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Illinois hunting and fishing

N. Illinois dove season prospects

August 30, 2009 at 03:36 AM

Nest success down

A cool, wet, windy spring and summer was not good for dove nesting in Illinois.

Wind tends to blow dove nests to the ground and cool, wet weather is hard on young doves.

Not surprisingly, banding samples indicate there were just 1.42 young doves per adult this year, down from 1.64 last year and well below the 2006 total of 3.05 young per adult.

That 2006 total is significant since that year was the best harvest in Illinois in the past decade.

Good news from dove surveys this year is that spring call counts showed 22.8 doves per route. That’s up from 19.5 last year but is behind the 28.0 count from 2006. The state did not run August surveys this year.

“We had more adults than last year, but production was down from last year,” said Ray Marshalla of the Department of Natural Resources.



Cool, wet weather is the last thing a dove hunter wants to see at the end of August.

Turns out that’s also true in May, June and July.

This year’s combination of a rainy, windy, chilly spring and summer delayed maturation of dove fields and promoted weed growth. Those conditions also hampered dove nest success.

Many worry similar weather this weekend could drive birds south. We’ll know soon enough, as Tuesday is the dove season opener — the biggest single-day of wingshooting in Illinois.

As many as 70,000 hunters will target doves in Illinois and most years they shoot more than 1 million of the fast, elusive grey ghosts.

To get ready for the opener, here’s a look at nearby public areas. Unless indicated, hunting hours at state sites are noon to 5 p.m. for the first five days and drawings are at 11 a.m.

Permit sites

Jim Edgar-Panther Creek (4,928 doves, 6.97 doves per hunter last year) ranks as one of the state’s top dove spots. Nothing should change this year. Sunflowers are mature and clean and bird numbers have improved steadily this week.

Prior to that, pickings had been slim. Site manager Mike Wickens said birds did not respond as well as expected when they burned off wheat in late July. Fortunately, that has changed in the past week.

“At one point I thought it might be the worst ever, but (numbers) have definitely improved,” site manger Mike Wickens said. “I’m thinking we’ll be at least average.”

If you don’t have one of 121 permits, even days are your best bet since there are 153 stakes in those fields versus just 123 on odd days. Typically there are about 5-10 no-shows for permits.

Green River (1,196, 3.47) also has clean fields and typically has room for standbys. Staffer Ken Stralow said dove numbers are above what he saw last year.

“We got our flowers and wheat in just in time between the rains,” Stralow said. “I’d say the numbers are comparable to what we usually see.”

Matthiessen State Park (1,866, 3.51) has emerged as a top producer and this year has two good fields (3 and 4) and two that are weedy (1 and 2). Flowers went in late, but site manager Tom Levy said mowing is done and birds have been working the fields. There are 50 permits the first five days.

“I was seeing birds working the fields, which is good,” Levy said. “Our tenants have sunflowers down to a pretty good science.”

Mackinaw River (743, 1.89) has good flowers, but unfortunately they are about 10 days behind usual. Dove counts this week were below average. There are 34 permits per day until the youth hunt on Saturday, when 16 more go out.

“I’ve seen a few doves, but nothing that excites me,” site manager Stan Weimer said. “I’d say it’s below average for this time of year. And our plants look good, but I would say they’re 10 days behind where they normally are.”

Kankakee River SP (1,765, 2.98) has good sunflowers but fewer stakes since one field went in late.

Des Plaines (1,645, 2.48) also has fewer stakes since flowers were planted later than usual.

Silver Springs (755, 1.52) hopes to rebound from last year. Flowers went in late but mowing is done. Unfortunately, site manager Jeff Wepprecht told Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times he was seeing few birds.

Illinois hunting and fishing

No permits

Double T (199, 0.98) should rebound from a dismal 2008 hunt. Three sunflower fields are very good and holding birds. Two buckwheat fields are not mature and may not be mowed before Tuesday.

Look for good hunting if you draw one of 32 stakes in the sunflowers. The other 47 stakes will be better mid-season spots.

“If these birds stay we’ll have a very good opener,” said site staffer Rick Valois.

Snakeden Hollow (784, 3.36) has weedier fields than usual but should offer decent action at 35 stakes. Bird numbers were good on Friday.

“Annual weeds are in there more than we’d normally like. And that’s not all bad, since the doves like them too,” site manager Rick Knisely said. “But it makes it harder for hunters to find their doves.”

Johnson-Sauk Trail (486, 1.97) has a good, clean 33 acres of sunflowers and is holding birds. There will be 50-54 stakes for a morning drawing, held one-half hour before sunrise.

“The fields look good and we’re seeing birds,” said site manager Melinda Kitchens. “Last year we were in good shape too, but we just didn’t see any birds when we were out staking and mowing. This year we’re seeing more birds.”

The area’s other morning spot is Banner Marsh (373, 1.64), but prospects for 40 stakes here are poor. Deer ate one field, weeds are a problem in two others that went in late and buckwheat is not yet mature.

“It just doesn’t look promising,” site manager Bill Douglass said.

Deer were also a factor at the Hennepin Canal (120, 1.42), but not as much as last year when they devastated fields. A total of 56 hunters can get out here.

“We’ve got some birds, but not a whole lot,” site manager Steve Moser said.

Fields are better at nearby Mautino (781, 4.79), where there are some weeds but there are also more birds according to Moser.

“Then again, last year the doves left the night before the season,” Moser said.

Marseilles (297, 3.75) has decent sunflowers and will draw the first five days at Gate 60.

Jubilee College SP (177, 1.18) has its best flowers in years but they went in late. Hunting for 22 stakes will be opening day, Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

“The Thousand Dollar field is better. I saw some bunches of birds in there Friday,” said site staffer Pat Hanley.

Iroquois County (53, 0.41) had a terrible 2008 and hopes for better. Maybe sandy soil will help, since fields got in earlier than most.

Illinois hunting and fishing


Due to high water Anderson Lake will not offer dove hunting. And due to poor or late-maturing fields Spoon River State Forest likely won’t be worth a visit until later in the season.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

The only way to find out is to get out there!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/31 at 01:24 PM

Doves were not flying this morning.  Maybe this afternoon will be better.  Next year I’m planting sunflowers, even if I have to plant them by hand, with waders.

P.S.  I’m saving up for a dove trip to Argentina!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/01 at 08:25 AM

Hearing of alot of people killing out by 9 A.M on private food plots.  Sounds like the doves made it throught the last two cold nights!!! Getting off work at 1:30 to try my luck at my hot spot.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/01 at 10:10 AM

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