ELWOOD, Ill. – This U.S. Navy air traffic controller went from checking flight plans and clearing pilots for takeoff to checking a population of white-tailed deer and giving permission to hunt turkey hunters by selecting their names in a lottery.
To say that Randy Berry loves his latest work would be an understatement. He was the wildlife biologist for the U.S. Army Reserve Joliet Local Training Area for 30 years. The 88th Readiness Division has been responsible for the 3,600-acre LTA, the largest LTA in the continental United States, since 2008.
“I loved the outdoors, it was always something I wanted to do,” said Berry, who served as an air traffic controller for nearly six years, for why he chose to become a biologist from wildlife. “I always wanted a job where I could go out into the field. I never wanted to get stuck inside. I always wanted to go out there and do things. I wanted a job where I could be outdoors.
Berry, who works multiple seven-day work weeks throughout the year, admitted being an air traffic controller can be fun despite the stress. “I’m glad I got to do it, but I didn’t want to do it the rest of my life,” said Berry, who started taking college classes while in the Navy. He became a full-time student after his release from the Navy.
His first degree earned was a Bachelor of Science from Purdue University. He worked temporarily for the California Waterfowl Association for six months after graduation. His next degree was a Master of Science from New Mexico State University. He worked for the North Dakota Fish and Wildlife Service from 1991 to 1993 before accepting the position at JLTA.
Berry’s study of the biology, behavior and habitats of various animals and 177 bird species on the training area over the years, particularly in managing white-tailed deer and turkey populations, provided many lifetime memories. Several typical 10- and 12-point whitetail deer with thick racks have been harvested since 1993. No surprise, according to the nonprofit Boone and Crockett Club of avid big-game hunters founded in 1887 by Theodore Roosevelt, Illinois. is the number two largest big buck states with 1,445 total entries. Illinois has four counties among the top 20 counties in the United States according to B&C. A typical “nice” male scores 130 points. A male must score a minimum of 160 inches to qualify for the B&C Club Three-Year-Old Award. One in 20,000 dollars would meet that standard. The scoring system includes the number of points on each timber, spread from tip to tip and the widest inside spread at the widest point of the main beams.
The percentage of adult males two and a half years or older of the total number of males taken from the training area from 1993 to 2021 was 68% or 908 of 1,331. Males must have at least four points from a aside to be harvested. This restriction started for the 1998 season. A three-point restriction started in 1997.
The first deer hunt took place in October 1993, the same year Berry became the area’s wildlife biologist. Prior, Fort McCoy, Wis., took control of the Fort Sheridan, Illinois facility. Berry said that if deer hunters don’t protest, the hunting program at JLTA will be shut down.
“It was my main goal to run the hunt program,” said Berry, whose office is within walking distance of the deer and turkey weigh station.
Ed Tebo, environmental division chief, 88th Preparedness Division, Directorate of Public Works, said Berry gives “110 percent of his time” as director of the division’s hunting program. “And efforts to ensure that our soldiers, site workers and members of the surrounding community have an enjoyable and successful hunting season,” Tebo said.
Berry said the best time to make big money is during the archery season which runs from October to mid-January. Bowhunters can harvest two stags (of each gender). They must pass a qualification test to hunt in the field. They must place three of the five arrows in a five inch circle from 20 yards.
“If you can shoot an archery, it’s not that hard,” said Berry, who used to be an avid deer hunter but now hunts turkeys and fishes more than he hunts.
The gun deer season is divided into two seasons. The seasons in 2022 were November 18-20 and December 1-4. Rifle hunters can only kill one deer per season. Cannot be harvested after the second gun season.
The training area also offers five spring turkey seasons over a 32-day period. The 2022 seasons for the North Zone were April 11-15, April 16-21, April 22-27, April 28-May 4, and May 5-12. Berry chooses 10 hunters per season through a lottery system. He says he received about 150 applications.
The overall success rate from 2002 to 2021 was 34% (228 permits harvested out of 678 permits issued). Toms, which have uniform tail feathers and beards of up to eight inches or more, accounted for 78% of the turkeys harvested. Jakes, whose tails stand noticeably in the middle and have beards five inches or less, accounted for 22%. The average harvest over the 19 seasons was 12.
Berry said he received 16 turkeys, 11 hens and five Jakes in 1998. Eight each were released into the north and south training areas. This was after Will County, where JLTA is located, was chosen as the county to try to repopulate the turkeys. Turkey’s first season at JLTA dates back to 2002.
“They just took off, it was amazing,” said Berry, who added that JLTA was chosen for its large habitat.
The area also offers small game hunting seasons for fox squirrels, cottontail rabbits and pheasants. The total number of pheasants harvested from 1993 to 2021 is 9,152.
Robert McCabe, 45, who has been hunting in the field since 1996 and bagged a 21-pound Tom on May 10, said it best. “Randy is doing a good job. The way he handles everything here.
Tebo went even further. “As a wildlife biologist, Randy’s knowledge and experience are irreplaceable.”
|Date posted:||14.06.2022 16:55|
|Location:||Joliet, Illinois, United States|
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