Waterfowl hunters get good news early
Springfield — A quiet but productive duck and goose season will soon give way to the barrage of shotgun fire that is the spring conservation light goose hunt.
But Illinois hunters are already thinking about next year, thanks to word from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the 2016-17 seasons along the Mississippi Flyway will feature liberal dates and bag limits.
Thanks to changes in the method of setting seasons, hunters now get an “early notice” as the USFWS works in partnership with states in the Mississippi and the other three flyways to establish regulatory frameworks for hunting seasons.
Illinois and other states select their individual seasons from within those federal frameworks.
As for the 2015-16 seasons, harvest results will not be known for months. The state’s final duck seasons wrap up this month – the south central zone season ends Jan. 12 and the south zone season ends Jan. 24.
Along the Illinois River and Mississippi River, reports from hunters and duck watchers indicate a fairly successful season, at least as far as duck numbers go. Aaron Yetter, a waterfowl ecologist for the Illinois Natural History Survey at the Forbes Biological Station in Havana, reported 120,545 mallards in the Illinois Valley during his mid-December count. That’s about par with the 10-year average.
However, the total number of ducks counted was 26 percent above average for mid-December.
Meanwhile, Yetter reported that waterfowl numbers along the Mississippi River were 143 percent above average.
“Mallards were packed into many of the refuges and were 133 percent above average,” Yetter noted in his blog. “The entire Cannon refuge had shallowly flooded moist-soil vegetation and the ducks responded. My count (222,755 ducks) was a record number for Cannon during fall since the inception of the waterfowl survey back in 1948. “
The INHS waterfowl survey results for 2015 can be found at www.bellrose.org.
Illinois zones slightly changed
As expected, Illinois’ request to the USFWS concerning zone lines and season dates was submitted in early December.
Those zones and dates, which cover the 2016-20 seasons, includes portions of proposals from both DNR and the Natural Resources Advisory Board.
The plan can be seen at www.dnr.illinois.gov.
On the federal level, USFWS has confirmed that the 2016-17 federal frameworks propose duck hunting season lengths of 60 days in the Mississippi Flyway, with a daily bag limit of six ducks.
A 16-day special September teal season with a six-bird daily bag limit is proposed to continue in the Mississippi and Central flyways.
Proposed regulations for geese are largely unchanged from 2015-16 seasons.