Branch Committee members, David and Becky Olson graciously hosted the May 5th meeting at their home, located in the Cambridge/Andover, IL area. A pizza dinner, beverages and refreshments were supplied by the Branch, and Becky prepared and served a delicious rhubarb desert. Everyone had a chance to do some catching up, while enjoying a beautiful evening on the Olson’s back deck, and attendees discussed Branch business and plans for upcoming events. Notably, the Academic Scholarship Committee will be selecting a recipient for this year’s scholarship award, very soon, and it was announced that this year’s REACH Banquet will be held on August 25th, at the Big Red Barn (New Windsor, IL). Banquet planning will be conducted over the course of the summer, with meetings becoming increasingly more frequent, as the date approaches.
The Olson’s home is located one of the most diverse and beautiful woodlots in Henry County, IL. David’s father, a District Forester, managed the woodland, primarily, for timber production. David and Becky’s interest is primarily in optimizing the wildlife value of the property, for their viewing enjoyment and enhanced hunting opportunities, while at the same time creating enhanced timber value. Over the past 20 or so years, they’ve done a tremendous amount of work to carry on where David’s father left off, and it really shows when you take a tour of the property!
Our tour started with a look at the Olson’s target ranges. A wooden shooting bench marks the beginning of a 100yd rifle range, and a short distance away, tucked into a grove of white pines and spruce trees, is a multi-station archery range complete with several 3D targets and Blob Archery Targets (of which David is a dealer. As we leave the conifer grove, we entered a clearing that is in the early stages of regeneration, with a few years worth of plantings, including; Concolor Fir, various oak species, Chinese Chestnut, American Plum, Hazelnut, and Red Osier Dogwood. David explained that he’s converting the area into a diverse thicket that’s both a staging area and travel corridor for deer, as they move between an adjacent food plot and bedding area. Further down the trail, we find the first of several very nice clover plots, next to a shallow water wetland that the Olson’s created. We took a quick peek at the view from a handcrafted tower blind that overlooks the area, before moving on across the dam of the pond. Beyond the wetland, a logging road traverses the woodland, alongside a year-round creek. David pointed out a string of tulip poplars and bald cypress trees that his dad planted as “whips”, decades ago. He states that the current IDNR Forester recommended cutting the poplar, but he ‘wouldn’t cut them if they were worth a million dollars’. It’s evident to all of us that his ties to this land run deep. Before the end of the tour, David pointed out trees from which he’d harvested several of his largest deer (and there have been some dandies!), and a spot along the trail where he recently took a nice tom turkey. We, also, pass through an impressive grove of black walnuts before making it back to the homestead, at dusk.
The next Branch Committee meeting is being planned for early June and will hosted on a member’s property, to include a tour of more habitat improvements! The Branch is committed to providing opportunities for members and newcomers to meet like-minded people, and learn about habitat, food plots, and QDM from our property tour hosts and Branch Committee. So, we’re always scouting for new sites to host these gatherings on. Watch for our upcoming meeting schedule and make plans to attend the next one! Everyone is encouraged to join us, so bring along a friend.