colors with very little mixing or shading. I was painting big, six foot by ten foot paintings. I was using house painting brushes rather than those little tiny artist brushes. My paint was mixed in coffee cans, sometimes thrown onto the canvas. My drawings from that time were also big. Lots of pastel blocks were used to make long sweeping swatches of color, rather than little daubs on paper.

One of my biggest influences at that time was Jasper Johns. I liked the loose paint application and the intense colors.

I’d put up some images of my work from back then, but I have nothing digitized. The drawings all reside with my daughters and all but one of the paintings have been destroyed. Some day I’ll have all the slides scanned.

Around 23 years ago after finishing a big painting that I thought was damn good, a switch was thrown. I stopped painting and drawing literally over night and never went back. Every now and then I’ll doodle something on a piece of paper, but I have no desire to take it any further. A random thought will come up now and then and I think I should try again, even my wife has mentioned I should consider it, but it goes nowhere.

I have no interest in sitting in a room with the stench of oil paint, turpentine and linseed oil saturating the air that I breath. Try that during the winter and wait for the heat to come on. It’s a miracle I’m not brain dead, but some would say that’s arguable. I have no interest in mounting layers of pastel dust collecting at my feet, embedding itself in my clothes, it’s just another thing to clean when I’m done.

Back to the images and trying to figure out what I’m looking at when I snap the picture…

I had three exceptional art instructors/mentors while at DePaul University. Since the school was small, there were only three of us that took art seriously while the rest wanted to be grammar school art teachers. Many of the hours of drunken conversation with fellow artists were with these three.

There own styles rub off on me…

William Conger for his intense color and structure. Click on his name and go to his site. Look for his earlier work, that’s what I remember.

Robert Donley for his color, structure and playful imagery.

Stephen Luecking (I couldn’t find much on his work) for his combination of math, science and the spiritual.

Now throw in my personal favorites:

Marcel Duchamp

Philip Guston

Willem de Kooning

Thomas Hart Benton One of my biggest influences and the same with Bill Conger.

Robert Rauschenberg

Ed Paschke for his intense color. Before I knew who he was, I found out later we lived down the street from each other on a hooker and gang ridden street, and we both found it fascinating.

Then there’s the photographers that have influenced me, the list is too long.

I guess after looking at all of those artists it would help if you saw my old stuff, maybe, some day.

Overall it’s the color, the structure, the feel you get when looking at any of this work. The image is important, I guess, but what feeling did it elicit? Did you cock your head a bit and think for a second, not even knowing why or what is causing that to happen.

I guess that’s what I’m doing when I’m snapping pictures aimlessly while out in the woods. It does drive others nuts when they are with me. I’ll stop dead in my tracks and start two-stepping in different directions. Conversation with me at that point is pointless, I’m not listening. I’m not aware that you are even still around. I take the picture and pick up where I drifted off.

My wife will ask sarcastically, “did you get what you wanted?”

“Hell if I know, we’ll see.”

Luckily she has that same artist sensibility. I get a lot of leeway.

So, I played with this same image for awhile, not too long. The heat came on while I was working on it and no brain cells were killed by noxious fumes. I kind of like how it turned out and it went in with the few others that I won’t delete.

I still have no clue what the attraction is. No clue if it’s actually any good to anyone but me. But it stopped me in my tracks when I was out in the woods and every time I look at it, I cock my head just a bit.


(On a creepy side note: I always noticed that when I was working on a painting or a drawing I would step back a bit and cock my head one way, then the other to get a bit of a different viewpoint. Many of the artists I know do this. In the 1978 movie Halloween, in one scene, the Michael Myers character picks up a kid and pegs him to a door with a butcher knife. He then steps back, staring at what he did and then cocks his head slowly one way, then the other. Every hair on my body stood on end when I saw that).

Merry Christmas, Norm

This Christmas morn, the mother-in-law is off at a nursing home recuperating, the wife is still fast asleep. The dogs have all been let out and no longer pacing and restless. The house is quiet except for the young cat. A Christmas tree ornament really did need to be knocked off the tree at 6 AM and rolled around the house for the next two hours.

I’m sitting around waiting, to go get my daughters, to go hang out with family for the afternoon. Probably eat too much later. I hope.

In my email is a fishing report from Norm. He’s been playing around with words. He does a decent job of playing.

Reminded me of why I fish, or go fishing.

I think there’s a paragraph in there about a fish being caught.

The caps and collars of ice on the flooded brush gave mute testimony to the river dropping an inch. As I looked around I saw the sunlight reflecting off them in myriad ways when the branches swayed with the wind.

