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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

Things that make you think when you’re outside:

• The male ring-necked pheasant is one of the most colorful birds in North America.

The top of its head is bright green. The face is iridescent red, its body is bright brown with luminous spots. Yet, when it takes three steps into ground cover, it virtually disappears.

How does that happen?

• We take daily walks with our dog on the Tunnel Hill Bike Trail. The pace of the walk is totally dependent on Beau’s mood. If he’s frisky, it’s a brisk walk. If he’s feeling laid back, it just a semi-brisk walk.

But even on mornings he’s feeling frisky, he’ll stop in mid-stride, turn around and backtrack to smell something along the trail. What could possibly be that aromatic/compelling? I’m curious, but not sure I want to sample the aroma.

• Stepped out of my house at about 9 p.m. this weekend to finish a couple of minor chores. The odor of skunk was quite evident. Should I have just forgotten my chores and headed right back into the house?

• The changing of the seasons are represented in so many small ways if you just take the time to notice. During the past week, it’s been impossible to ignore several species of mushrooms that hadn’t previously been seen. As can be expected, the more I paid attention, the more different types of mushrooms I spotted.

Also noticed a funnel-type spider web earlier this week. Seeing all these things makes me realize how much there is to learn.

• What the heck happened to the days when I’d get to fish 2-3 days a week? While driving Illinois 13 across Crab Orchard Lake last week, it dawned on me that I haven’t caught a fish all year. It’s not that I’m an awful fisherman, I’ve yet to wet a line this year.

• Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill last week that will forced hunters to pay the State of Illinois restitution for poaching deer. I applaud the legislature for passing the bill and the governor for signing it.

But, it does raise a question. Why wasn’t this done years before? Why don’t we take things like poaching and littering more seriously? The attitude of hunters and anglers has changed significantly since I started this job about 30 years ago.

There is much less of a “wink-wink, nod-nod” attitude about game laws. If hunters and anglers don’t respect the resource, who will?

• This may be the wettest summer I ever remember. We haven’t been inundated. There hasn’t been any flooding. At the same time, I’ve mowed my lawn three times every two weeks all summer. I can never remember that happening before.

• The seasons are a-changing. Black walnuts are dropping from trees. The buckeye tree in my front yard is turning. The leaves will be gone soon.

• To the large doe I encountered at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge I encountered recently, thanks for the visit. The doe was grazing peacefully while I was traveling Refuge Drive. She barely looked up as the car approached, but gave me her full attention when the car came to a complete stop.

She pranced nervously for a few seconds when the window was lowered and a camera appeared. We stared each other down for a minute or two. When she determined I was harmless, she finished her brunch. When I drove off, she was still eating.

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LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler

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