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Tough 2008 for Illinois waterfowlers

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This probably doesn't come as a shock, but it looks like waterfowl hunting in llinois in 2008 was on the tough side. Although goose hunting looks near average in the central and north zones.

jeffnorris10-18-08buck

Buck was not only in staring long and hard at the sky.

The prime suspects were the summer floods that led to poor food conditions along the major rivers and the early freeze-up.

First the compact view from state waterfowl biologist Ray Marshalla, then the more extended overview.

Summer floods made poor duck foraging habitat on IL & MS River & S. IL. Most wetlands froze up 2-5 weeks before season ended. Heavy snowfall and cold weather caused Canada geese to migrate to central and south zones.

Peak on IL & MS rivers combined was 567,045 which was5% lower than 2007 and 14% below 5-yr avg. Southern IL peaked at 96,250 on 2 Dec. which was 16% below 2007 and -29% from avg. & 2 weeks earlier.

Public area harvest (50,692 ducks) was -24% compared to 5-yr avg. and 22% less than 07. Hunter success was 0.99 ducks per hunter which was 5% less than the 5-yr. avg. and 6% less than 07. Poor food conditions and very early freeze up hurt hunting success.

Midwinter Canada goose count (113,600) was 11% below avg. S. IL peak of 70,350 on Feb. 4 was 6th lowest recorded. Snow geese peaked at 242,925 on Feb. 4. Heavy snow and extreme cold moved geese into central and south IL.

North and central zone Canada goose harvest was average while old southern quota zone was above average. Poor MVP production made hunting mostly adults difficult.

Overall duck harvest was likely below average. Statewide duck coiunts were mostly below average. Canada goose harvest was about average.

And here's the more extensive breakdown.

ILLINOIS' WATERFOWL, HABITAT AND HUNTING SEASON REPORT 2008-09 Prepared by Ray Marshalla, Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources February 17, 2009 Season Dates and Regulations

CANADA GEESE - Sept. 1-Sept. 15 (statewide, daily bag was 5 except 2 in South Zone)

TEAL - Sept. 6 - Sept. 21 (statewide)

ZONE DUCKS CANADA GEESE** WF GEESE** SNOW GEESE


North* Oct. 18 - Dec. 16 Oct.18 - Jan. 10 Oct. 31 - Jan. 10 Oct. 18-Jan. 10

Central* Oct. 25 - Dec. 23 Oct. 25 - Nov. 9 Nov. 21- Jan. 31 Oct. 25 - Jan. 31 & Nov. 24 - Jan. 31

South* Nov. 27 - Jan. 25 Nov. 27 - Jan. 31 Nov. 27 - Jan. 31 Nov. 27 - Jan. 31

*Youth Waterfowl Hunt Dates: North - Oct. 11-12, Central - Oct. 18-19, South - Nov.15-16
** Daily bag limits were 2 Canada geese and 2 white-fronted geese statewide during regular season

Weather, Habitat and Waterfowl Populations

Breeding Habitat and Waterfowl Populations

Heavy spring rains in Illinois and across the Midwest led to considerable problems with flooding across the state. Illinois experienced above average rainfall throughout the first half of 2008, resulting in the wettest January-July on record. Statewide, precipitation for the seven-month period was 9.4 inches above normal.

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% 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% young). Overall, 2008 age ratio values indicated production was about 18 percent below average (5-year mean = 3.43 young per adult).

Fall and Winter Habitat and Weather
Fall weather in Illinois 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.

December and January statewide average temperatures were 3.5 and 4.5 degrees below normal, respectively. Extreme cold air pushed into Illinois on January 15 and 16, causing temperatures to drop to levels not seen since 1999. Numerous locations in northern Illinois reported lows of minus 20 degrees or colder. Snowfall amounts were above normal across the state in January. Snowfall totals of 6 to 12 inches occurred throughout much of southern and central Illinois, while totals of 12 to 24 inches were common in northern 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. 11th 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.

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.

Waterfowl Migration and Harvests

Migration

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.

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

Harvest

Preliminary estimates of duck hunter activity on 26 public hunting areas that typically account for about 80% of hunter use days on monitored public areas in the state indicated that 51,166 hunter days accounted for a harvest of 50,692 ducks (24% lower than the 5-year average; 22% lower than 2007). The daily success rate of .99 ducks per hunter was 7% lower than the 5-year average and 6% lower than in 2007. 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. Howerver, many hunters reported difficulty in harvesting geese likely due to the higher than normal percentage of adults in the MVP of Canada geese.

Disease Events - No significant disease events were reported during the 2008-09 season although there was a small cholera outbreak at Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge involving 32 lesser snow geese and 2 Ross' geese mortalities.

IDNR staff took 473 samples for avian influenza testing from 14 species of hunter-harvested waterfowl during the 2008-09 hunting season. The sample collection effort was conducted under a cooperative agreement with USDA-Wildlife Services. Samples were taken from 17 geographically-distributed locations throughout the state on 7 days from October through December. Environmental samples and additional samples from hunter-harvested waterfowl were taken by USDA-Wildlife Services in Illinois. No samples have tested positive for highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenz

Hunting Season Overview - Duck harvest was below average on many public sites (-24% compared to 5-year average) due to poor habitat conditions caused by the September flooding and early freeze up occurring in some areas a month or more before the season ended. Canada goose hunting appeared to be about average statewide and above average in the South zone.

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on February 23, 2009 9:43 AM.

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