Illinois waterfowl season opens
Duck and goose hunters can finally smile again.
Waterfowl season opens this Saturday morning in marshes, lakes, rivers and fields all over northern Illinois. The North Zone duck season runs through Dec. 16, while goose season lasts until Jan. 10.
Optimism greets most seasons and that’s particularly true for goose hunters in the Chicago area, whose population of resident honkers is ample and stable. The key this weekend will be finding harvested fields, since the crop harvest lags well behind average and in terms of corn is 60 percent behind last year.
Here’s the latest survey of waterfowl in northeast Illinois.
Here are Monday’s waterfowl counts from the Illinois and Mississippi rivers as compiled by the Illinois Natural History Survey.
Duck hunters may not fare as well as goose chasers this year, particularly along the Illinois River where flooding has wiped out most food crops. The count of 39,885 ducks is way off the 10-year average of 95,931 birds. The only major concentrations of birds were at The Nature Conservancy’s Emiquon Preserve (21,950) and at Big Lake near Meredosia (8,705).
Things appear better along the Mississippi River. The 65,540 birds on the Mississippi River is above the 10-year average of 55,434. That may indicate conditions are more favorable on the Mississippi and be a sign of things to come as the fall migration plays out.
Click here for data on aerial surveys from Oct. 13-14 on Pools 4-14 of the Mississippi River.
Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times recently quoted waterfowl biologist Ray Marshalla as saying:
However, I can tell you that duck numbers on yesterday’s flight were well below average on the Illinois River but above average on the Mississippi (see attached). At first I thought perhaps the low numbers on the IL may be due to delayed migration. However, numbers being above average on the MS does not support this theory. This tells me that habitat conditions are still poor on most IL sites due to the flood and that the MS must be in somewhat better shape. Carlyle and Rend Lakes have decent moist-soil conditions so should attract good numbers of ducks when the season opens.
Duck hunters face some important regulation changes this year. For one thing, you are now allowed three wood ducks in the daily bag. And canvasbacks are closed this year. Bluebills (or scaup as some folks call these little diving ducks) are being handled under a complicated system: in the north you can shoot one except from Nov. 4-23 when you can shoot two.
North Zone goose hunters should also be warned that white-fronted geese (or specklebellies) will not be fair game until Oct. 31.
This is also the weekend for the Central Zone’s youth waterfowl hunt. Youngsters looking for a spot to hunt this weekend should consider Banner Marsh, where Tri-County Ducks and Geese Forever puts on a first-class event. Registration starts at 5 a.m. Sanganois also has a youth event.
Elsewhere, public areas are open for the youth hunt. Blind builders get first crack. Youngsters 15 and under must have a hunting license but do not need state or federal duck stamps.
Central Zone duck and goose season opens Oct. 25, with ducks closing Dec. 23. Central Zone goose season ends Nov. 9 and then reopens from Nov. 24 to Jan. 31.