SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Acting Director Sam Flood today announced the state’s recommendations for 2007-08 waterfowl hunting season dates and regulations. The recommendations include 60-day duck seasons in all zones, 85-day Canada goose seasons in the North and Central zones, and a 66-day Canada goose season in the South Zone.
The state’s proposed regulations, endorsed by the IDNR Natural Resources Advisory Board, will now be forwarded to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for final approval later this summer.
“These recommendations reflect our best effort at setting waterfowl season dates and regulations that will put hunters in a position to be successful,” said Dir. Flood. “After reviewing the results of aerial surveys, weather information and surveys of hunter preference, we believe these proposals will help give hunters the most possible days in the field when ducks and geese are there.”
Illinois set duck season dates in the North and Central zones for a five-year period beginning in 2006.
“Preliminary results of the 2006 Illinois Waterfowl Hunter Survey indicate hunters were satisfied with our decision last year on a five-year plan for setting duck seasons in the North and Central zones,” Flood said. “Duck season dates in the South Zone were to be reevaluated after the 2006 season, and hunter survey results and other key data were helpful in establishing the dates for the upcoming season.”
An analysis of six years worth of South Zone aerial duck survey data and a comparison of three early seasons to three late seasons at Carlyle and Rend lakes was conducted. The analyses showed that the starting date of a 60-day season would provide about the same number of ducks and opportunity for hunters for the next 60-days if the season started on November 10 or November 22. Finally, IDNR reviewed preliminary results from the 2006 South Zone Illinois Waterfowl Hunter Survey, which indicated 60 percent of duck hunters preferred that the South Zone duck season begin November 22. Only 37 percent preferred November 10 or earlier. The first firearm deer season weekend of November 17-19 was not listed as an option due to strong preferences from hunters in past years to avoid this conflict.
Based on a new Canada goose harvest management strategy the IDNR implemented a year early last year, the use of a goose harvest quota system has been eliminated. Other states in the MVP Canada goose range including Wisconsin, Michigan and Kentucky will begin the “no-quota” five-year experiment this season.
“Goose hunters in the state were pleased with the elimination of the goose quota and an assurance that goose seasons would not close early,” Flood said.
Last March, IDNR received tentative approval from other Mississippi Flyway states to increase the Canada goose season from 79 days in the North and Central zones to 85 days and from 57 days in the South Zone to 66 days for the next five years. These increased opportunities will be further enhanced by the prospects of a good hatch of MVP Canada geese this summer. Late May aerial surveys found 402,640 breeding MVP Canada geese, the highest level since 1999. Indications of an early spring suggest better reproduction on the breeding grounds. A higher percentage of young geese in the flock often indicates better hunting. Production of local giant Canada geese is expected to be normal again in Illinois.
MVP Canada geese comprise about 40 percent of the Illinois harvest during the regular waterfowl season. Giant Canada geese comprise about 54 percent (less than half of those from Illinois, with the remainder from other Mississippi Flyway states and provinces). Eastern Prairie Population Canada geese (Manitoba) comprise 5 percent of the Illinois harvest.
Duck hunting prospects are also very good this year. The recent May pond and duck breeding population surveys in north-central U.S. and Canada indicated a total duck population estimate of 41.2 million birds, which is 14 percent greater than last year and 24 percent above the long term average.
Season length is based primarily on May ponds in Canada and mallard breeding populations in the U.S. and Canada combined. May ponds in Canada (five million) were at the fourth highest level since 1955, and 49 percent above the long term average. Mallard breeding populations on the traditional surveyed area (eight million; 24 percent above long term average) plus the Great Lakes states totaled 8.75 million, which is 11 percent above last year. These conditions make it extremely likely that a 60-day duck season will be offered for the 11th year in a row.
Total May ponds in the U.S. and Canada combined was seven million, 15 percent greater than last year and 44 percent higher than the long term average. An abundance of shovelers, redheads, and canvasbacks were the highest ever estimated in this survey area, and the abundance of green-winged teal was the second highest for this region. Blue-winged teal were at their third highest level. The last time blue-wing numbers approached seven million, Illinois hunter harvest during the September season rose from 21,270 in 1998 to 55,199 in 1999. Wigeon and gadwall numbers were at their highest level in the last nine and 10 years, respectively. Estimates for pintails and scaup were unchanged from 2006, with wigeon 19 percent below and scaup 33 percent below long-term averages.
During the 2006-07 waterfowl season, both duck and goose hunters enjoyed excellent hunting success in Illinois. Preliminary results of the 2006 Illinois Waterfowl Hunter Survey indicate that 50,437 duck hunters harvested 507,464 ducks, the third highest total since 1981. The mallard harvest of 308,000 was the second highest recorded.
An estimated 41,521 Canada goose hunters shot 122,294 geese last season, which is second only to 2000 when 128,387 were taken. White-fronted geese (specklebellies or specs) were unusually abundant in the Central Zone last January and a record harvest of 4,648 white-fronts was taken statewide, compared to the old record of 2,831. For the first time ever, Central Zone hunters shot more specs (2,348) than south zone hunters (2,042). North Zone hunters took just 166. This year, the Central Zone white-front season has been shortened to allow hunters in that zone to take two white-fronted geese per day, but the season does not start until the day before Thanksgiving. Aerial survey data indicates that there are no appreciable numbers of white-fronts in the Central Zone until about Thanksgiving and populations peaked in January in past seasons.
The Illinois recommendations sent to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 2007-08 waterfowl hunting seasons are outlined below. Final approval is expected after the August 1-2 Service Regulations Committee meeting.
60-day Season and 6 Duck Daily Bag Limit
North and Central Start on Saturday and end on Tuesday
South Starts on Thanksgiving Day and ends on Sunday
North October 20 - December 18
Central October 27 - December 25
South November 22 - January 20
85-day Season in North and Central Zones and 66-day Season in South Zone
2 Goose Daily Bag Limit
North & Central Start on Saturday
South Starts on Thanksgiving Day
Zone Season Dates
North October 20 - January 12 (Sat.)
Central October 27 - November 8 (Thu.) and November 21 (Wed. after deer season) - January 31(Thu.)
South November 22 - November 25 (Sun.) and December 1 (Sat.) - January 31 (Thu.)
North Regular Season: Oct. 20 - Jan. 12 (85 days)
Conservation Order: Jan. 13 - Mar. 31 (79 days)
Central Regular Season: Oct. 27 - Jan. 31 (97 days)
Conservation Order: Feb. 1 - Mar. 31 (60 days)
South Regular Season: Nov. 22 - Jan. 31 (71 days)
Conservation Order: Feb. 1 - Mar. 31 (60 days)
North Nov. 2 - Jan. 12 (72 days)
Central Nov. 21 - Jan. 31 (72 days)
South Nov. 22 - Jan. 31 (71 days)
YOUTH HUNT DATES
Zone Season (all Sat. and Sun.)
North Oct. 13-14
Central Oct. 20-21
South Nov. 10-11
Illinois is also recommending September Canada goose and teal hunting seasons as outlined below:
2007 SEPTEMBER WATERFOWL SEASON PROPOSAL
Species Season Dates Duration Bag Limit Possession
Teal Sept. 8-23 16 days 4 8
Canada Goose Sept. 1-15 15 days 5 - Northeast
2 - Remainder of State 10- Northeast
4 - Remainder of State
For more detailed information on the proposed Illinois waterfowl season hunting dates and regulations for 2007-08, check the IDNR web site at http://dnr.state.il.us. Click on the “Proposed 2007-08 Waterfowl Hunting Seasons” link on the home page.