May's Outdoor Column

May’s Outdoor Column

Wow has this spring been tough, to say the least!  The drought has set the mushrooms back in east central Illinois and the lack of rain and the strong winds have played havoc with this year’s crop.

Not only has this wild, crazy spring been a detriment to mushroom hunters but it also was not good for turkey hunting and fishing as many days were so windy that many a hunting or fishing trip was canceled.

It’s not that mushrooms haven’t been found, fish haven’t been taken or turkeys haven’t been harvested; it’s just that this spring was far from ideal.

We got our first rain last night, May 2nd so now may be a decent crop of mushrooms may yet be found.  Mushrooms are well over 90 percent water so even with the rain, a couple of windy days could well dry out the soil before you find them!

Have you tried the new Chatter bait sold at your local Big R Stores?  I’ve caught several bass on them and boy, do they make your rod tip wiggle.

The fish I caught were shallow, but I bet this bait might be a great night bait as well.  Try one out this spring and see how you like them.

How good of a fisherman are you?  I got to fish with all the great bass anglers that came out of my area over the years.  Many have passed on, but I learned a lot from being in the boat with them. Most of them were not bashful about showing me what they fished with; when and where.  What I learned most from them was that each had a technique for taking a lure and putting fish in the boat.

Once you have mastered catching a few fish, look to improve your technique.  Let’s take a visible stump in the water; either above the water or just below the surface.  The tendency is to cast your lure near the stump and retrieve it coming close to the target.  Drop the lure too close and you will spook the fish; drop it on top of the stump, well you better just move on!

Most of these guys taught me to angle the boat so that a cast could be made well past the stump, sometimes as much as thirty feet or more.  Working the lure on top or just below the surface of the water, bring the lure by the stump and just pause for just a second. This pause could be done by just stopping your retrieve for just a split second to letting the lure drop beside the stump and then beginning your retrieve.

The technique is mastering what you do after you learn to do it.  Refining your skills would be another way to put it. Ten percent of the fisherman take ninety percent of the good fish is no accident; it is a skill they possess beyond just being there casting a lure.


April’s Outdoor Column

Spring is finally here. There will be a lot of outdoor activity starting up as the weather finally breaks. Mushroom hunting, turkey hunting, fishing and trout fishing begin in April check to make sure you have the proper licenses.
Let’s talk about fishing. Many boats have been heading up and down the road for well over a month now as anglers head for the warm water power lakes in search of a place to fish during the cold weather. Some of the best fish I have ever taken as far as bass is concerned come during the early part of spring on days when most people wouldn’t even think of going out.
Here are a few of my secrets: Bass fishing, or for that matter, fishing for most anything. The more times you go fishing the more likely you are to be in the right place at the right time when a big bass is going to feed. You won’t catch them sitting on your sofa watching the pro’s fish a tournament. A big bass doesn’t feed often and being there when she is ready is the key to putting her in the boat. I live with the jig and pig during the spring of the year. I like a jig trailed by a split-tail eel and I use black almost all the time. I make my own jigs with a very soft weed guard and work the brush of the lake.
Another bait. Crankbaits, look for the lead hook on the front treble and cut it off leaving me with five hooks instead of six. look at how your bait would be traveling on your retrieve, observe the lead hook and cut it off with a pair of side cuts. This allows me to fish the crankbait around and in the brush without hanging it up. If you can bounce your crankbaits off the brush and not hang it up it will increase your number of strikes. Remember, if you’re not in the brush, you are not in the fish! This is an old saying that has been around for a long time.
Another old saying. That ten percent of the fishermen catch ninety percent of the fish. This is because they know how, when and where the good fish are going to bite.
Your local Big R Stores supply all your fishing needs so come in and see what is new for this spring and stock your tackle box, so you are ready to go!

Winter Weather Safety

Always dress for the weather. It’s about layers, layers, layers. Cover your head, face and hands as frostbite can occur very quickly. The most susceptible areas are you fingers, toes, ear lobes and the tip of your nose. Some symptoms of frostbite include:

Sensory: pins and needles, reduced sensation of touch, skin burning sensation, or stinging sensation

Skin: blue skin from poor circulation or redness. skin gets very cold, then numb, hard, and pale

Also common: blistering, feeling cold, or waxy skin


Careful not to over-exert when shoveling. It is best to push snow to the side rather than lift. Especially if it is a wet snow it can be very heavy. If you must lift remember to bend your knees so your muscles in your legs do the work. Some useful hacks include: rubbing vegetable oil, paraffin wax, or spraying cooking spray on your shovel helps keep the snow from sticking and allows you to shovel more quickly and easier. Be sure to take breaks while shoveling snow. It is a WORKOUT! Lastly, drink in moderation and stay hydrated.


