Illinois waterfowl season dates and information

Illinois Department of Natural Resources releases 2005-06 dates

Hunters in Illinois now have 60-day duck season, 86-day Canada goose season

SPRINGFIELD—The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has approved a 60-day duck-hunting season statewide, along with 86-day Canada goose seasons in the North and Central zones and a 57-day Canada goose season in the South Zone for the 2005-2006 waterfowl season. The Illinois season dates and bag limits will be forwarded to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for concurrence.

“The decision on these season dates follows a review of scientific data and consideration of the ways in which we can offer hunters as much opportunity as possible this fall and winter,” said IDNR Director Joel Brunsvold. “The recommended waterfowl season dates and limits for Illinois are based on factors including hunter preferences, aerial waterfowl survey data, and weather records of the average freeze up dates in each waterfowl hunting zone in the state.”

The IDNR Natural Resources Advisory Board played a key role in the process, reviewing waterfowl season proposals and considering comments from hunters.

“The advisory board did a great job in trying to find ways to maximize hunter opportunity and satisfaction this fall,” said Brunsvold. “In reviewing the board’s recommendations, we opted to open the South Zone seasons on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24 rather than on Sunday, Nov. 20. Opening the South Zone waterfowl seasons on the last day of our first firearm deer season would present additional challenges for our Conservation Police enforcement efforts. Opening at the start of the holiday weekend should work well for hunters—especially those accompanying youth hunters who will be out of school for Thanksgiving break.”

The adjusted South Zone dates will also allow hunters to take Canada geese through the end of the four-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Hunters are reminded of the requirement to register with Harvest Information Program (HIP). This important program is designed to produce more accurate federal harvest estimates, which will ultimately help maximize hunting opportunity without hurting the waterfowl resource. Hunters may register with HIP online through the IDNR Web site of, or by going to Hunters may also call 1-800-WETLAND (1-800-938-5263) to register with HIP. HIP registration is mandatory.

Duck season

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this year is allowing a 60-day duck season with a daily bag limit of six ducks. This marks the ninth straight year in which hunters in Illinois have been offered a 60-day duck season. Federal regulations will allow pintails to be hunted during the regular 60-day duck season, but canvasbacks can only be hunted during 30 days of this season.

The Illinois duck season dates are as follows:

North—Saturday, Oct. 15-Tuesday, Dec. 13;

Central—Saturday, Oct. 29-Tuesday, Dec. 27; and

South—Thursday, Nov. 24-Sunday, Jan. 22.

The daily limit is six ducks, which may include no more than four mallards (two hens), two scaup, two wood ducks, two redheads, one pintail and one black duck.

The canvasback season dates are as follows (bag limit is one):

North—Saturday, Oct. 29-Sunday, Nov. 27;

Central—Saturday, Nov. 12-Sunday, Dec. 11; and

South—Thursday, Nov. 24-Friday, Dec. 23.

September teal season

The statewide nine-day teal season is Sept. 10-18 from sunrise to sunset. The daily bag limit is four teal with a possession limit of eight.

Duck population information

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service annual survey of key nesting areas indicated 31.7 million breeding ducks, similar to last year’s 32.2 million birds, but 5 percent below the 1955-2004 long-term average.

Mallards—The mid-continent mallard fall flight forecast is 9.3 million, compared with 9.4 million last year. The fall flight index predicts 1.8 million young mallards, compared with 1 million last year. Young mallards are generally more vulnerable to hunting.

Pintails—The pintail population increased 17 percent to 2.6 million compared with 2.2 million last year. Pintails remain below their long-term average, but the significant increase this year brought their population above the threshold of 2.5 million, justifying a full season, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s interim pintail harvest strategy. Illinois’ pintail season will coincide with the 60-day duck season (compared with a 30-day season last year) with a daily bag limit of one.

Canvasbacks—The canvasback population was unchanged from last year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has offered a 30-day canvasback season again this year to start two weeks after duck season and run for 30 days of duck season in the North and Central zones and the first 30 days in the South Zone, coinciding with the typical canvasback migration.

Scaup—Scaup populations decreased to a record low this year and 35 percent below the long-term average. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decreased the bag limit from three to two daily.

The preliminary 2004 state duck harvest estimate of 369,658 was 24 percent lower than 2003 and the previous five-year average, but was still 9 percent above the long-term average of 338,068.

Hunters spent an average of 13 days afield to harvest an average of about seven and a half ducks each last season. The five-year average seasonal duck harvest was nearly 10 ducks per hunter.

For the 2005 duck season outlook, the estimate of May ponds for the north-central U.S. and Prairie Canada combined was 5.4 million, compared with 3.9 million last year, or 37 percent greater than last year and 12 percent higher than the long-term average. The U.S. and Canadian prairies received substantial rain in late May, and during the entire month of June that recharged wetlands and encouraged growth of vegetation. The rain may have benefited late-nesting species and improved re-nesting. Mallard production is expected to increase from last year, but individual hunter success is more dependent on the weather during migration, and on local water and food conditions. A higher percentage of young mallards in this year’s flight should provide better mallard hunting. Good food production in the form of corn, millet and natural vegetation is reported at many public and private waterfowl areas. Flooding these areas by duck season may be problematic if drought conditions persist.

