IL: High hopes remaining for spring turkey hunt
Belleville, Ill. – The spring turkey seasons are in full stride, and once again weather is playing havoc with early numbers.
Harvest during the south zone's opening week (April 4-8) was down slightly, with hunters taking 1,523 birds, compared to the 1,637 taken during the first south zone season in 2010.
"A rainy and slow opening morning contributed to this reduction," DNR turkey biologist Paul Brewer said. "However, the harvest picked up later in the week as weather improved."
The top five counties in the south zone were Jackson, Pope, Jefferson, Union and Johnson.
Turkey hunters in the state's north zone began their season April 12.
The 2011 Illinois spring youth wild turkey season closed with a preliminary harvest total of 745, compared with a harvest total of 737 in 2010. The south zone harvest this spring was 289, compared with 297 last year. The north zone harvest was 456 birds, compared with 440 wild turkeys taken by hunters in the north zone in 2010.
Statewide, turkey hunters harvested 16,565 birds during the spring season of 2010. That nearly tied the record harvest set in 2006, when 16,605 gobblers were harvested. Of those 16,605 birds taken last year, 9,769 were harvested in the north zone. The remaining 6,916 birds were harvested in the south zone, including 299 taken during the Youth Hunt.
Many have forecasted that the 2011 spring season has potential to match or exceed the record season of 2006.
Predictions on the five-week regular seasons in both zones are based on production surveys.
The bag limits for hunters are one male turkey (gobbler) or one hen with a visible beard per permit. There is a three-turkey limit, and hunters must have a valid permit for each turkey taken.
Hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise until 1 p.m. each day during the season. The 1 p.m. cutoff is in place at many DNR properties to accommodate morel mushroom hunters, who will be hitting the woods in force.
Many hunters remained optimistic that the season would be bountiful.
"Everything that I have heard has been good," Shane Malawy, of Pinckneyville, said at the end of the first week hunting in the south zone. "My uncle Germain ‘Butch' Malawy killed a 23-pound, 101⁄2-inch beard on April 10 in Washington County and my cousin, Ashley Malawy, killed a 22-pound, 10-inch beard with 1-inch spurs on April 13 in Washington County, so some are having luck."