Fall firearm turkey hunting in Illinois continues to spiral downward, partly because of a logical explanation and partly because of poor decision making in earlier years by the IDNR.
Illinois fall turkey season saw harvest drop six percent to 713 birds this fall. Much of that decline is believed to be because of shift of hunters to bowhunting deer.
I believe that is true as far as it goes.
But there is also a real administrative reason for the decline, too, dating back years..
And that decline is steady and strong in fall firearm turkey hunting, from 1,201 in 2005 to 1,189 ('06) to 1,161 ('07) to 878 ('08) to 756 ('09) to 713 this fall.
But in going through the chart one thing did strike me. The counties open remain the same.
I mention that because we could open up dozens of counties more to fall firearm turkey hunting. Nearly all counties in Illinois are open for spring turkey, but only about half Illinois' counties are open for fall firearm.
Not only would opening more counties give a new revenue stream to the IDNR, but it would keep up interest in hunting.
I mention all this because I got the photo above while hoping to take some fresh deer photos at the end of October In Iroquois County. That's a county that should have been opened to fall firearm turkey hunting years ago.
Illinois new turkey biologist Paul Brewer said they have proposed opening five new counties next fall. I hope that number shoots up significantly more for the fall of 2012.
Brewer sent this on the 2010 fall firearm season:
Illinois firearm turkey season concluded on October 31st with hunters harvesting 713 wild turkeys from the 45 open counties. This is about a 6% reduction from last year's harvest of 756 birds. Female turkeys accounted for approximately 64% of the fall harvest and males 36%. Participation in fall firearm turkey hunting has continued to decline, with many hunters choosing to spend more time archery hunting for deer. Warm weather near the end October and fewer juveniles in the population due to a few years of poor hatch success may have also contributed to the decline.
Archery turkey hunting continues until January 16th, except closed during the regular firearm deer hunting seasons.
Turkey populations in Illinois are doing well, and appear to be stable or increasing in most of the state. Illinois DNR is continuing to evaluate new counties to include in the fall firearm turkey season, with 5 additional counties currently proposed to open next fall.