For These Illinois Hunters, It’s Not All About The Geese

‘Our Guns’: Goose hunters try to unpack Americans’ complex relationships to guns – and bag a bird.
By Alex Keefe

Illinois Goose Hunters
Illinois Goose Hunters
WBEZ 91.5
WBEZ 91.5

Chicago, Illinois –-( When goose hunter Neal Brooks says you’re in for a cold, early morning, he means every word of it.

“Well, it is 6:36 and it’s a brisky eight degrees,” Brooks told me one bitter, late January morning, as I arrived at the clubhouse of his Mazonia Hunt Club in Gardner, Ill., about an hour southwest of Chicago.

It’s actually a little generous to call it a clubhouse: We’re in a refurbished auto mechanics’ garage, which Brooks has made a bit cozier with hot coffee, old recliners and a cable hunting show on TV. On the walls is a menagerie of North American game trophies– ducks, pheasants, deer, elk – all stuffed.

This is the rendezvous point, where the hunters get the blood flowing before going out for game – in this case, Canada geese.

Brooks agreed to let me tag along on a hunt with a couple his clients, so I could hear how hunting informed the way they think about guns and shooting. As part of WBEZ’s “Our Guns,” reporters have been profiling local gun owners to document the range of relationships people have with firearms, at a time with politicians and activists debate gun laws in Washington and in statehouses across the country.

For hunters and sportsmen, the relationship to guns and shooting is often part family tradition, part politics and part fun.

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About Alex Keefe:
Alex is WBEZ’s interim political reporter. His radio work has won him awards from the Illinois and Iowa Associated Press, and he was named Best Newswriter by the Illinois AP in 2011. His work has appeared on several nationally-syndicated public radio shows. He’s also written for The Associated Press, Politics Daily and other publications, and he relishes his time as a substitute host at WBEZ.

Alex grew up in Roselle, Ill., and is the proud son of Chicago radio newsman Barry Keefe, who taught him everything he knows about the family business. Alex lives in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, where he can often be found playing fetch with his mutt, Sallie.