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Illinois duck harvest dropped in 2008

February 23, 2009 at 09:28 PM

If hunting on several Illinois public areas was any indication, the statewide duck harvest was down markedly in 2008.

That’s the consensus based on preliminary estimates released by biologist Ray Marshalla on 26 public hunting areas that typically account for about 80 percent of hunter use days. Those figures showed that 51,166 hunter days accounted for a harvest of 50,692 ducks, which is 24 percent lower than the 5-year average and 22 percent lower than 2007.

The daily success rate of .99 ducks per hunter was 7 percent lower than the 5-year average and 6 percent lower than in 2007.

Likely causes for the downturn include poor habitat conditions caused by September flooding and an early freeze-up.

The downturn in duck harvest was no great surprise based on fall weather in Illinois that was influenced by two tropical systems that brought heavy rain to the state in early-September. Numerous roads throughout northeastern Illinois were closed by flooding. Creeks and rivers rapidly rose and overflowed their banks, and record flood stages were reached on many rivers. 

The runoff from river systems throughout the Midwest caused record flood stages in many areas and destroyed waterfowl foods along much of the upper Illinois and Mississippi river systems in Illinois. Similar to 2007, flooding during the 2008 growing season negatively influenced waterfowl habitat in the Illinois River floodplain. Water levels of the Illinois River decreased during mid-July, and many areas were dewatered exposing mudflats for growth of moist-soil vegetation. However, the remnants of Hurricane Ike arrived in Illinois on Sept. 11 and it rained several inches over the next 3 days. 

This rain event caused extensive flooding along most of the Illinois River basin (7th highest flood of record at Havana) and destroyed waterfowl food plants in most of the floodplain. River levels did not drop below flood stage until mid-October; therefore, waterfowl foraging habitat was poor in the Illinois River valley (IRV) during fall, and only locations at the highest elevations or protected by substantial levees retained any forage. These sites included: Hennepin-Hopper lakes, Banner Marsh State Fish and Wildlife Area, Emiquon Preserve, and Spunky Bottoms.

Duck migration numbers


Total duck abundance peaked in the IRV on 10 November 2008. Cold weather ensued in late November and many IRV wetlands remained frozen through the first week of January 2009. 

Similar to the IRV, waterfowl habitat at most census locations in the central Mississippi River valley (CMRV) was considered below average during fall 2008.  Extensive flooding along most of the upper Mississippi River during spring and summer curtailed moist-soil management at many census locations. These high river levels may have hindered growth of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in Pool 19 of the Mississippi River. Aerial observations of these aquatic beds indicated that abundance of SAV was well below average during fall at Pool 19. 

Similar to the IRV, total duck abundance peaked on 10 November in the CMRV. Diving duck abundance peaked 2 weeks later on 25 November and numbers declined steadily for the remainder of the surveys as many wetlands froze in late November. The lack of open water and adequate forage likely limited waterfowl use-days in the CMRV.

The Illinois Natural History Survey conducted 14 weekly aerial inventories for waterfowl during fall 2008 in the IRV and CMRV.  Peak abundance of total ducks inventoried was higher in the IRV and lower in the CMRV in 2008 than 2007.  In 2008, peak abundance of total ducks in the IRV occurred on 10 November (221,300); this estimate was 16% higher than the 2007 peak (190,210) and 24% below the most recent five-year average of 292,539 (2003─2007; hereafter, 5-year average).  Total duck abundance also peaked on 10 November in the CMRV at 345,745 (18% lower than 2007; 8% below the 5-year average).  The peak abundance estimate of total ducks for the two river systems combined (567,045) was 5% lower than in 2007 and 14% below the 5-year average.

In the IRV, peak abundance estimates for 2 of 8 dabbling duck species inventoried in 2008 were lower than 2007 (American black ducks [-52%] and green-winged teal [-2%]).  The peak estimate of total dabbling ducks (212,475) was 20% higher than the 2007 estimate (177,085) and 23% below the 5-year average (275,680).

Similar to the IRV, 2008 peak abundance estimates in the CMRV for 2 of 8 dabbling duck species were lower than 2007 (mallards [-29%] and American black ducks [-25%]).  Peak abundance of all dabbling duck species in the CMRV was 10% lower in 2008 (262,855) than 2007 (292,160), and 7% below the 5-year average (282,458).

Diving duck abundance in the IRV peaked on 10 November in 2008 at 8,825 (33% lower than 2007; 58% below the 5-year average).  Peak abundance estimates for canvasbacks (+9%) and common goldeneyes (+15%) were greater in 2008 than 2007, whereas estimates of all other diving duck species inventoried were lower in 2008 than 2007.

