Apparently, there was good reason why I had such trouble finding a good photo of doves lining wires. That isn't good news for the opening of dove hunting tomorrow.
It was not a good year for reproduction, according to numbers from state waterfowl biologist Ray Marshalla. And that is not real encouraging, coming off a down season for dove hunting in Illinois, especially at public sites.
For a couple days, the photo above was the best I had. Usually, i can find a good doves on wires photo quickly. It took me several days to get the one below, and it is not as good as most years.
Here's the deal.
In 2006, when Illinois hunters had their best take in 10 years with 950,000 doves, there were 3.05 young per adult. Last year, there was only 1.64 young per adult and only 683,000 doves were bagged statewide, the lowest harvest since 2001. The really bad news is that the banding information indicated only 1.42 young per adult in 2009.
But there is at least one good sign: Call counts are up from last year. Again, we compare first to 2006, when there were 28 calls per route. Last year, call counts were only 19.2. At least this year, it is up to 22.8.
If you're wondering, the top three counties in northeast Illinois are Will with 24,000, McHenry with 15,000 and Kankakee with 7,400.
By far the two best counties in the state are just outside of St. Louis: Madison with 77,000 doves and St. Clair with 40,000.
The average hunter bags 21 doves per year, but last year it was 23 doves per hunter and 4.98 doves per trip.