Baby steps. Caution is the key. An old axiom to keep in mind is when it is cold and icy the path is dicey. Be sure to take it slow, keep your toes pointed out and your hands outside of your pockets. This tip is helpful if you feel like you’re going to lose your balance, then you will be able to brace yourself.


Salt is more than just a seasoning. After a snowfall, be sure to use salt, ice melt or sand as these will help to increase traction on driveways and sidewalks. Additional traction can be a deciding factor in whether you slip and fall.


Winter in the Midwest can be beautiful as well as dangerous. Protect yourself by keeping these winter safety tips in mind. Stay warm and stay safe!

How to Choose the Right Furnace

How to Choose the Right Furnace

On a chilly day like today, you may cringe thinking about how much you’ve been running that furnace to keep your home at the perfect, cozy temperature. Living in the Midwest, it’s never a surprise when the cold weather rolls in by mid to late October and finally heads out in April. Many rural areas may not have access to natural gas and may depend on oil or propane, leading to quite the hefty fuel bill by the end of the winter season. You don’t have to get burned by your electricity or fuel bill just to stay warm. Consider a new solution – a Big R Wood/Coal Burning Furnace. A couple of logs in the furnace can effectively heat your home for long periods of time. Here’s how to save money and stay warm effectively and efficiently the remainder of this winter:

Burn a Hole in Wood, Not in your Wallet

Wood-burning furnaces are reliable and safe. They are good for you and good for the environment as they result in no net carbon dioxide increase and help to reduce the carbon footprint. A wood-burning furnace is easy-to-use and doesn’t depend on natural gas lines. The Fire Chief Indoor Wood/Coal Burning Forced Air Furnace will cut your heating expenses up to 75%. It includes unique 360° cast iron roller grate system allows for separation of fine ash. Do you already have a furnace up and running? Combine it with the United States Stove Medium Wood Furnace to keep your heating efficient.

Money Does Grow on Trees

For many wood-burning furnace owners, it is possible to completely eliminate your heating bills.  Grab some wood from an old stockpile or chop up a few blocks to toss into the furnace and turn up the heat. Electric heat is more expensive than wood/coal heat and more difficult to maintain. Heaters are connected to natural gas lines and electricity, so your home is dependent on a variety of external forces for heat. Wood-burning furnaces give homeowners the power to control their own heat and use natural resources to sustain it.

Heat Fast with Warmth That Will Last

The moment your home gets too cold for comfort, you’ll want it to be heated as quickly and easily as possible. Having the ability to heat your home quickly is a luxury that you and your family deserve. Electric heaters take more time to heat your home and only heat up one room at a time. Heaters are also dependent on electricity so if the power goes out you will be stuck with those freezing temperatures and no way to change it. Wood/coal-burning furnaces are more efficient in heating your home and will maintain a warm temperature despite forces out of your control.

No Need to Furnish with a Furnace

On top of being less expensive and more efficient, an indoor wood-burning furnace can be affixed inside a garage for ease-of-use and less mess inside! No need to trek outdoors into the bitter cold to feed the wood or leave a path of wood chips through the house. They produce almost no smoke, minimal ash, and require less firewood. Unlike a typical gas or electricity-powered furnace, you won’t hear the wood-burning furnace click on as it provides a constant, cozy warmth based on what you decide.  

Out with the Cold, in with the New

Have you had your furnace since the prehistoric era? It may be time to consider replacement with a new, more efficient furnace.

Electric heaters can be expensive, time-consuming, and unreliable. Wood/coal burning furnaces may be exactly what your home needs. More efficient heating devices such as the wood/coal burning furnaces are an investment that will make it all worth while in the long run with the gas and electric savings. Wood-burning furnaces heat quickly and efficiently, maintaining warmth throughout the day and night, whereas electric heaters can run up your bill and require more time to heat up. The United States Stove Medium Wood Furnace is built to the highest standards of manufacturing quality. Come in to Big R or go online to to find the furnace to fit your needs!

Family Enjoying Winter Safely

Winter Safety Tips for Kids and Families

Family Enjoying Winter Safely

Winter means having to go through a series of chilly days. But the cold weather doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying the outdoors. While everyone heads out for fun, it’s important to know how to keep your family warm and safe.


