Proposed 60-day duck season passed to feds

Springfield – Is 2008 the year of change for Illinois duck
hunters

Some would rather see more of the same. In 2007, the state’s
hunters bagged 464,366 ducks, a decline of 8 percent from 2006 but
still the fifth- highest harvest total since statistics were first
compiled in the early 1980s.

And last year’s mallard harvest wasn’t shabby, either – an
estimated 265,369 mallards were taken, the sixth-highest total in
25 years.

Predictions for this fall are mixed, but a 60-day duck season is
expected in each of the state’s three zones. Under a proposal
drafted by DNR, regular duck and Canada goose seasons would open on
Oct. 18 in the north zone, Oct. 25 in the central zone and Nov. 27
in the south zone. The state’s proposed regulations have been
forwarded to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for final approval,
which could come in a matter of days. The USFWS Service Regulations
Committee is scheduled to meet July 30-31.

Meanwhile, the USFWS was scheduled to release its Adaptive
Harvest Management matrix for selecting regulations on July 25. If
the USFWS looks at that data and chooses to cut the Illinois duck
seasons to 45 or even 30 days, DNR will meet Aug. 6 to determine
new season dates.

But if the proposed 60-day duck season is approved by the USFWS,
the waterfowl season dates proposed by DNR will remain.

Illinois has enjoyed 60-day duck seasons for 11 consecutive
years.

Also proposed by DNR is a 16-day teal hunting season that
features a daily limit of four teal. According to USFWS rules,
states are allowed a 16-day teal season when the blue-winged teal
breeding population is more than 4.7 million. This year’s
blue-winged teal breeding population is estimated at 6.64 million,
similar to last year’s 6.71 million.

For goose hunters, DNR is proposing 85-day Canada goose seasons
in the north and central zones and a 66-day season for the south
zone.

Its proposal for early-season Canada goose hunting in September
includes a new five-goose daily limit in the north and central
zones.

DNR eliminated a goose harvest quota system in 2006, thus
eliminating the practice of closing seasons early when quotas were
reached.

The recommendation for the regular Canada goose season calls for
a continuous season in the north zone ending Jan. 10, 2009, a split
season in the central zone ending Jan. 31, 2009, and a split season
in the south zone also ending Jan. 31, 2009.

Illinois hunters harvested 141,205 Canada geese during the 2007
regular season, the highest since 1981. During the 2007 September
season, hunters took an estimated 16,207 Canada geese.

“The Mississippi Flyway population of giant Canada geese has
increased by more than 50 percent during the past 14 years, while
the population of these geese is also higher here in Illinois,” DNR
Acting Director Sam Flood said.

DNR officials said they reviewed hunter surveys when making
decisions about season lengths.

“These proposed regulations should give waterfowl hunters some
good opportunities to get in the field when geese and ducks are
there this fall,” Flood said in a written statement. “Our
recommendations are based on hunter preferences, along with aerial
waterfowl survey and weather data.”

Results of the 2007 Illinois Waterfowl Hunter Survey indicate
that 66 percent of hunters in the north zone and 64 percent of
hunters in the central zone were satisfied with duck season dates
last year. In the south zone, 54 percent of hunters were satisfied
with the duck season dates.

DNR adopted a later duck season starting date for the south zone
in 2006, and, according to the agency evaluations, have shown no
consistent differences in hunter numbers or the number of ducks
harvested at public hunting areas at Rend Lake and Carlyle
Lake.

Illinois is also recommending snow goose seasons that open with
the regular waterfowl seasons and run continuously through the end
of each zone’s regular Canada goose season. And Conservation Order
snow goose hunting would begin the day after the regular Canada
goose season ends in each zone and continues through March.

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