Waterfowl hunters in Illinois will see a 60-day duck hunting season statewide, along with 86-day Canada goose seasons in the North and Central zones and a 54-day Canada goose season in the South Zone in recommendations forwarded to federal wildlife officials for the 2004-2005 waterfowl season, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Joel Brunsvold said.
Duck season will be Oct. 16-Dec. 14 in the North Zone (roughly the northern one-third of the state) while the goose season will be continuous for 86 days, Oct. 16-Jan. 9. Goose seasons in the Central and Southern zones will be split.
The seasons proposed by Illinois are submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for concurrence. Final rules establishing season dates, bag and possession limits and shooting hours will be published in the Federal Register in late September.
The state Natural Resources Advisory Board approved the recommendations after conducting a series of public meetings in each zone in August. The season dates and bag limits adopted by the board and approved by Director Brunsvold are the same as those proposed by DNR staff, except the dates for the first segment of Canada goose season in the South Zone will be Nov. 13-14.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service again this year is allowing a 60-day duck season with a daily bag limit of six ducks. Federal regulations will allow 30-day seasons for pintail and canvasback ducks. (Duck hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset, except during the September teal season when hours are sunrise to sunset).
The Illinois duck season dates are as follows:
North: Oct. 16-Dec. 14
Central: Oct. 30-Dec. 28
South: Nov. 13-Jan. 11.
The daily limit is six ducks of any species, which may include no more than four mallards (two hens), three scaup, two wood ducks, two redheads and one black duck.
Pintail season dates are as follows (bag limit is one within the total daily limit of six ducks): North, Oct. 16-Nov. 14; Central, Oct. 30-Nov. 28; and South, Nov. 13-Dec. 12.
Canvasback season dates are as follows (bag limit is one within the total daily limit of six ducks): North, Oct. 30-Nov. 28; Central, Nov. 13-Dec. 12; and South, Nov. 27-Dec. 26.
The statewide nine-day teal season is Sept. 11-19 from sunrise to sunset. The daily bag limit is four teal with a possession limit of eight.
PopulationsThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services annual survey of key nesting areas indicated 32.2 million breeding ducks, compared with 36.2 million last year. The mid-continent mallard fall flight forecast is 9.4 million, compared with 10.3 million last year.
The fall flight index predicts 1 million young mallards will fly south this year compared with 1.5 million last year. That is a 50 percent decrease from last year. Concern about scaup populations continues because they remain well below their long-term average population despite a small increase in population from last year.
2003 HarvestsThe preliminary state duck harvest estimate of 486,199 was above the long-term and previous five-year average compared with 349,853 ducks in 2002. This was the fourth-highest duck harvest recorded in Illinois. The estimate of mallards harvested was 285,011 compared with 197,392 in 2002. This was the third-highest mallard harvest recorded in the state.
2004 OutlookThe estimate of May ponds for the north-central U.S. and Prairie Canada combined was 3.9 million. This was 24 percent lower than last year and 19 percent below the long-term average. Fortunately, these areas received heavy rains after the May surveys, and late-nesting ducks and re-nesting ducks should do well. Brood survival should also be enhanced by these additional rains. Mallard production is expected to decrease from last year, but experienced duck hunters know that individual hunter success is much more dependent on the weather during migration and on local water and food conditions at refuges and hunting areas. A lower percentage of young mallards in this years flight should provide more challenging mallard hunting.
Illinois Canada goose season dates (bag limit of 2):
North: Oct. 16-Jan. 9 (86 days)
Central: Oct. 30-Nov. 7 and Nov. 16-Jan. 31 (86 days)
South: Nov. 13-14 and Dec. 11-Jan. 31 (54 days).
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. (Hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset, except in the Southern Illinois Quota Zone where hunting hours end at 3 p.m. from Nov. 13-Jan. 28).
The quotas for the regular Canada goose season are as follows:
Statewide: 74,200 (compared with 126,400 last year).
North Zone: 23,900 (Northern Illinois Quota Zone: 15,300. Non-quota counties: 8,600).
Central Zone: 33,700 (Central Illinois Quota Zone: 17,500. Non-quota counties: 16,200).
South Zone: 16,600 (Southern Illinois Quota Zone: 8,600. Non-quota counties: 8,000).
White-fronted goose season (bag limit is two in all zones): North, Oct. 16-Jan. 9 (86 days); Central, Oct. 30-Nov. 7 and Nov. 16-Jan. 31 (86 days); and South, Nov. 13-Jan. 31 (80 days).
Snow goose and brant season (bag limit 20 snow geese, one brant in all zones): North, Oct. 16-Jan. 9 (86 days); Central, Oct. 30-Jan. 31 (94 days); and South, Nov. 13-Jan. 31 (80 days).
Conservation Order snow goose season (no bag limit): North, Jan. 10-March 31; Central, Feb. 1-March 31; and South, Feb. 1-March 31.
2004 Spring Survey ResultsThe Mississippi Valley Population (MVP) of Canada geese spring population estimate was 726,979, a 27 percent increase from the 2003 estimate of 476,965. The estimated number of nests was 23 percent lower than in 2003, suggesting that a record late spring moved many geese into the non-breeder category because they had to use their energy reserves to survive and did not have enough left to lay eggs. The 2004 breeding population estimate was 276,344 compared with the 2003 estimate of 360,052. As a result, the flyway harvest quota selected by the MVP Committee is 200,000, a 33 percent reduction compared with last year.
2004 Harvest StrategyIllinois DNR received Flyway Council approval for up to an 86-day goose season with a bag limit of up to two geese compared with last years 90-day season with a bag limit of up to two geese. Because Illinois hunters have been harvesting more giant Canada geese than in the past, the statewide harvest quota is higher this year than it would have been given the same flyway quota in past years. The current percentage of the Canada goose harvest in Illinois that is attributed to MVP geese, based on a three-year average of harvest data from 2000-2002, is 38 percent. This figure is down from the 1999-2001 average of 44 percent. Zones that harvest more MVP geese than non-MVP geese saw larger percentage decreases in quotas from last year regardless of their three-year average harvest. The statewide quota for MVP Canada geese is 28,200, while the quota for non-MVP geese is 46,000 for a total statewide Canada goose harvest quota of 74,200 (compared to 126,400 last year).
Harvest Information Program (HIP)Waterfowl hunters are reminded that they are required to register with the Harvest Information Program. This important program is designed to produce more accurate federal harvest estimates, ultimately improving and maximizing hunting opportunity without detriment to the waterfowl resource. Hunters should register by calling 800-WETLAND (800-938-5263) each year or online through the DNR Web site at http://dnr.state.il.us to register with HIP prior to waterfowl hunting in Illinois.