Tip #1: Learn to Love Layers

        Dressing in layers is the best way to stay warm in cold, cold weather. Layers help keep you bundled up when it’s cold and is easy to remove when it starts warming up. Depending on how long you’ll be outside and how cold it is, some kids may need more layers than others. When in doubt, start with more!

        For your top half, start by putting on a long-sleeved shirt undershirt. Then put on a turtleneck or sweater, and finally a winter coat. If you can, look for clothes made out of fabrics other than cotton, as cotton won’t keep you very warm. Fabrics that are waterproof are a bonus!

        For the bottom half, start with a pair of long underwear, then a pair of heavy pants. Try to avoid jeans because like cotton, they won’t keep you very warm. Next, throw on a pair of waterproof pants. These are best because if you fall down and get wet your legs won’t get cold!

        Finish the look up with heavy socks and waterproof boots to ensure fun will be had all day long!


Tip #2: Grab Your Gloves and Hat

        You’re all bundled up but still feel cold? That’s because you’re missing your hat and gloves! Tons of body heat escapes from your head, which is why a hat and scarf are essentials for cold days. If you’re not a fan of hats, earmuffs and face masks are great alternatives that will help you stay warm and comfortable all day.

        Don’t forget mittens or gloves! Your fingers are very sensitive to the cold so it is very important to keep your hands warm and dry. And if more snow falls this winter, waterproof gloves are the only way to go.


Tip #3: Hydrate!

You may be thinking, “I won’t be sweating so why do I need to drink water?” Well, staying hydrated is important for hot and cold weather! When you’re outside playing in cold weather, you lose a lot of water through your breath. The best way to re-hydrate is to drink up! This doesn’t mean you have to drink ice water. Warm drinks and soups will keep you hydrated and warm throughout the day, but remember that coffee and tea won’t help.

Tip #4: Take a Break

        While you’re outside having fun it can be easy to forget about how your body is feeling. If your body temperature drops even 4 or 5 degrees while you’re outside, your body can really be affected.

        Be alert and recognize when your body is giving you signals. If you start to shiver, head inside for a little while to warm up. If you feel dizzy or out of breath, take a break, go inside, eat some lunch, and refuel your body so you can keep the fun going!


Tip #5: Fight Frostbite

        Believe it or not, if you’re outside on a very cold day and not wearing enough clothing, you are at risk of getting frostbite. Frostbite happens when the body’s tissues freeze. This usually happens to skin that is exposed or to small parts like your toes and fingers.

       If you’re ever outside and can’t feel your fingers, toes or ears, it may be a sign of frostbite. Frostbite can make parts of your body hurt or tender to the touch. It can also make the skin look glossy or pale.

If you ever think you have frostbite, NEVER stick the frostbitten part in hot water. Warm water is OK but be sure to have someone else test the water temperature first!


        Keeping safe in snow, ice or bitter cold is easy to do once you know how. We want you to enjoy yourself even on cold days so follow these tips for safety and enjoy! Layer up, put on your gloves and hat, take breaks, hydrate, and be aware of your body’s signals.

January’s Outdoor Column


The new year brings new opportunities for outdoorsmen and women throughout the area as new Christmas gifts are ready to be used and thoughts of warm spring weather loom in the minds of most people that love the outdoors.

I use my winter time to organize and clean my fishing equipment so that the first day on the water is not a nightmare. It is always wise to have your trolling motor and start batteries on your boat tested before you take your first fishing trip. Boat and tackle shows throughout the area generally find anglers with spring fever out and about buying new items for the season ahead. Being it is still winter there are still some late hunting seasons that you can finish up with and there are always those put and take areas that you can still hunt. But then it is time to put your hunting gear away! Whether you are oiling a fishing reel or a gun, remember that a little oil goes a long way. A small drop here or there will oil many mechanisms of a gun or fishing reel. Never over-oil or over-grease because it can harden and create problems when it does. I apply grease with a small hard-bristle brush. Find one that the bristles will not break off and end up where you don’t want them. Hooks on your lures or hooks for bait fishing need to be looked over and either sharpened or replaced during the winter months. This can be done with a good hook hone or by using a file or sandpaper. Making sure the points are sharp may mean the difference between you landing or losing a good fish. If your tackle box looks like mine at the end of the winter, it’s a mess! I learned about cleaning vinyl and rubber skirts several years ago. I keep my spinner baits looking nice by putting them in a pot of boiling water, using a pair of needle-nose pliers and then shaking them several times before pulling them out. After doing this I place them on a paper towel to dry. I then take a blow dryer to them and they fluff out. It’s amazing how clean and nice they come out. If your spinner bait blades have melted skirt or worm material on them, use Goo Gone and it normally takes this stuff off. I then hit them with a metal polish if they need it.

