Lee Lewis waits for doves in a welcome bit of shade Monday afternoon in Knox County during opening day of the Illinois dove season.
Dove season starts slowly
High hopes met with high temperatures Monday for the dove season opener.
Unfortunately, harvest totals were not so inflated in what was a slower-than-usual opener for many.
“The heat affected the success rate in that the doves didn’t fly early and hunters left early,” said Rick Knisely, site superintendent at Snakeden Hollow State Fish and Wildlife Area in north-central Illinois. “But even when they started flying better they didn’t come in like they usually do.”
Knisely’s comments summarized what many were saying Tuesday in the aftermath of opening day. While some hunters reported limits, they were in the minority in central Illinois. Best action was reported by those who hunted in the morning on private fields with good stands of sunflowers, though I did hear one report of three limits that came early off a gravel road. And Adam Jaegle of Kingston Mines was part of a group of nine hunters who shot limits in a field near Groveland.
“It wasn’t a normal opener. It was a struggle. I didn’t talk to many people that had great openers,” Jaegle said. “I think that rain last week kind of knocked us out.”
Here are totals for some state sites for opening day (more to come):
- Babe Woodyard State Natural Area—15 hunters, 0 doves, 1 shot. Fields were very poor.
- Banner Marsh—85 hunters, 217 doves, 2.52 doves per hunter
- Chain O’Lakes—25 hunters, 8 doves, 0.3 dph
- Des Plaines—Estimated 115 hunters, 700 doves
- Double T—127 hunters, 77 doves, 0.58 dph. Neighboring private fields hunted hard in the morning, which may have impacted results. Then again, shouldn’t that concentrate doves into fields that were hunted in the afternoon?
- Green River—146 hunters, 841 doves, 5.8 dph
- Hennepin Canal—96 doves
- Iroquois County—58 hunters, 17 doves, 0.29 dph. Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the opener was slow. Obviously, he was correct. Last year this site accounted for 2,007 birds for 249 hunters overall—8.06 per hunter for the entire season.
- Jim Edgar-Panther Creek—152 hunters, 1,509 doves, 9.93 dph
- Johnson-Sauk Trail—Despite good fields, hunting was very slow.
- Jubilee College State Park—34 hunters, 27 doves, 0.79 dph.
- Kankakee—87 hunters, 648 doves, 7.45 dph
- Mackinaw River—97 hunters (including 37 youth hunters), 307 doves, 3.16 dph
- Madigan State Park—30 hunters, 427 doves, 14.2 dph. That total included one hunter who shot out in 45 minutes.
- Matthiessen—116 hunters, 919 doves, 7.9 dph
- Mautino—122 hunters, 509 doves (133 cripples), 4.17 dph.
- Middle Fork—Estimates of a handful of hunters and just 20 doves.
- Pyramid State Park—250 hunters, 900 doves, 3.60 dph. Another typical southern Illinois hotspot with good fields but very few birds.
- Ramsey Lake—59 hunters (22 youths), 359 doves, 6.08 dph.
- Sam Parr—100 hunters (20 youths), 600 doves, 6.0 dph. Site did well to get sunflowers in before heavy rains.
- Sangchris—Estimated 50 hunters and 650 doves. “We were fortunate to beat the rain early and get our crops up,” said Steve Carey, site superintendent. “I’d say on average our hunters were taking about three hours to get their birds.”
- Shabbona Lake—60 hunters, 276 doves, 4.60 dph
- Shelbyville SFWA—108 hunters, 1,196 doves, 11.07 dph
- Silver Springs—127 hunters, 234 doves, 1.84 dph
- Snakeden Hollow—107 hunters, 405 doves, 3.79 dph. Well below last year when 116 hunters shot 1,365 doves and well below the five-year average of 800 doves for the opener.
- Ten Mile Creek—Usually a southern Illinois hotspot, hunting here was “not too good” according to John Irvin. “We had maybe two good fields, one with about 800 birds and one with about 400. But we just don’t have a lot of birds yet. I don’t think they’re here yet.”