Firearm season in Illinois kicks off with a bang

Friday kicked off the firearm deer hunting season in Illinois.

The first season runs through Sunday and picks up again between Dec. 5 and Dec. 8. Click here to watch the kick off on KHQA This Morning.

This is one of the busiest times for the Illinois conservation police.

Officer Eric Myers says he and other conservation officers from metro areas are on patrol in rural areas all weekend long looking for field violations. But above all they want to make sure you're hunting safe.

"We're out there to make sure everybody is safe," Myers said. "Making sure everyone is wearing their blaze orange. Making sure of your target and what's beyond it. Everyone can get caught up in the excitement of the hunt and if they have an opportunity to shoot a deer, they're not always worried about what's beyond their target. We're out there to let people know we are here to check you for your compliance with licenses and permits but to make sure you're hunting safely as well."

Officer Myers says he and other conservation police have been scouting bait areas where hunters are illegally putting down feed for deer. They are hoping to shut those areas down to make sure hunting is being done legally.

Some of the thousands of deer hunters taking to the field Friday were wounded warriors.

One of them is Justin Hollenbach. He's a native of Washington state, and lost his leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq back in 2005. Despite all he's been through he's never let that slow him down.

"I bite
my lip and keep living with the pain I have," Hollenbach said. "It will be here my entire life." Click here to hear more from Hollenbach on KHQA This Morning.

"I have done
a lot of different things after I lost my leg from rock climbing to bungee jumping," Hollenbach said. "I did those things because no one thought I could do it."

He's one of ten soldiers chosen by the Mississippi Valley Hunters and Fisherman's Association for a free whitetail deer hunt.

"It's important to get these guys back to the outdoors and something they love," Mike Stark, Veterans Director of the Mississippi Valley Hunters and Fisherman's Association said. "It's our way of saying thank you for their service."

Hollenbach sees this as just one more way to get back to hunting; one of his favorite pastimes.

"Now I know I can do something like this more than what I have before," Hollenbach said. "It's harder, but I'll figure it out."

That determination is also what keeps him in the military. Hollenbach is also still in active duty at Ft. Leonardwood teaching fellow soldiers how to be military police officers.

He says he's enjoying the simple things: Mother Nature and the hunt.

Many local businesses team up to offer this program to wounded warriors. They provide everything from hotel accommodations, to meals and gas so nothing keeps vets from enjoying a hunt.

Click here to learn more about the Sportsmen Against Hunger Program on KHQA This Morning.