Ducks, bucks, geese: Tidbits and updates on Illinois hunting

A waterfowl open-house, crossbow usage for deer and notes on three-goose daily bag are among the updates for Illinois hunting.

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File photo of a goose decoy near a pit during Illinois’ north zone Canada goose season; the daily bag in Illinois goes to three geese during this season.

Dale Bowman

Jim Thome?

On bucks, ducks and geese, we’ll lead with the Hall-of-Fame slugger who spent four years with the White Sox. He happened to turn up on another important list.

Bowhunting for deer in Illinois opened on Tuesday. The first of five statewide waterfowl open houses was Monday at Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area in Wilmington. When goose season opens around the zones across the state, the daily bag will increase to three geese in 2019-20, a rare significant change in hunting regulations.

* * *

Scott Bestul came up with ``Best Whitetail States Based on the Record Books’’ for Field & Stream ( He used data from the two main conservation organizations that keep big-game record--Boone & Crockett (general) and Pope & Young (archery)--for a state-by-state breakdown.

He found that Thome, a Peoria native, arrowed the recent top Illinois P&Y score for a typical buck (193 2/8) in Fulton County in 2015. Whitetail buck racks are divided into typical and non-typical. They are measured in inches by adding and subtracting various measurements.


Chicago White Sox’s Jim Thome smiles as he talks to his teammates in the dugout before a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday, Sept. 14, 2007, in Chicago.

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) ORG XMIT: CXS107

The most notable buck in Illinois remains both the P&Y and B&C typical record, the 13-point buck (scoring 204 4/8) the late Mel Johnson arrowed in a Peoria County beanfield on Oct. 29, 1965. It is one of the longest standing records in hunting.

In November, 2018, a bowhunter arrowed a non-typical buck in Edgar County that is both the B&C and P&Y record (327 7/8).

Bestul found that since 2013 Ogle County is Illinois’ top B&C county with four bucks for the books. He also wrote that ``five counties (Clark, Fulton, Jefferson, McHenry, and Mercer) have produced three non-typicals each since 2013.’’

* * *

Like most who value the outdoors, I’m fascinated by climate and weather.

On Monday, the big chart of freeze-up dates across Illinois struck me. I noticed the gradient of freeze-up in the northern Illinois is broad, Dec. 4-8; while southern Illinois has a steep gradient, Dec. 8 to Jan. 19. That may explain the greater displeasure by waterfowlers in the central, south-central and south zones on zone lines and hunting dates.

There are a couple proposals beginning with options for alter zones lines in the central part of the state.


Randy Smith, wetland wildlife program manager for Illinois, explains some options in the proposals for a central waterfowl zone line change at a waterfowl open house Monday at Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area.

Dale Bowman

Under one proposal, the eastern part of the central would probably lose some early-season wood-duck harvest with the hopes of gaining some late-season mallard harvest.

Mallards are the No. 1 harvested duck in Illinois. In an interesting aside, Randy Smith, Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ wetland wildlife program manager, said that the next three top spots are some mix of gadwall, teal or wood duck.

Another duck hunter plied Smith with a good question, ``Where is the killingest place in northern Illinois?’’

Smith pondered, then suggested, ``Braidwood Lake or Mississippi River [specifically Pool 13].’’

Because of our wet spring/summer, food at public sites along the Illinois River had been dicey but Smith had thought a month ago that it would be generally OK. Then came the severe weather last weekend with long-term flooding expected along the river.

``Not good’’ is how Smith described food prospects now.

Other waterfowl open houses are Tuesday in Carterville, Wednesday in Edwardsville and Thursday in Springfield.

* * *

As to the increase in the daily bag for Canada geese to three, Smith emailed this summer that the last time in 2000-01, ``The first goose in the bag made up 50.6 percent of the harvest, the second goose 32 percent and the third goose 17.4 percent. This is from quota zones in the north, central and south zones.’’

He also noted that Wisconsin went to a three-goose daily bag last season and did not see a big increase in total harvest.

* * *

Wildlife biologist Bob Massey was at the waterfowl open house and said that bowhunters should know that collection barrels for testing deer for chronic wasting disease (CWD) were put out last week at the major public sites near or in affected counties.

``The more samples we get, the better data we get and the less we have to use sharpshooters [to help with data collection],’’ he said.

Word to the wise.


* * *

I became a bowhunter after former Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the law allowing general use of crossbows in archery seasons in 2017. I am fascinated by what that change means.

Paul Shelton, wildlife program section manager for the IDNR, noted that from the 2017-18 to ‘18-19 season, harvest by crossbow increased significantly. Compound bows accounted for 68.7 percent of archery harvest in ‘17-18; that dropped to 59.1 the following season. Meanwhile, harvest by crossbow rose from 30.2 to 39.7.

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