In the CMRV, diving ducks peaked on 25 November in 2008 at 87,650 (-32% less than 2007; 16% below the 5-year average).  Excepting ring-necked ducks (+79%) and common goldeneyes (+7%), abundance estimates of all diving duck species inventoried in the CMRV were lower in 2008 than 2007. 

Total ducks in southern Illinois peaked at 96,250 on 2 December (-16% compared to 2007-08 season peak of 114,775; 18 December, and -29% compared to the previous 5-year average peak of 136,165).  Counts were below average every week except October 28,  November 10 and December 22.  The October 28 count was 63% above average and November 10 was 30% above average.  The December 22 count was 6% above average.  The December 11 count was 35% below average and the December 30 count was 37% below average.

Goose hunting results

Anecdotal information from Canada goose hunters suggests that the North and Central zones had average hunting and the former Southern quota zone was better than the most recent 5-year average. 

Numbers of Canada geese in the central zone were mostly below normal. Between late December through the end of January heavy snowfall and very cold weather in Chicago combined with well above average snowfall in Wisconsin and northern Illinois in January resulted in more migrational activity than normal. There were reportedly good numbers of Canada geese in the north zone throughout the season and migrations to the central zone and then to the south zone occurred on several occasions potentially increasing geese’ vulnerability to hunting. However, many hunters reported difficulty in harvesting geese likely due to the higher than normal percentage of adults in the MVP of Canada geese.

The 2008 spring giant Canada goose population estimate was 138,300, an increase from the 2006 and 2007 estimates of 109,400 and 105,000, respectively.  The population estimate was 40 percent higher than the previous 5-year average of 98,500. A total of 3,243 Canada geese were banded in Illinois this year.  Of the 3,773 geese captured statewide, 2,290 were goslings and 1,483 were adults.The gosling to adult age ratio was 1.54, which is 31 percent higher than the most recent 5-year average production index of 1.18.  A total of 1,321 wood ducks were banded.  The age ratio was 2.81 juveniles per adult (73.7 percent young). Overall, 2008 age ratio values indicated production was about 18 percent below average (5-year mean = 3.43 young per adult). 

Goose migration numbers

Canada goose migration to southern Illinois and western Kentucky remained well below historical levels.

Aerial survey results indicated that populations remained below the most recent 5-year average, October through December. On December 2, 2008 only 2,950 Canada geese were estimated on the surveyed area. Small numbers of Canada geese arrived throughout December and 35,500 were estimated on December 30, 2008.  Numbers continued to increase through January and peaked at 59,800 on January 26, 2009, approximately 15,000 above the most recent 5-year average estimate for late-January (44,810). 

Geese continued to move into the survey area in early-February; 70,350 Canada geese were observed on February 4, 2009. The 2008-09 survey recorded the sixth lowest peak count since surveys began in 1956-57. The three lowest peak counts (55,025, 36,350, 46,625) occurred in 2005-06, 2006-07, and 2007-08, respectively. The most recent 5-year average (2003-2007) peak count was 68,308 (range 36,350 - 140,370). The 5-year average peak count for 1995-99 was 334,190 and the 5-year average peak count for 1988-92 was 712,630.

A total of 113,609 Canada geese were observed in Illinois during the 2009 Midwinter waterfowl survey (compared to the previous 5-year average of 127,840; range - 98,854 to 171,465). The duck population estimate during this survey was 127,225 (compared to the previous 5-year average of 238,018; range - 150,794 to 358,372).

The peak white-fronted goose count in southern Illinois to date was 21,775 which occurred on 22 December. This year’s peak count is similar in number and timing to the peak count observed during 2007-08 of 20,500 on 26 December 2007. White-fronted goose counts in the Illinois and Mississippi River valleys were generally lower than in the previous two seasons with the peak count of 1,780 on 29 December compared to the peak counts of 3,670 on 10 January 2008 and 16,420 on 2 January 2007.

Aerial surveys indicated that small numbers of snow geese began arriving in southern Illinois during early November. Snow goose counts increased to 74,500 in late December and ranged between 32,200 and 90,475 during January. This year’s peak count to date of 206,785 was achieved on 4 February. This peak count was approximately 15% below the previous 5-year average of 242,925 for the period of 1-7 February. The highest 5-year average weekly counts from 2003/04-2007/08 generally occurred during late January through early March. Therefore, snow goose migration patterns for this year appeared similar to those of most years

 

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YES DUCK NUMBERS WERE DOWN AND IF YOU PERMIT OUT DUCK HUNTING THEY WILL CONTINUE TO FALL BECAUSE OUT OF TOWNERS DONT KNOW HOW TO HUNT THE AREAS

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/03 at 06:47 PM

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