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Opening day: Dove hunting at Illinois’ public sites will be different with pandemic, but there’s hope

With the pandemic, procedures will be much different at Illinois’ public sites when dove hunting opens Tuesday.

Anyone who drew a permit for dove hunting on public sites in Illinois will recognize the difference with procedures. Credit: Dale Bowman
Anyone who drew a permit for dove hunting on public sites in Illinois will recognize the difference with procedures.
Dale Bowman

A very different dove season comes to Illinois’ public sites.

Dove hunting opens Tuesday, as usual on Sept. 1. That’s the only usual thing. At least there will be hunting at public sites (with strict protocols).

There will be no daily draws and no standbys. Hunting the first five days is by assignment for those who received a permit. Permit-holders should have received a letter with a field/stake assignment and other information. My letter arrived Monday. Click here for the breakdown of the protocols.

Throw in one more curve.

Last week, a reader emailed, “Is there any talk about suspending the non-toxic ammo requirement for dove season in state controlled areas this year? No one seems to have the right steel shot in stock.”

I had no idea. I have plenty of No. 7 non-toxic shot left. But he was right. I found a couple boxes at one box store, otherwise empty shelves.

“Although we sympathize with hunters that may experience difficulty locating non-toxic shot this year, we cannot remove the non-toxic requirements from our state sites,” explained Mike Wefer, chief of wildlife for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “These rules were enacted to protect the wildlife and natural resources on our public lands. The hazards of ingesting lead shot for waterfowl, upland birds and other wildlife are well-known and most hunters support the switch.”

Adjustments come in all forms. With the differences this year, Nate Goetten, site superintendent at Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area, top site in the state, said they would be hunting all six fields so all permit holders will be hunting over sunflowers.

Nearby, Des Plaines SFWA is the consensus pick for good sunflower fields. Click here for the annual ranking of field conditions and prospects, which generally looks good overall.

“Ours are as good as anybody’s,” site super Jeff Wepprecht agreed. “But we ain’t seeing many doves.”

That can change, either way, literally overnight.

“Doves had good recruitment this year, despite early heavy rains,” wildlife biologist Bob Massey messaged. “Last two months have had good conditions, derecho not with standing. . . . Now we just need the doves to cooperate and to avoid really cool nights to push them south.”

It could get interesting. The weekend forecast includes a cold snap.

Details on 2020 season are at

HOF: Congratulations to Mike Conlin, Illinois fisheries chief for 30 of his 38 years with the IDNR (and Department of Conservation), for his selection to the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame.

WILD THINGS: Finally had a ruby-throated hummingbird working the million bells in my wife’s hanging basket. . . . Steve Statland emailed, “Finally saw my first nighthawk [Monday night].” He’s ahead of me.

STRAY CAST: If Mike Mulligan says bump one more time when he means mound on “The Score,” I don’t care if he is a former Sun-Timesman, I’m driving downtown and doing to him what an otter does to a sucker.