The opening of several hunting seasons--north zone waterfowl, woodcock and fall shotgun turkey--this weekend and a continued good bow hunt for deer lead this Illinois Hunting Report.
That's Jason Polowy staring out of a blind on opening day last year for Fox Valley Guide Service.
In years past, I have done the IHR on Tuesdays, but it will be on a more variable basis this fall.
DEER: Despite some iffy weekend weather, bowhunters continue to do well. Forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton sent this update on archery season so far:
Through Sunday, October 14, 2012, Illinois archery deer hunters harvested a preliminary total of 11,154 deer. Harvest during the week remained strong, but heavy rain and strong winds throughout much of the state depressed weekend harvest. Last year's preliminary harvest for the same period was 10,418, and the five-year average for 2007-2011 was 10,840.
Harvest to date consists of 71% does and 29% males (7377 F; 3041 M). Top five counties were Pike (408), Fulton (327), Peoria (271), Jefferson (229), and Vermilion (227).
Over-the-counter sales of remaining county deer permits is underway. . . . Over-the-counter sales of remaining resident archery deer permits is ongoing.
EHD reports keep coming. Through Sept. 30, more than 2,000 are officially counted from 76 counties.
BUCK OF THE WEEK: I am receiving enough nominations that I started running Buck of the Week on Wednesday, I believe the earliest ever. Email nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NORTH ZONE WATERFOWL:: Even though we received a good shot of rain, I am not sure it will enough to impact water levels much. Crop harvest is astonishing far along. You should have no trouble getting into fields you have permission to hunt.
Otherwise, there are geese around. What ducks are here are the usual ones for this time of the year: mostly woodies with a few teal and mallards.
The weekend weather forecast looks a bit too pleasant for good hunting.
CENTRAL ZONE YOUTH WATERFOWL: The youth waterfowl hunt in the central zone is this weekend.
Open public sites are Anderson Lake SFWA; Banner Marsh SFWA; Braidwood Lake SFWA; Clinton Lake SRA; Coffeen Lake SFWA; Freeman Mine; Henderson Creek SFWA; Horseshoe Lake State Park (Madison County); Horseshoe Lake State Park (Madison County) (Gabaret, Mosenthein, Chouteau Island Units); Kankakee River State Park; Marshall SFWA; Marshall SFWA - Sparland Unit; Marshall SFWA - Duck Ranch Unit; Mazonia SFWA; Meredosia Lake; Mississippi River Area (MRA) - All sites managed by MRA; Mississippi River Pools (All located in Central Zone); Momence Wetlands State Natural Area (SNA); Pekin Lake SFWA; Quincy Bay; Ray Norbut SFWA; Rice Lake SFWA; Sanganois SFWA; Sangchris Lake State Park; Shelbyville SFWA; Spring Lake SFWA; Starved Rock State Park; Weinberg-King State Park - Spunky Bottoms Unit; Woodford SFWA.
AERIAL WATERFOWL SURVEYS: Click here to see the results of aerial waterfowl surveys.
WATERFOWL & BAITING CLARIFICATION: Here's the word of clarification from the IDNR via the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, on baiting definitions and regulations in this drought year:
Dear Waterfowl Hunters:
Due to ongoing drought conditions in Illinois, some farmers are mowing or tilling their unharvested crop fields to collect crop insurance payments. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) reminds hunters that the manipulation, including mowing or tilling, of unharvested crop fields is not a normal agricultural practice for waterfowl hunting purposes. The IDNR has received guidance on this issue from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal baiting laws still apply, even during times of drought. Therefore, it is a violation of the baiting laws under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act if scattered grain is not totally removed 10 days prior to hunting. Hunters should familiarize themselves with baiting laws in Illinois. For more information on waterfowl baiting regulations, refer to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service website link regarding baiting regulations at http://www.fws.gov/le/waterfowl-hunting-and-baiting.html.
Questions regarding hunting crop fields mowed or tilled due to drought insurance claims;
1. If a standing grain crop is 100% void of any ears (corn field produced no ears), can the field be mowed then hunted? Yes, as long as there is no grain present in the field. A field that produces NO ears of corn will probably be a rare occurrence.
2. If a standing grain crop has any amount of grain present after it is mowed, can it be hunted? No, it is a "baited area" until 10 days after the complete removal of the grain.
3. Can a standing crop that was mowed be disked and made legal for hunting? The field can only be hunted after all exposed grain has been completely removed or buried for a period of 10 days. Hunters should keep in mind that if a dry field is tilled to the extent that no grain is visibly present, strong winds or the first rain is likely to wash off some covered grain, thus still making it a baited situation.
4. Why can a person not hunt over a mowed area? Under federal baiting regulations, mowing or tilling of a standing crop is not a "normal agricultural planting, harvesting, post-harvest manipulation, or normal soil stabilization practice" as determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension Service.
. . .
For questions about federal baiting regulations, please call 217-782-6431, Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
TURKEYS: Fall shotgun season opens Saturday and runs through Oct. 28.
Archery season is open.
Click here for details on the over-the-counter sales of remaining fall turkey permits.
DOVES: I am seeing very few in northern Illinois. First season runs through Oct. 28. Second season is Nov. 3-14
The daily bag is 15, with a special reminder to read the note below on what counts in the bag.
Note: In recent years, there has been some different doves, other than just mourning doves, being spotted in the field more commonly. Here are the regulations on the various doves and their hunting, from the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations:
The daily bag and possession limits include mourning doves and white-winged doves in the aggregate. There is no bag limit on Eurasian-collared doves and ringed turtle doves, but they may be taken only during the established season dates and hours and using only legal methods for mourning doves. Hunters may not remain in the field for the purpose of taking Eurasian-collared doves or ringed turtle doves after they reach their daily bag limit for mourning/white-winged doves.
WOODCOCK: I have not seen any yet, but I have heard reports of them being spotted in northern Illinois. Season opens Saturday and runs through Dec. 3.
SQUIRREL: Most public sites closed on Sept. 30 with the start of bowhunting for deer.
RAIL: Season runs through Nov. 16. I would love to hear from somebody who hunts rails.
SNIPE: Season runs through Dec. 23. Again, I would love to hear from somebody who hunts them.