21 November 2007

Hiking solo at my favorite research area on November 18

This past Sunday (Nov. 18) during the last couple hours of deer hunting season here in Illinois, I hiked alone into my favorite "research area." It is a densely wooded area on public property so I thought I would find where the deer were hiding out from the hunters.

It was late afternoon on a gray foggy day with a light rain. As I suspected, due to the inclement weather nobody else was parked along the dead-end access road so I had the woods to myself. My plan was to hike some 20 minutes east to the edge of the public property where it borders a private hunting club. My destination was where my kids and I were standing this past July 22 when we heard a series of wood knocks coming from the private hunting club area.

With most of the leaves down, visibility was now much better in the woods and I hoped to see and photograph deer along the way. I really enjoy hiking in the woods during a light rain and don't seem to get the opportunity often enough. As soon as I got out of my car, I started hearing the noise of a barking dog far off in the direction I was going to hike. I've heard a barking dog in these woods before but have not seen any dog tracks or a loose dog running around. I hoped the sound was coming from much farther away and was only carrying well across the quiet woods.

I discovered that the rain had softened the fallen leaves and that if I stepped carefully I couldn't even hear myself walking. As far as photographing any deer, it was a bust. I had seen none driving along the dead-end access road, and I found none hiding in these woods that afternoon.

About halfway back to my destination, I heard a single whack or clack to my right (south). I stood still for a long time waiting to hear anything else. All I could hear was the rain falling on the leaves. I eventually convinced myself that I must have imagined the sharp noise. I reached my destination on the bluff above a flowing creek and could see a long distance into the woods on the adjacent private hunting club. From my vantage point, I looked for tracks in the muddy banks of the creek. I saw nothing unusual and heard nothing more than the light rain and the water flowing in the creek below.

I returned to where I parked by continuing to follow the trail loop around. Halfway back to my car, I again heard a single whack or clack to my right (north this time). Both of the sharp noises had come from the denser and deeply ravined area encircled by the trail loop. It was now getting noticeably darker as I made it back to my car. At this point I heard 3 gunshots from the direction of the private hunting club-- somebody taking their last shots during the closing minutes of the deer season that day.

Thinking about this afterwards, I'm wondering whether the noise of a barking dog I had heard when I first got out of my car was a signal from a sentry creature up in a tree which either saw me or heard me close my car door. The first sharp noise (which I ignored and kept on hiking) could have been an alarm when I crossed into an area being defended and the second sharp noise could have signalled me leaving the area.

The absence of any deer, birds or even small animals throughout my hike should have also been a clue at the time. Usually when I hike in the woods during a light rain I get to see a lot more wildlife. (One time I witnessed a rabbit playfully jumping back and forth over a water puddle-- I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it for myself.)

I now realize that the increased visibility in the woods works both ways. Whereas I thought it gave me an advantage of seeing a longer distance into the brush, likewise these creatures could keep track of where I was and stayed out of sight. I should have anticipated that they would have taken up temporary residence in the woods on public property while hunters were prowling around the private hunting club. They were probably keeping an eye on me the whole time.

I am glad I wasn't wearing "blaze orange" and carrying a rifle-- from the reports of hunters in such situations I may have been confronted or escorted out of the woods.

15 November 2007

Recent Bigfoot encounters in Illinois (of all places)

Whoever says Bigfoot creatures don't exist must ignore or discredit each of the witnesses who are encountering these animals.

Hairy hominid creatures matching the description of a Sasquatch or Bigfoot (whatever name you choose) are being encountered here in my home state of Illinois. Though not considered to be a "hotbed" of activity, folks are continuing to report encounters here in primarily rural areas. People from different walks of life who previously had no interest in such matters are coming forth with encounter reports. Nobody stands to gain by publicly admitting these experiences and if anything he or she risks being called a liar or considered crazy by their peers, authorities, the media and general public.

This is a summarized chronology of Illinois sighting reports during the past few years:

September 2007 - McLean County semi driver startled by sight and vocalization made by a pair of walking upright ape-like animals while fishing north of Mansfield; leaving his fishing gear behind. He directed a hunter friend to go back armed and retrieve his gear (see http://www.stancourtney.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=1088)

January 2007 - Cass County horse rancher witnesses a silverback (black with gray highlights) upright ape walking through the yard at 10pm when she turns her outdoor lights on to see why her horses are upset (see http://www.stancourtney.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=346)

October 2006 through September 2007 - Madison County couple report a series of sightings since June 2006 in the woods and fields around their rural home (see http://www.stancourtney.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=56, http://www.stancourtney.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=237 and http://www.stancourtney.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=957)

October 2006 - Livingston County truck driver reports seeing a tall creature running on two legs crossing I-55 at night near mile marker 218 (near Dwight) (see http://www.stancourtney.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=142)

July 2006 - Williamson County man reports sighting at Lake of Egypt near the Shawnee National Forest (see http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=15393)

June 2006 - Kendall County couple report a howling creature that damages their fence in rural Yorkville (http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=15019)

November 2005 - LaSalle County workers up on 300 foot cell phone tower report daylight sighting of tall creature crossing road in wooded rural area south of I-80 (see http://www.stancourtney.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=143)

November 2005 - Saline County deer hunter has pre-dawn encounter en route to his deer stand (http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=13070)

October 2005 - Tazewell County homeowner reports strange vocalizations and large tracks in backyard (see http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=12836)

October 2005 - Vermilion County fisherman reports suspicious observations in Kickapoo State Park (http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=15844)

June through October 2005 - McLean County father and son report a series of sightings of two creatures in the woods along old Route 66 (http://www.stancourtney.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=158)

June 2005 - Grundy County snake hunter reports a daylight sighting of a large creature in a wooded marshland near the Illinois River (http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=11831)

June 2005 - Grundy County men have daylight sighting of two creatures in the woods near the Illinois River (http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=12439). A sketch drawn by one of the men is shown above.

September 2004 - McDonough County homeowner has daylight sighting of a dark brownish gray ape running upright across the pasture adjacent to her home (http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_report.asp?id=15007).

February 2004 - Madison County man reports seeing two "black naked apes" in the woods near his home (http://www.bigfootencounters.com/sbs/il.html).

One common thread woven among these recent sighting reports in Illinois is their proximity to a wooded habitat with fresh flowing water which both hides and sustains these creatures. The eyewitnesses are seeing creatures with a range of physical descriptions (size, weight and hair color) and in a few instances more than one creature is witnessed at the same time. The dates and geographic distribution of reports suggest that Illinois is home to several clans or packs of creatures living in certain vicinities on a year-round basis.

The same resources that sustained a large number of native American tribes for centuries in this region (and prior to that the primitive mound building people) are no longer being harvested by modern society. Edible roots, bark, twigs and fruit abound in the woodlands, grasslands and marshes that remain in the large stretches of untenable real estate along Illinois riverways. Thanks to clean water initiatives began 30 years ago, our rivers are thriving again with fishes and freshwater mussels. The populations of deer, wild turkey and other animals, both game and non-game, are rebounding.

Perhaps the population of these North American apes are likewise on the rebound.