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Daisy BB guns stolen from cabin at state park near Antioch

 |  Frank Abderholden~Sun-Times Media

| Frank Abderholden~Sun-Times Media

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Want to help?

To help replace the BB guns, monetary donations can be made in care of Greenwing, or purchase Ducks Unlimited raffle tickets for $10 each or three for $20. Mail to Chuck Miller, 194 Oakwood Drive, Antioch, IL 60002. (Include your name, a telephone number and a self-addressed stamped envelope so raffle stubs can be return mailed.

If you are interested in attending the Greenwing Youth Event on Sunday Sept. 15 with your kids send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the same address and Miller will mail you an application form. Requests are needed immediately. Cost is a $15 membership to Greenwing per child, which includes a magazine sent to members geared toward youth.

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Updated: September 8, 2013 6:22AM

Authorities around Antioch are hoping that someone will help them find the 19 Daisy range BB guns that were stolen from a cabin a few weeks ago at the state’s 720-acre Redwing Slough-Deer Lake State Natural Area near Antioch.

These are not the inexpensive pump action Daisy BB guns some people will remember from their youth, but are Avanti 499s, which sell for $140. A few of the missing range BB guns, which sport expensive sights on the barrels, also have a small old plaque attached to the butt of the gun that says “Antioch Jaycees Shooting Education” and then a number.

They are used during an outdoor youth event sponsored by North East Illinois Ducks Unlimited in September where kids learn how to safely handle guns.

“We’ve had this event for 38 years. The Jaycees gave us some of their guns when the group folded,” said Chuck Miller, one of the organizers of the first event. The duck hunting and land conservation club bought more so they could have additional shooting stations.

The Daisy BB Gun website calls the Avanti 499 “the most accurate BB gun in the world” and the spring air rifle is used by thousands of shooting education programs to instruct youth on shooting safety, safe carries, shooting positions and marksmanship skills.

Chuck Miller, the former Antioch police chief who was hired by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to keep an eye on the preserve, discovered the break-in a few weeks ago and reported it to the IDNR conservation police.

“I’m sure it’s kids,” he said, noting that they left behind expensive portable generators that real thieves would have scooped up for easy resale. He found that they first tried breaking through a window on the back of the cabin by prying off a lock on a wood window covering. They broke the outer storm window, but must have decided it was too hard to get inside that way.

Nearby they used brute force to force open the door and discovered the chest the guns were stored in.

“You know, I bet every Antioch kid has shot one of those guns,” he said, referring to the North East Illinois Ducks Unlimited Greenwing Youth Event that draws hundreds of people every fall for range shooting, trap shooting, archery, casting accuracy and free food and gifts for the kids. Some leftover prizes were also stolen, but its the BB guns that need to be located.

“I think its the oldest activity at the youth event, besides trap shooting,” he said. This year will be the 39th annual event. The guns are so unique, once they find one, they believe the case will snowball and they can recover all the BB guns.

Miller said there is some reward money he personally is putting up (a couple of hundred dollars) and if someone called Lake County Crime Stoppers (847-662-2222) they could also be eligible for a reward. Of course, with the event coming up, they already began an effort to replace the guns.

Tim Fields, also a DU member who works on the event, said he contacted the company and they were willing to sell them 20 guns, which they still make, at a discount. In addition, they will donate 25 Red Ryder BB guns as event prizes. Three of the guns will have the DU logo engraved on the stock so they can raffle them off to raise more money.

“Daisy is a top-notch organization,” he wrote to members when giving them an update on the burglary.

Fields said the North East DU club has donated a Browning BPS 12-gauge shotgun for a Greenwing raffle to raise money as well. Greenwing is the youth arm of the Ducks Unlimited club.

Miller said people have offered to donate their old BB guns, but the stolen BB guns are very precise and the only BB gun approved for use at the premier Daisy National BB Gun Championship Match.

“I think there is a real good chance they (who ever stole them) gave them away to friends. They probably told their parents they found it or something,” he said. “A good cop just needs to find one and work it back,” he said. Miller is also fairly sure they are kids from nearby subdivisions.

“You can tell the kids live in the woods,” joked Fields, describing the number of forts and encampments they find. It is a lure for kids because the preserve is not occupied very often.

“It is unique among state parks because the only public access is for duck hunting, the Antioch-based Ducks Unlimited annual Greenwing Youth Event in the fall, Antioch Rotary outings and an Antioch Rescue Squad event.

Those restrictions came with the property, which was owned by Bill Brooks, a longtime Antioch banker and waterfowl hunter who put in those stipulations when negotiating with the IDNR to donate the land. Brooks tapped Miller then the juvnile officer in Antioch, to do the Greenwing Youth Event.

The nature preserve is home to wild turkey, deer, Great Horned owls and a host of wetland birds, some endangered.

The slough is designated as a nationally significant wetlands by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

While the IDNR has said they would just tear down the cabin on the property, as long as the groups that use it keep it up, it can stay, said Miller.

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