Keeping your knife sharp is another great project for winter. Being a wood carver I know that a sharp knife is necessary to remove wood. I also know that being cut with a sharp knife is much better than being cut with a dull one. Sharp knives leave a clean cut that will heal much more quickly than the cut made by a dull knife. A hunter or an angler both need to carry a knife and it needs to be sharp. There are all sorts of methods for sharpening a knife and all kinds of gadgets to do it with. The key is the angle when bringing it across the sharpener. Keeping it at a 45 degree angle to the stone or ceramic is key to getting it sharp. Never go outdoors without a sharp knife! Your local Big R Store will have all of the items mentioned to get these above mentioned things done so get in and get ready. Ask them also when their spring fishing items will arrive.

Winter boots from Big R covered in snow

Big R’s Guide to Buying Winter Boots

Winter boots from Big R covered in snow


As the streets begin to line with snow and the temperature drops to single digits, there’s one thing that needs to be done: dig through your hallway closet for the boots that make your feet feel twice as big and warm all over. But let’s be honest, these are the same ol’ winter boots you’ve been wearing since the dawn of time. So maybe this is the season to treat yourself by replacing those old winter boots with a pair of brand new ones! Read more

4 Fun Gifts That Won't Fit Under The Tree

4 Christmas Gifts That Won’t Fit Under The Tree

4 Fun Gifts That Won't Fit Under The Tree

Tis the season…the lights shine brightly on houses, the tree is up and Santa is ready for photos in the mall. It’s Christmas time once again. And that nagging voice in the back of your head is back, you know – the one telling you that you should really start shopping for gifts soon. Yes, that definitely means Christmas is just around the corner!


If you’re stumped on what to give to someone you love, how about thinking outside the box  or outside the tree? Here are 4 fun gifts to give someone who deserves a gift so big that it won’t fit under the tree.


A Canoe

Canoes are a fantastic gift not only for your loved one, but for everyone around them! Imagine all the fun you can have with a personal canoe to enjoy any time you want. That kind of fun is priceless! Luckily at Big R, we have all you need for the perfect canoeing gift: the majestic canoe, the necessary paddles/oars, and life vests. This is the ultimate canoe pack for a water sports fan. The only thing you’ll need to worry about is wrapping it up!


A Lawn Mower

Once winter passes, spring will be blooming…and that means it’s time for lawn care season. What better way to ring in that new season with a brand new lawn mower for the yard fanatic in your life? The perfect gift for them would be the Cub Cadet Self-Propelled Lawn Mower. This sleek mower is great with its front wheel drive system and signature cutting system. This top of the line lawn mower will make it easy to get rid of the old, rusty and used mower in the shed. The receiver of this gift won’t know how to thank you enough for one of the best mowers on the market.


Your Services

For some people, big gifts aren’t necessary… but what might be necessary is a service that they need and you can provide. Offering someone a helping a hand this season is sometimes more valuable than any gift you could give – even if it won’t fit under the tree. Extend a handy hand to the person who needs their plumbing fixed, a room repainted, the oil changed, and anything in between. Give them the priceless gift of home or auto improvement from someone they trust. If you’re missing a few parts, stop by our all parts store for what you need. Sometimes the best gift is just getting your hands dirty!


A Big R Gift Card

If extravagant gift giving isn’t your thing, then give the most foolproof gift known to mankind: a Big R gift card! By giving them a Big R gift card you are literally giving them everything they could want and need. The choice is theirs! From home decor to children’s toys to pet care they can get everything on their list all in one place – all thanks to your knock-out gift.


We hope this list inspired you to think of gifts bigger than the tree for the most memorable and thoughtful Christmas gifts to date. The best place to get all these gifts is, of course, Big R. We’ve got a gift for everyone on your list. So come in today and load up on all your Christmas gifts to help Santa spread the Christmas cheer.

Two Boys Sledding

The Best Winter Toys for Kids

Two Boys Sledding


It’s cold with ice on the ground and more snow on the way. Winter is in full swing! We know that these chilly months tend to take a toll on your body and mind – and the same goes for your kiddos. They’re bouncing off the walls indoors trying to entertain themselves, yelling “Mommy!” every 5 minutes and maybe you feel like you’ll never get anything done! Keep them busy, lively, and imaginative with Big R’s top list for toys this winter.



