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Illinois waterfowling: Start of duck and Canada goose seasons in north zone set in pandemic protocols

The start of duck and Canada goose seasons in the Illinois’ north zone will be different at public sites with pandemic protocols.

The 2020 opening day for waterfowl hunting on Wolf Lake at William Powers State Recreation Area will be much different, with social-distanced sign-in for blind holders and the stand-by draw and other pandemic protocols, than this scene  was at the 2017 opener.  Credit: Dale Bowman
The 2020 opening day for waterfowl hunting on Wolf Lake at William Powers State Recreation Area will be much different, with social-distanced sign-in for blind holders and the stand-by draw and other pandemic protocols, than this scene was at the 2017 opener.
Dale Bowman

Waterfowl hunters will test the pandemic protocols at Illinois’ public sites when duck and Canada goose seasons open Saturday in the north zone.

I’m going to watch from Heidecke Lake or Wolf Lake, where trout season opens the same day at William Powers State Recreation Area on the Southeast Side.

A significant weather change is scheduled to come ahead of the opener, which may move birds, and there are encouraging signs on waterfowl food around public sites.

‘‘Food resources look to be excellent in many parts of the state this year for the first time in a long time,’’ emailed Randy Smith, the wetland wildlife program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. ‘‘Relatively dry conditions throughout the state and relatively normal spring flood cycle allowed for a lot of good production in many areas, including along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, several of our big reservoirs downstate and the far southern Illinois management areas.

‘‘Barring any extensive flooding or an early freeze, I’m cautiously optimistic about our prospects for this season. That is, of course, somewhat weather-dependent, but we’ve done our part by providing the habitat, and in many recent years that has been an insurmountable hurdle due to a variety of factors.’’

Duck regulations have one significant change: Scaup (bluebills) went from a daily bag of three last year to an odd mix of two a day for 45 days, then one daily for the last 15 days.

Smith noted that not as much is known from population surveys around North America because of the pandemic, but he anticipates populations similar to those of recent years.

The biggest challenge will not be the birds; it will be human interaction. At Wolf, the first sentence of the waterfowl update included this nugget: Waterfowl hunters are ‘‘encouraged to call the site prior to hunting if they have any questions on specific registering procedures.’’

Other key notes at Wolf are that hunters who have blinds still must register in person at the check station and that those who want in the daily draw must register an hour before shooting time and wait for the lottery.

At Heidecke, blinds will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Detailed instructions are at the self-check station. Like others, I will be wondering how first-come, first-served will work.

2020 stays unique and memorable.

Wild things

Apparently, everyone is watching neighborhood squirrels. I’ve never had so many notes on squirrel colors and oddities in 25 years.

Stray cast

I can’t decide if Bob Nightengale and Tony La Russa are like cowbird/bison or pilot fish/shark as a symbiotic relationship.