GO Lourash

Alex 'Always Outdoors' Lourash, natural areas manager at Allerton Park, with a turkey he recently harvested.

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Profile: Alex 'Always Outdoors' Lourash

With archery deer and turkey seasons in full swing and the first part of the firearm deer season coming up in less than two weeks, I reached out to Alex Lourash, a 2016 UI graduate who’s the natural areas manager at Allerton Park. When he’s not managing 1,500 acres of natural areas at Allerton — including 14 miles of trails, working with researchers, donors, prescribed burns, habitat improvement, camps and much more — you will likely still find him outdoors, and this time of year, probably on a hunt.

What’s the best part about your job?

Every day is different. One day we may be tackling invasive honeysuckle, so that we can better out natural areas, and the next I could be helping set up for a big concert on the Gatehouse lawn. I look forward to coming to work for that reason. To say I enjoy my job is an understatement. I work outside almost every day of the year and get to work with amazing people.

How did you get started hunting?

Growing up on a farm with access to woods and a pond got me into the outdoors at an early age. My dad and grandpa hunted a little when I was young and that was the start to what would be my favorite hobby.

What do you hunt?

Deer, upland game, waterfowl, small game and I recently went to Ontario Canada for my first black bear hunt. This spring with the help of great friends from the UI, I harvested my first turkey, which was an amazing experience. I think the most challenging is deer. “A large mature white-tail doesn’t get big by being dumb,” is a favorite saying I hear a lot. Deer have incredible sense of smell and can pick out movement in a tree from a mile away it seems. But the challenge of hunting this smart animal is what makes it all worth it in the end when you can harvest one.

What’s your favorite?

Archery deer season. Since I was 16, I have worked at an archery shop. I currently work part-time at a shop in Tolono, working on bows and talking to all types of hunters. With a bow, you have to be close to the deer, and that in itself, is a success. But actually harvesting a mature deer with a bow is always a great accomplishment. I mainly bow hunt in Illinois, and at the shop, I shoot the new bows that come out to find one I like best. This year, I’m shooting the Mathews Traverse and love it.

Best part of hunting?

The challenge. In deer season, being able to find a mature buck, for example. I may sit all season and let smaller bucks and does walk by me. Trying to learn a buck’s habits and where he likes to be and what he’s going to do on a certain day is probably what I enjoy most.

Most memorable hunt?

This past spring, a couple UI friends and I got turkey permits for Kennekuk County Park — my first ever attempt at a wild turkey. I had one of the best turkey hunters I know with me, so hopes were high. The first morning, we heard and saw many birds but no harvest. The next morning started slowly. We walked into a creek bottom and sat up against a fallen tree to wait. I remember dozing several times. Somehow, I woke up at the perfect time to catch a glimpse of a tom turkey pitching off the high bank of the river across from us. He eventually came in for a 37-yard shot on my first Illinois turkey!

Why hunt?

A huge part of why people hunt is for the fresh wild meat. If you open up my freezer at home you can find mule deer from Nebraska, whitetail from Illinois, pheasant breasts from South Dakota, Lake trout and black bear from Ontario Canada and super fresh duck breasts from last weekend’s successful hunt at Clinton Lake. I never have to go to the store and buy meat of any kind. Some of the best meat I have tasted has come from what I have harvested, cleaned myself and have packaged for my freezer. I will always be a hunter for that reason.

Archery turkey update

Speaking of turkey hunting, so far this fall, Illinois archery turkey hunters have harvested 388 birds. Last year’s total at this point was 405. The five-year average for this point in the season is 368. Harvest totals had been just below the five-year average all season until Nov. 3, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife Resources.

The season started Oct. 1 and continues to Jan. 19. The harvest to date has consisted of 49.9 percent females and 50.1 percent males. The reported age distribution is 36.3 percent juveniles and 63.7 percent adults. The top counties for harvest so far: Jefferson (15), Knox (13), Marion (13), Cass (12), Adams (10), and McHenry (10). Totals so far locally: Champaign (1), Douglas (0), Edgar (4), Ford (0), Iroquois (6), Piatt (0) and Vermilion (2).

Grand Prairie Friends tree planting

Here’s a great upcoming opportunity to not only get outdoors, but help a volunteer group restore some hardwood trees to the native landscape. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 20, Grand Prairie Friends invite volunteers to help them replace 100 oak and hickory trees due to excessive deer browsing.

They will be planting 100 3-gallon trees in Warbler Bottoms on property the nonprofit group owns near Charleston. The holes will be pre-dug, and volunteers will work in pairs to position and plant the trees. Drinks and snacks will be provided.

Volunteers need to meet at Grand Prairie Friends Red Barn on Daileyville Road, 17161 Daileyville Road, Charleston. Directions: Take Route 130 south from Charleston for about 3 miles to Daileyville Road. There is a brown Warbler Ridge Conservation Area hiking sign at Daileyville Road. Turn right onto Daileyville and wind around for about 1 mile until you see the rocked parking lot and red shack on your right.

If you’d like to carpool, meet at Meijer, 2500 S. Philo Road, U, where the group will depart at 8:45 a.m. from the southwest corner of the parking lot. Bring appropriate clothing, sturdy shoes and gloves. RSVP to volunteer@grandprairiefriends.org


Tracy Crane is a Danville-based reporter for The News-Gazette. Her email is tcrane@news-gazette.com.