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It’s almost the post-season, or is it?

January 11, 2013 at 08:29 AM

The State Journal-Register

It’s almost the post-season — or is it?

The most popular hunting seasons are drawing to a close. Pheasant and quail seasons ended in the north half of the state this week and close in the rest of the state Tuesday. All deer seasons come to a close Jan. 20, including archery and the late-winter firearm and chronic wasting disease seasons.

But there still are plenty of hunting opportunities left for those who are seeking more chances to get outside.

Squirrel hunting remains open through Feb. 15. Coyote hunting is open year-round. Many deer hunters shift gears to target coyotes during the winter months.

Goose hunters have until the end of the month, and then snow goose hunting reopens for another month.

Trappers have some time left on the clock, too. Mink and muskrat are fair game until mid-February, and beaver and river otter trapping remains open until March 31.

For a complete list of season dates, refer to the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations or the Illinois Digest of Waterfowl Hunting Regulations.

Besides hunting, there are plenty of other things to do during the colder months.

Shed hunting

As the deer breeding season comes to a conclusion and testosterone levels drop in bucks, they naturally shed their antlers and get set to grow new ones in the spring.

Shed hunting has become a popular outdoors pastime, much like morel mushroom hunting.

A bit of morel hunting etiquette applies here, too: Get permission from the property owner first. If you are on public ground, check with the site office to see if shed hunting is allowed. State parks and nature preserves don’t allow it.

Clean and mend

There’s no time like the present to check your outdoors gear and make any repairs before putting it away. Properly maintained equipment will function properly when called upon, and you won’t have to do it when the weather gets nice and the fish are biting (or turkeys are calling).

Keep the trail cameras rolling

Winter is a great time to observe wildlife, and a snowy backdrop (if we get some snow) enhances the pictures. Find tracks in the snow, and set up near the trail. Or find some open water in a creek bottom and let the camera stake out the watering hole.

Habitat management

Winter is a great time to cut brush outside. Keep your shooting or observation lanes open. Cut some small black cherries or hackberries to keep them from shading desirable oaks and hickories.

And we get a brief respite from ticks and biting insects this time of year.

Plan your spring and summer habitat projects.

Learn something new

Learn the birdcalls you hear in the winter woods. Teach yourself to use the turkey call a friend gave you a long time ago. Become confident you can identify an animal by its tracks. There’s no such thing as “wait until next year” in the outdoors.

Follow Chris Young at See more outdoors news at Prairie State Outdoors.

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