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Family, Friends and Frying

Illinois' man celebrates Deer Camp by putting game to grease

For years Darrell Kanallakan has celebrated Deer Camp by taking wild game of relatives and friends and frying them for all who enter. (Mike Suchan photo) For years Darrell Kanallakan has celebrated Deer Camp by taking wild game of relatives and friends and frying them for all who enter. (Mike Suchan photo)

By: Mike Suchan,

NUTWOOD, Ill. – Darrell Kanallakan’s Deer Camp is all about friends, family and frying.

During the midday break from hunting and in the evening after the hunts, Kanallakan is behind the fryer in his out building. All the Kanallakan klan comes armed with cut-up critters their big fry daddy breads and sinks in hot oil.

The patriarch of an Illinois farm family, Kanallakan said he’s been doing up the state shotgun opener since 1959.

“Just Deer Camp, we call it,” he said. “We get together every deer season, my son, Mark, and all of my relations and a lot of good friends.”

“We all just get together. Everybody brings something to eat, different wildlife, we fry it up and eat and go back out hunting about 2 o’clock. Have a good time.”

Click the image to see photos of the Kanallakan Family Deer Camp
Kanallakan Family Deer Camp

Kanallakan owns a large farm along the Illinois River, upriver from where it meets the Mississippi River north of St. Louis. The red barn that hosts the hunters is nestled between a cornfield and the hills rising behind his home. Many of the Kanallakans reside nearby on the property, and most head to their favorite spots each morning on the state’s shotgun opening weekend.

“My son and grandsons all live right here. That’s my grandson over there with his girlfriend,” Kanallakan said.

Nobody saw anything worth pulling the trigger on the cold, windy morning of the second day, but they found their way to the barn warmed by a 100,000 BTU Fire Chief wood burning furnace.

Table, chairs, trash cans and recycling bins are scattered along the concrete floor. Behind Kanallakan’s fryers is his workbench. Tools, equipment and beer signs line most of the walls, topped by more than 100 sets of deer antlers taken on his property over the years.

“I got over a hundred I boiled out,” Kanallakan said. “Boil them out, get the brains out of them. Cut the horns off and hang them on the wall.”

There’s several shoulder mounts and moose antlers, and Kanallakan has his best deer, a 186-inch beast 7 ½ inches around at the bases, inside his house. The main draw to camp is the comraderie, cold refreshments and hot food that brings the hunters in twice a day.

On opening day, there was deer, duck and fish. The menu turned to dove, squirrel and chicken the next day along with Rocky Mountain Oysters.

Kendall, 21, said his granddad has used the same trick over the years to get the kids, including himself, to eat the gamier game.

“He says ‘That there is Chicken McNuggets,’ ” said Kendall, who’s been coming to the garage since he was a baby.

“We don’t throw nothing away,” Kanallakan said.

Kanallakan described how he castrates the bulls with a special knife in early spring to avoid flies.

“I got some testicles here right now,” he said, and his offer is taken up by Larry Woodward of Outdoor Channel’s “Scentblocker’s Most Wanted” and “Outdoors in the Heartland.”

Woodward and co-host Bob Richardson have become good friends with Kanallakan – the widely traveled duo have their home Deer Camp on his land and they have reciprocated with gear and taking family on their hunts. (See Bob's Back in the Game).

“Good buddies, yep. Bob’s a little bit better than Larry,” he said with Larry grinning while munching on a bull testicle. “You have to overlook Larry sometimes. He’s a garbage disposal, Larry.”

That just means he eats whatever Kanallakan cooks, and he appreciates the hot meal and what Darrell does.

“This is just how Darrell celebrates his deer season,” he said, “with three days of cooking.”

Go to 2013 Deer Camp

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