Turkey, duck hunters are in same boat
Springfield – Turkey and duck hunters in the state may be glancing at each other across their respective blinds and mumbling, "at least we don't have it as bad as those guys."
Both sets of bird chasers have spent a lot of time this fall cursing Mother Nature.
Dry and warm conditions finally gave way in the middle of November, but by that time, duck hunters in the north and central zones had watched half of their seasons vanish.
South zone hunters hoped to take advantage of colder and wetter weather as their duck season opened Nov. 25 and runs through Jan. 23.
As for turkey hunters, archers had taken a statewide total of 542 as of Nov. 18. That's behind the pace of last year's archery harvest, which ended with a total of 820 birds. Bowhunting season for turkeys runs through Jan. 16.
The week-long firearms turkey season concluded Oct. 31 with a harvest total of 713, about a 6 percent decline from last year's harvest of 756 birds.
Shotgun hunting was allowed in 45 counties this year. The number of counties is expected to be increased by five or six counties next fall, DNR turkey biologist Paul Brewer indicated.
For the firearms season, the top county in 2010 was Jo Daviess, where hunters took 64 turkeys – the exact same total as they took during the 2009 gun season. However, that total is nearly half what the county's hunters took in 2005.
Jefferson County had a harvest of 52 turkeys during the gun season, which also matched the 2009 total.
Wayne County ranked third with 40 turkeys, just off last year's total of 44.
According to Brewer, this fall, female turkeys accounted for approximately 64 percent of the fall harvest, while males accounted for 36 percent.
Meanwhile, DNR officials took note that participation in fall firearms turkey hunting has continued to decline, with many hunters choosing to spend more time archery hunting for deer.
"Warm weather near the end of October and fewer juveniles in the population due to a few years of poor hatch success may have also contributed to the decline [in harvest]," Brewer pointed out.
Turkey populations in Illinois are doing well, and appear to be stable or increasing in most of the state.
"DNR is continuing to evaluate new counties to include in the fall firearms turkey season, with additional counties currently proposed to open next fall," Brewer said.
North zone waterfowl hunters have turned their collective attentions to geese, as duck flights slow down. The zone's duck season winds up Dec. 14.
Guides and public waterfowl hunting areas such as Heidecke Lake reported "poor" hunting and duck numbers, but substantial goose movement.
Central zone hunters opened their duck season Oct. 30. Hunting areas at Braidwood and Banner Marsh reported "mixed" results.
"The mallard numbers seem really down," Peoria-area hunter Skip Lowe said. "We've seen spurts of mallards, but not nearly as many as last year."
Hunters along the Illinois River reported "slow flights" among migrating ducks. The central zone season ends Dec. 28.