Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Despite difficult 2006, upland hunters upbeat

Springfield – If numbers from the 2006-2007 season indicate
anything, interest in Illinois upland game may have bottomed

But DNR officials aren’t ready to concede rabbit, pheasant, or
quail hunting have fallen off to the extent that the most recent
state surveys suggest.

It may be technology’s fault.

John Cole, DNR’s upland game biologist, explained that hunters
who’d filled out harvest surveys when purchasing their licenses the
&#8220old-fashioned” way for decades, suddenly found themselves
going through a streamlined process.

&#8220We’re not sure if the results are completely accurate
– that is, we don’t know if the change in how licenses were
distributed had anything to do with the survey results,” Cole said.
&#8220We’ll know that answer after a few years of surveys. What
we do see are dramatic dropoffs.”

Overall, the rabbit, pheasant, and quail populations have
remained steady since the year, 2000, Cole said.

&#8220But there seems to be fewer people hunting them,” he

Take, for example, rabbits last year: an all-time low hunting
trip total of 49,000, and all-time low of 267,000 rabbits

According to DNR records, in the early 1990s it was common for
150,000 hunters to take to the brush and thickets and harvest
upwards of 1.2 million rabbits.

Those who still hunt rabbits are encouraged by the number of
young cottontails they spotted this spring and summer.

&#8220I don’t know that I’ve ever seen as many rabbits while
mowing or just driving down the road,” said Craig Perks, a
Springfield rabbit hunter.

Asked why he thought his fellow hunters in the state appear to
be losing interest in rabbits, Perks made an interesting point.

&#8220You don’t see many trophy rabbits hanging on living
room walls,” he said.

Cole agreed that hunters are &#8220putting all their time
and energy into big game.”

As for quail and pheasants, last year, about 25,000 hunters – an
all-time low in Illinois – took home an all-time low of

Pheasant harvest and hunter participation levels were down, too,
with a harvest of 118,500 roosters taken by 38,000 hunters.
According to Illinois hunting records, 30 years ago more than
200,000 hunters shot 1 million roosters.

Unlike the deer herd, there seems to be no health problems to
report in the upland game population.

But there is a problem almost as big.

Habitat – or lack thereof.

On the bright side, Cole said the number of federal CRP programs
available for landowners to develop habitat for upland game in
Illinois continues to grow.

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