Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Dove stats show state ranks high

Springfield – What seemed like an ordinary dove season last year
was actually a chart-topper for Illinois.

Hunters here took home an average of 23.2 doves, which may not
sound all that impressive – until you compare it to neighboring
states like Missouri (13.7 doves per hunter) or Wisconsin (7.9
doves per hunter).

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Illinois had
the best harvest per hunter in the entire U.S., ahead of other
neighbors Kentucky (21.1 doves per hunter) and Indiana (18.4 doves
per hunter).

Allow a brief pause for applause.

True, such statistics will mean little when the 2010 dove season
begins statewide on Sept. 1 and hunters unload boxes of shotshells
as they struggle to focus on darting and dipping doves. Yet the
numbers tell an interesting story about the status of dove hunting
in Illinois.

USFWS estimates show that roughly 3,000 fewer Illinoisans
participated in dove hunting last year (28,400) compared to 2008
(31,600). But hunting days afield actually increased last year
(102,900) over the previous year (97,000). Overall, the state
harvest estimate for 2009 was 873,182 doves, while the federal
estimate was 659,600.

State Waterfowl Biologist Ray Marshalla said the harvest numbers
do not match because the state uses a different formula.

“We estimate dove harvest using state estimates and the USFWS
uses HIP data to get an estimate,” he explained.

The magic 23.2 doves per hunter number was calculated using
federal estimates. The 2008 figure was 21.6 doves per hunter.

Looking ahead to the 2010 season, indications are that dove
populations have remained about level in recent years.

Dove surveys by the USFWS include call count routes that are
located on secondary roads and have 20 listening stations spaced at
1-mile intervals. At each stop, surveyors count the number of
individual doves heard calling. Observers also record the number of
doves seen while driving between stops.

In Illinois, 2010 “heard” counts revealed 26.7 doves per route,
up from 25.7 in 2009. The 2010 “seen” count recorded 25 doves per
route, up from the 22.6 per route in 2009.

Of course, the dove status business is not a clean science. And
speaking of science, Marshalla pointed to the effects Illinois’
unpredictable weather can have on the dove season. He also noted
that Illinois doves are mostly native birds.

“Dove harvest in Illinois is driven mostly by reproduction in
spring and summer,” he said. “Most doves shot in Illinois were
hatched here. Up to 95 percent of our harvest is typically
locally-produced doves.”

Illinois had wet weather this summer, leading biologists to
expect production to be down this year as it was last year.

“Doves will re-nest up to five times a year so hopefully many
hatched a brood between storms,” Marshalla said. “We had a
relatively dry early spring which might help produce more doves and
allowed most state areas to plant their sunflowers very early.”


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