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Illinois Hunting Report: Muzzleloader season down, ducks coming

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Weather, always weather, in hunting or most activities outdoors gives and takes away; the muzzleloader-only deer hunting season and duck hunting are perfect examples for this Illinois Hunting Report.


With a snow and freeze to our north, some fresh ducks and geese are coming down.Time for goose hunters to get their stare on, like I caught Jason Polowy, guide at Fox Valley Guide Service, a couple years ago in the western suburbs.

Weather kept harvest down in the muzzleloader-only season, while duck hunters finally had something to cheer about.

DEER: Over-the-counter sales of remaining late-winter firearm antlerless-only and CWD deer season begin Tuesday. Those seasons are split: Dec. 27-30, 2012 and Jan. 18-20, 2013.

Miserable weather kept harvest numbers down for muzzleloader-only deer season, which ended Sunday. Forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton sent this:

Cool, wet, and sometimes windy conditions seem to have put a damper on the muzzleloader deer season this past weekend, with preliminary harvest totals of 3,535 deer during the Dec. 7-9 season.  Harvest was 4,878 during the 2011 season, and 3,276 in 2010.

Top five counties were Pike (206), Fulton (110), JoDaviess (96), Hancock (90), and Adams (85).  Harvest sex ratios were 54.5% does to 45.5% bucks.

If an archery update comes, I will post separately. Over-the-counter sales of remaining resident archery deer permits is ongoing.

Click here for info on donating your deer meat.

BUCK OF THE WEEK: Email nominations to Good ones are coming in.

NORTH ZONE WATERFOWL: Duck season ends Dec. 18. A few reports of more birds, but figures at the public sites didn't show that. Though Heidecke had a wonderful variety in its weekend kill. Could be the second year in a row with virtually no days lost to freeze-up.

Char at Heidecke Lake reported:

Saturday: 32 hunters, six mallards, one black duck, two shovelers, one ringneck, one ruddy duck, two goldeneye, one hooded merganser, six bluebills (scaup), one canvasback. Sunday: 30 hunters, seven mallards, two gadwalls, one goldeneye, one bluebill (scaup).

Staff at William Powers SRA reported a very slow weekend:

Saturday: 10 hunters, one other duck. Sunday: 14 hunters, two mallards, two others.

CENTRAL ZONE WATERFOWL: Duck season ends Dec. 25. Jeff Lampe at Heartland Outdoors said the central Illinois area around Peoria has been seeing better numbers of ducks the last four days. Things are slow at Braidwood/Mazonia SFWA.

SOUTH CENTRAL WATERFOWL: Waterfowl seasons are open.

SOUTH WATERFOWL: Waterfowl seasons are open.

AERIAL WATERFOWL SURVEYS: Click here to see the results of aerial waterfowl surveys.


Apply Now for Outdoors Access for Youth Turkey Hunting:  The Illinois Recreational Access Program (IRAP) is now taking applications from young hunters for 2013 spring turkey hunting.  Youth hunters will be assigned a hunt site in one of the 23 counties in which private property has been leased by IDNR. Most assigned hunting areas are at least 40 acres in size and all have been evaluated for turkey activity and the high possibility of a good hunting experience for the youth. Eligible youth hunters must be under the age of 16 at the time of the hunt and must have completed a hunter safety education course.  Applicants can apply for two of the three turkey seasons for which IRAP has leased sites for the spring of 2013 - Youth Season, 3rd Season and 4th Season.   For more information, go to  Youth are encouraged not to miss out and apply early.

TURKEYS: The deadline for the second lottery for spring turkey permits is Jan. 11. Click here to apply online.

Archery season is open. Click here for details on the over-the-counter sales of remaining fall archery turkey permits.

I have not seen the preliminary harvest report for fall shotgun season yet.

HUNTING WORD AT MARSEILLES: Here is the word on hunting at Marseilles SFWA:

Marseilles SFWA Hunting Hours:  Marseilles State Fish and Wildlife Area in La Salle County will be open again this year Wednesdays through Sundays for programmed hunting opportunities.  The site will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.  Site hours will be 5:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.  During the Firearm Deer Season, the check station will be opened at 4:30 a.m.  Detailed specific information can be found on the Marseilles SFWA web page on the IDNR website at  For more information, contact Illini State Park at 815-795-2448.

UPLAND GAME: I thought we were going to get some hunting snow, instead we drift into the record between measurable snows. What I see of the long-range forecast doesn't look favorable for a good snow, either. Hunting for pheasants, rabbits, quail and partridge is underway with open fields everywhere.

SQUIRREL: Most public sites closed on Sept. 30 with the start of bowhunting for deer. But virtually all foliage has dropped.

SNIPE: Season runs through Dec. 23. Again, I would love to hear from somebody who hunts them.

TRAPPING: Click here for info on trapping of river otters, which runs through March 31, same as beaver trapping.

Trapping for raccoon, opossum, skunk, weasel, mink, fox (red and gray), coyote in the north zone runs through Jan. 20; in the south zone, it is through Jan. 25. . . . Beaver trapping runs through March 31.

CROWS: Season runs through Feb. 28.

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Thanks for the report Dale - although variety in a waterfowl kill isn't excactly anything to be excited about! Shovelers, ruddy, goldeneye, and merganser ducks aren't exactly the greatest table fare. We don't even shoot at ducks like that if they aren't an edible species. But that just goes to show you how desperate guys have become this season.

The mild weather the past 2 years has made for some of the slowest duck harvests I've seen in awhile. I hunt in both northern IN and IL and the number of ducks around is dismal. Might finally be some truth to all that global warming talk and the lack of migrating birds anymore. The ones that do come down show up later and later every season it seems and normally - the seasons are closed. And if we don't get any colder weather for the geese, the season at the cooling lakes will be dismal as well. Hopefully things do change soon!! The only other highlight is perch fishing on the big lake: who'd have thought you might actually be able to fish in your boat in the middle of Dec?

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on December 10, 2012 1:38 PM.

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