Want to keep your child active and get them outside on a snow day? We have the perfect solution. Get your child outside to enjoy the great outdoors and that white, fluffy snow to burn off some energy.  Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean they have to be cooped up indoors all day long. Bundle them up and send them outside to have some old fashioned fun with a sled from Big R! Whether it be a disc, a 2 rider sled, or an inflatable snowman sled, your child will have a blast as they imagine they are conquering Mount Everest in your backyard. And don’t forget – just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun. Pick up a family fun toboggan and get the whole family outside!


Ultimate Snow Fun Kit

Unleash your kids’ imaginations and love for all things snow with the ultimate snow day kit. Playing in the snow is made easy for your kids – and for you. This kit comes equipped with a snowman making kit, a snow ball maker, and snow markers. The snowman kit provides you with everything you’ll need to make the most amazing snowman. With a top hat, carrot or button nose option, the hardest part about building your snowman will be choosing a name. The second must-have toy for any ultimate snow day kit is the snow ball maker. This easy-to-use maker is made of durable plastic that allows your children to make ammo fast enough for any snowball war they may find themselves in. The final addition to your children’s kit needs to be sno-markers. Sno-markers allow your children to decorate the white canvas that is snow with all their favorite colors. Combining these three items into a snow day kit is sure to build lasting winter memories!


Game Room Additions

Even though playing in the snow every day sounds great to your kids, we know it’s not always possible. For the days and evenings where you’re stuck inside, having a fully stocked game room with new games, boards, and puzzles can be just as fun as a day outside! So heed our advice and stock up on fun game room additions before the winter storm hits. The perfect addition is a Pool Table Tabletop Billiards. This mini game of billiards fits onto any table and provides hours of entertainment for all ages. You can also select any popular board game on the market right now as well as an entertaining puzzle that’ll keep the whole family busy. All these items will make for a great addition to your game collection.


Winter Arts and Crafts

Another great way to entertain your children in the winter time is a good ‘ole arts and crafts kit. These can be personalized to each of your children’s personalities and preferences. Does your child love to draw? The the Super Art Studio with over 250 pieces of oil pastels, markers, and drawing pencils is the way to go! How about baking? Edible Sweet Art Sweetpops is the ideal gift to give your little chef! What about molding and working with their hands? The Glow Sand Play Set would be perfect for his/her creative mind to thrive!


Elf on a Shelf

Looking to start a new family tradition with your young children? Elf on the Shelf provides entertainment for both the parents and the children. Unleash your creative and sneaky side with this one. It’s an interactive holiday hide and seek you can play with your children that includes Santa’s “scout elf” and an illustrated storybook. Tell your children the “scout elf” reports back to Santa who is being naughty and who is being nice. They’ll be on their best behavior while the “scout elf” is on the job.


Whether you’re starting a new tradition or adding a game to your collection, your little ones will be excited to stay busy this winter (and you’ll be able to keep your sanity, too). Turn those winter blues into winter fun!

December's Outdoor Column

December’s Outdoor Column

December's Outdoor Column

December marks the beginning of winter for most of us even though we have a few weeks to go before winter officially begins. This also begins the cold period of the year and it won’t be long and here comes Christmas.

If you have an outdoors person in your family and you are considering getting him or her something for Christmas you might want to consider a gift card as a way of gift giving. Being an outdoorsman all my life I am very particular about what gun or fishing rod I buy, what boots I wear along with a few other things. Many outdoors people are the same way; they are particular about what they like and surprising them with a gift may end up in a Christmas return.

The one thing every outdoors person wants in winter is to keep warm. Whether you person is a waterfowl hunter, a deer hunter, an ice angler or a hiker, keeping warm and keeping dry are of utmost importance. Remember that when you go out to buy!

Hint around or ask an outdoor companion what your person might want or need and don’t be surprised if you find out they like to pick out their own things for Christmas.

My wife learned a long time ago not to shop for me. Instead she gives me a Big R Gift Card every Christmas because I have taken so many “I bought this for you” gifts back.

I do have some personal suggestions. I was a trapper for most of my life spending my trapping hours in a swamp-like setting and working primarily at night. I also hunt, ice fish, bass fish, and cut firewood as well as work in the outdoors.

I like to layer myself with T-shirt, thermal shirt, sweatshirt, and then cover this all up with a hooded sweatshirt during the real cold times. Your Big R Stores have great selections of all these items. A pair of warm gloves and warm socks will always be welcome at Christmas.

I personally love the disposable hand warmers and foot warmers and usually go through two or three bags each year. These make great stocking stuffers.

Whatever you decide to give as a gift to your outdoors person you need to check out the great selection at your local Big R Store.