Goose seasons

Canada goose season

The Canada goose season dates (bag limit of two) for the North, Central and South zones in Illinois are as follows:

North—Saturday, Oct. 15-Sunday, Jan. 8;

Central—Saturday, Oct. 29-Sunday, Nov. 6 and Wednesday, Nov. 16-Tuesday, Jan. 31; and

South—Thursday, Nov. 24-Sunday, Nov. 27 and Saturday, Dec. 10-Tuesday, Jan. 31.

In each case, an entire zone would close early if the quota in the quota zone of that region is reached before the scheduled end of the season.

The quotas for the regular Canada goose season are as follows:


North Zone—25,800;

Northern Illinois Quota Zone—16,000;

Non-quota Counties—9,800;

Central Zone—38,900;

Central Illinois Quota Zone—20,600;

Non-quota Counties—18,300;

South Zone—15,900;

Southern Illinois Quota Zone—8,200; and

Non-quota Counties—7,700.

September Canada goose season

The statewide September Canada goose season is Sept. 1-15 with a daily bag limit of five in the Northeast Zone and two in the North, Central and South zones. Possession limits are 10 in the Northeast Zone and four in the remainder of the state.

White-fronted goose season

(Bag limit is one in the North and Central zones and two in the South Zone. By federal rules, zones that are open more than 72 days must reduce the bag limit to one.)

North—Saturday, Oct. 15-Sunday, Jan. 8;

Central—Saturday, Oct. 29-Sunday, Nov. 6 and Wednesday, Nov. 16-Tuesday, Jan. 31; and

South—Thursday, Nov. 24-Tuesday, Jan. 31.

Snow goose and brant season

(Bag limit 20 snow geese, one brant in all zones)

North—Saturday, Oct. 15-Sunday, Jan. 8;


urday, Oct. 29-Tuesday, Jan. 31; and

South—Thursday, Nov. 24-Tuesday, Jan. 31.

If any zone reaches its quota and is closed early to Canada goose hunting, the season for white-fronted geese and snow geese will close with the Canada goose season. The Conservation Order Snow Goose Season would then open the next day in that zone and remain open through March 31.

Conservation order snow goose season

(No bag limit; unplugged shotguns and electronic calls permitted; hunting hours close one-half hour after sunset)

North—Monday, Jan. 9, 2006-Friday, March 31, 2006;

Central—Wednesday, Feb. 1-Friday, March 31; and

South—Wednesday, Feb. 1-Friday, March 31.

Hunters are reminded that regular snow goose (includes snow, blue and Ross’ geese), white-fronted goose and brant seasons will close with the Canada goose season if the quota is reached earlier in the zone. The Conservation Order snow goose season will open the day after Canada goose season ends, if the Canada goose season closes early due to the quota being reached.

Goose population information

The Mississippi Valley Population (MVP) of Canada geese spring population estimate was 539,319, a 26 percent decrease from the 2004 estimate of 726,979. The decrease is likely due to the high breeding propensity this year and low gosling production observed last year leading to a decrease in the number of observed non-breeders.

Last year’s survey was flown late, due to the exceptionally late spring, and presence of molt migrant giant Canada geese likely inflated the spring population size. This year, molt migrants were not on the breeding grounds during the survey, so they had little impact on survey results.

The breeding population of 344,907 was up 25 percent from 2004, suggesting that the very early spring moved many geese into the breeder category. Nesting conditions were favorable, and it should be a good production year for MVP geese. The flyway harvest quota selected by the MVP Committee is 200,000, the same as last year.

Illinois received Flyway Council approval for up to an 86-day goose season with a bag limit of up to two geese, which is the same as last year. Because Illinois hunters have been harvesting more giant Canada geese than in the past, the statewide harvest quota is 6,400 higher this year even though the MVP quota did not increase. The current percentage of the Canada goose harvest in Illinois that is attributed to MVP geese (based on a three-year average) is 35 percent, down from the previous three-year average of 38 percent. Zones that harvest more giant Canada geese than MVP geese saw larger increases in quotas from last year. The statewide quota for MVP Canada geese is again 28,200, while the quota for non-MVP geese is 52,400, for a total statewide Canada goose harvest quota of 80,600 compared to 74,200 last year.

Youth hunt

The Youth Waterfowl Hunt days for 2005 are listed below for each zone.

(Bag limits the same as during regular seasons—including canvasbacks—except no white-fronted geese may be taken in the North and Central zones)

North—Saturday, Oct. 8 – Sunday, Oct. 9;

Central—Saturday, Oct. 22 – Sunday, Oct. 23; and

South—Saturday, Nov. 12 – Sunday, Nov. 13.

The average age of the Illinois duck and goose hunter is getting older because few new young hunters are being recruited. Hunters are encouraged to take a qualifying young person hunting during the Youth Hunt as well as during the regular waterfowl seasons.

From the Sept. 21-27, 2005, issue

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