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Illinois hunting and fishing

Have an opinion about a fourth waterfowl zone?

April 26, 2011 at 04:18 PM

The State Journal-Register

Waterfowl hunters who support creating a fourth zone for Illinois have until May 15 to express their opinions.

The proposed 2011-12 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations include options for a fourth waterfowl zone, or three zones with split seasons.

Illinois is 390 miles long from north to south, making it difficult for biologists to set waterfowl season dates that satisfy everyone.

“The primary zone change would be in southern Illinois where we have the most controversy,” says Ray Marshalla, state waterfowl biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Currently, Illinois is allowed to split the state into three zones from north to south (the Springfield area is in the central zone). Hunting season dates each autumn are staggered to account for ducks migrating from north to south.

But hunters in the northern edge of the south zone, where waterfowl seasons began in mid and late November last year, complain freezing conditions put an end to hunting before ducks arrive. At the southern reaches, hunters want to wait longer for ducks to show up.

“The fourth zone most likely will be some division of the current south zone into two different zones,” Marshalla said. “There is a huge disparity in hunter preference of season dates of up to three to four weeks.”

Season dates for next fall haven’t been determined yet.

Hunting season dates are set using breeding population estimates of ducks on the breeding grounds in the northern United States and Canada, hunter satisfaction surveys, dates of average freeze-up in early winter and other variables.

States make recommendations to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that approves migratory bird hunting seasons and bag limits.

If the Fish and Wildlife Service allows a fourth zone, current zone boundaries likely would be up for review.

Marshalla says waterfowl hunters don’t have to wax poetic about a possible fourth zone — just let their feelings be known.

Have an opinion?

All comments about a possible fourth waterfowl hunting zone in Illinois will be posted on the federal website Hunters must submit comments either through or via mail. No emailed and faxed comments will be accepted.

Go online at In the pull down menu, select “search for proposed rule.”

Illinois hunting and fishing

Type the docket number FWS-R9-MB-2011-0014 into the “enter keyword” search field to the right.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Click on the title of the proposed rule to get the full text. At the upper right side of the page is an orange box that says, “Submit a Comment.”

Illinois hunting and fishing

You can also read comments left by others if you search only by the docket number, instead of selecting proposed rule. That search returns all comments on the particular rule.

Mail comments to:

Public Comments Processing
Attn: FWS-R9-MB-2011-0014
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive
MS 2042–PDM
Arlington, VA 22203.

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.

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