When the sun was higher in the sky, it’s light dappled and danced on the water’s surface as it bounced over a riffle. It’s warmth was a welcome respite to the bite of the winter wind.

While walking through the forest on a path worn by generations of fishermen, I came upon a wonderous sight. There on the forest floor hidden from the sun were small collections of individual snowflakes. Their delicate, translucent white was contrasted by the green moss covered logs and curled, rusty leaves upon which they lay. When I lifted a leaf to marvel at the beauty of the flakes they were exposed to the sun. Thus warmed, they began to disappear into dull blotches of wetness. With regrets for destroying such ephemeral beauty, I laid it back in the shade of a log hoping to preserve some of it.

At the junction of the lower, clearer water of a creek and the higher, muddier water of the river, I worked a Husky Jerk against the current. After a pause during which it fluttered suspended in place, I felt some weight and set the hook. A smallmouth of respectable size though unmeasured was quickly released without being lifted from the water.

While walking back along the creek, I found a log in a sunny spot to sit and relax. The sound of the water moving over the creekbed and the warmth of the sun soon had me mesmerized into a state of mediative peace. That was interrupted by a tapping noise to my right. There, a small woodpecker was investigating the possibility of a meal up in the tree. That was a reminder of my own need for nourishment as well. It was with great reluctance that I re-entered the world of time as measured by man’s reckoning not nature.


Went through some old photos, Norm, to give people an idea of what inspires you. Granted, it’s while I was out there hunting years ago, but I think it makes the point.

Merry Christmas Norm, and thanks. I needed that this morning.

Ice, Ice Baby

Based on memory, which is probably not the most reliable way to do things, this may be one of the mildest Decembers in a long time. We had a few days where the temps got below freezing and one night that got into the single digits. Otherwise we’ve been coasting along at average or above average.

During those few days of cold we also got a dusting of snow. I had to go test and review a pair of boots so I wandered to a nearby forest preserve that has a pretty little no name creek that always has some running water.

Even now there were remnants of green clinging for life along the forest floor.

But for the most part, for as far as you could see you could see nothing but the browns and grays that become the forest during the winter.

I couldn’t get a good picture, but in the shallow pools of the creek were fish. A handful of little smallmouth bass took cover under some dense ice as I peered over a bridge.

I could make out the distinct shapes of a few Illinois Creek Chub Trout and as I started to wander around in the creek, sculpins were darting behind rocks to get out of my way.

Clinging to the rocks in the middle of the creek and all along the shores was ice.

The water had dropped a bit so the ice was floating an inch or two above the flowing water. I did my best to stay on the rocks as I wandered up the creek. I didn’t want to disturb the spider webs of ice.

The images of the ice didn’t turn out the way I thought they would.

That’s what happens when all you have is a point and shoot camera. I have no doubt it has some manual controls to it that I never bothered to learn. So far I haven’t had to. Apparently ice has special requirements when it comes to being photographed. Who would have thought ice would be so picky.

I tried my best in post processing to get more of, to see more of, what I thought I was photographing at the time.

Not sure I achieved that goal. It looks like no freezing weather for another 10 days or so. In the mean time, I should try to find the manual that came with the camera.

I wonder if they have a section just on photographing ice.

Maybe I’ll get some Sleep Tonight

You wouldn’t think that such a simple thing as the world tilting on it’s axis, stopping, then going back the other direction would cause such problems for my sleep patterns.

Hardly slept a wink last night cause of that.

If you ever need an ego boost, and I’m a firm believer we should all give ourselves one now and then, watch TruTV at three in the morning.

Things could be much worse, you know.

When I was a kid and we got out of the concrete jungle where we lived and out into something that resembled woods, I always noticed that the ground was moving. I called it the earth was breathing. I notice it more often now that I hardly ever go back to the concrete jungle.

A few years ago I was out in the woods hunting squirrels. The wind was howling pretty good and even with the leaves off the trees the trees were swaying. I was standing about three feet from a big tree that was getting buffeted by the winds. I could feel the ground lift and fall ever so slightly. The wind was making the tree move all the way down into the root ball.

That must be what I see, that slight lift in the ground when I think I’m seeing the earth breathe.

A hunting I will go tomorrow, if all goes right. It’s been a month and a half since the last time. Too long. The back pains from my misadventures with cutting down a Christmas tree almost three weeks ago has subsided enough to be tolerable. I’ll probably be hobbling a little bit, but I need to get out.

To see the earth breathe.