Here's the dove preview portion of the Illinois Hunting Report.
Yeah, there should be a lot more doves than this sitting on our wires.
During the hunting seasons, the extended online version of the IHR, which comes at the end of the Midwest Fishing Report in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays, is usually posted here on Tuesdays.
This is only the dove preview portion, the rest of Illinois Hunting Report is posted elsewhere.
If you have suggestions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post in the comments.
Season opens tomorrow, Sept. 1.
For whatever reason, the hundreds of doves many of us were seeing earlier in August appear to have disappeared or dispersed. Either the birds have moved on or the big push is yet to come from up north.
There's a dearth of doves, despite relatively good field conditions.
Stan Duzan, site super at Shelbyville SFWA, noted one reason there was a difference:
This is a unique situation. They started shucking corn on Aug. 18. That's the earliest I remember. . . . And the doves dispersed.
Dispersion may be as good an explanation as any for the change in dove numbers.
I am real curious to see how numbers shake out for the opener. I will try to have numbers for opening day at public sites posted by midday or so on Thursday.
The wild card is the weather, that could impact both hunters and birds, depending on how extreme things are tomorrow and Thursday.
The good news is the field conditions. With early summer rain followed by recent dry weather, sunflowers could be mowed in a timely manner and field conditions are generally decent.
The problem doesn't seem to be the feed on the ground.
Some reports are better. I talked with Bob Massey, wildlife biologist for Grundy and Kankakee Counties, on Monday and he said,
I am seeing doves all over the place. I have landowners saying they are seeing more than ever.
Reports from public sites are less glowing.
Many site staff said birds seen in early August disappeared. The big question is whether the weather change coming tonight and Thursday will bring fresh birds or chase the ones here.
A couple reminders: Daily bag is 15. Eurasian collared doves, ringed turtle doves and white-winged doves count toward the daily bag.
Make sure to check site regs. Many public sites are non-toxic shot only. Frankly, I favor going that way any way. I think it is inevitable that we head toward the non-toxic direction.
Below is a breakdown of nearby sites and a few from farther Downstate.
MATTHIESSEN SP: Most promising of sites near Chicago. Sunflowers were mowed in a timely manner. There's lots of seeds. Doves are being seen. Even here, numbers not as impressive as they should be. Permit site with standby.
JIM EDGAR PANTHER CREEK SFWA: Dove fields look good. Sunflowers were mowed, wheat burned; however, site staff are not seeing as many doves as conditions would suggest. Still could be a top spot, almost every year this site comes through with solid to great numbers. Permit site with standby.
IROQUOIS COUNTY SWA: The top dove site for the season last year in Illinois should have a decent opener with a season average or more than 10 doves per hunter (that's right, the season average not just opening day average was more than 10). Fields look good with average flowers; however, fewer doves are being sighted than a few weeks ago. Draw at 11 a.m.
MARSEILLES SFWA: Sunflowers are good, but few doves sighted. Will be open over Labor Day weekend. Draw at Gate 60 at 11 a.m.
SHABBONA LAKE SRA: Site super Kerry Novak said sunflowers are weedy, but there's plenty of seed on the ground; dove numbers dropped since early August. Sixty slots in three fields.
KANKAKEE RIVER SP: A weevil impacted some sunflowers. ``Some fields are decent, but not what they have been in the past,'' site super Kathy Pangle said. Permit site with standby. Youth hunt is Saturday.
SILVER SPRINGS SFWA: The two fields of sunflowers and two of millet are weedy. Very few doves were sighted when biologist Joe Rogus staked the field. Permit site with standby.
DES PLAINES SFWA: Sunflowers are good, but doves disappeared. There's about 100 slots. Permit site with standby.
SHELBYVILLE: Birds are scattered with farmers actively harvesting nearby, giving doves more options. Even more harvesting will be completed by tomorrow, giving doves even more options. Could be tough opener.
GREEN RIVER SWA: Sunflowers are mowed, but very few doves sighted. Jerry Pabst, who hunts here regularly, e-mailed a dismal report on the lack of birds.
MAZONIA SFWA: Few doves. North Unit only. Sign in at shack by the office.
CHAIN O'LAKES SP: Wet weather took a field toll. About 25 slots.