September 10, 2017

CARTERVILLE — Dwight Hoffard has landed some big catfish in his lifetime, but it’s what he’s done off the water that has caught most of the attention.

The longtime outdoors enthusiast is an icon on the lakes of Southern Illinois. Known, too, as an avid hunter and respected conservationist.

But what he’s done as an organizer of Southern Illinois Hunting & Fishing Days — an annual event held on the campus of John A. Logan College — is what will likely cement his legacy.

“Dwight Hoffard has put in countless hours to make Southern Illinois Hunting & Fishing Days the premier hunting and fishing days event in the nation,” said Dr. Ron House, president of John A. Logan College. “This College is privileged to have such an event on its campus, an event that both entertains and educates all ages of people about our hunting and fishing heritage here in Southern Illinois.”

This is the 30th anniversary of the event. To date, more than a million people have visited the Logan campus to enjoy Southern Illinois Hunting & Fishing Days.

“I’m very proud of this event,” Hoffard said. “I’m very proud to have been involved with it this long (30 years) and to see it develop into what it is today. A lot of people have enjoyed this event over the years. The fact that we have surpassed the million mark says a lot.”

Hoffard teamed with Ron Allen, the event’s other organizer, three decades ago with the hopes of creating a family-friendly event that brings national attention to the region’s hunting and fishing heritage. Hoffard, a 27-year employee of John A. Logan College, who retired in 2014, suggested bringing the event to campus.

It was a decision that no one would regret.

“The positive exposure our campus gets from this event is absolutely incredible,” says longtime board of trustees member Jacob “Jake” Rendleman. “It’s so great for the College, but the event is also great for the region’s economy.

“You can’t say enough for Dwight Hoffard and his team’s efforts in putting this event together,” Rendleman added. “He’s the backbone of this event’s growth over the years.”

An estimated 40,000 people are expected to attend this year’s two-day event set for Sept. 23 and 24.

More than 200 vendors will be on hand offering everything from food to hunting and fishing equipment. Hoffard noted that each year vendor space has to expand due to increased demand.

This year’s title sponsor is Tri State RV. The Anna-based business will have recreational vehicles on display and answer questions about what is new in RVs.

Other major sponsors include Black Diamond Harley-Davidson, Legacy Land Company, McDonalds, VisitSI, Friends of Crab Orchard Refuge, Illinois Tourism, and Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge.

Fishing activities include weigh-ins for both the popular King Catfish Contest and the High School Team Fishing tournaments.  Fishing experts on a variety of species will present seminars for anglers from all levels of expertise.  The 5,000 gallon Bass tub contains a variety of Illinois fish.

A myriad of dog demonstrations include retrievers, foxhounds, coon dogs and pointing dogs.  Other dogs include search and rescue dogs, agility dogs, and dock dogs.

The “dock dogs” display is one of the most interesting to visitors.  There is a competition by the “pros” for the longest distance covered by a jumping dog and in between contests other dog-handlers can train their dogs in the sport.

Popular activities in the Kids Village sponsored by McDonald’s restaurants of southern Illinois include such things as fishing and nature seminars, BB gun shooting, and archery shooting.  Children fish for stocked fish in the campus pond and win prizes such as bicycles.

Another popular activity at Southern Illinois Hunting & Fishing Days is a variety of waterfowl calling contests.  Held each year they attract callers from across the nation to compete with the best of the best.

Waterfowlers compete in the popular waterfowl calling contests each day beginning with the youth contests and winding up with the World Open contest on Sunday afternoon.  Contestants compete for pride, money and merchandise.

Archers can shoot in a field archery course set up on the campus.  A smaller target range is available in the Archery Tent.  Dick's Sporting Goods returns this year as sponsor of the tent and is having free drawings every hour.

In the new Deer Tent the "Tucker Buck", the largest non-typical buck ever harvested in North America is on display.  Also the Tennessee state record typical buck is on display.  Inside the college the Illinois state record Hybrid Black Crappie, caught at Kinkaid Lake this year will be on display.

Artists, taxidermists, and other artisans display their work in the campus gym.