Illinois Hunting Report: Big day for small game

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Opening day for the upland game seasons and near-record slow crop harvest leads this week’s Illinois Hunting Report.


Three of my favorite hunting companions–Dakota, Dixie and Kyle Kirchhoefer–worked a strip of cover on opening day last year.

John Buhnerkempe, chief of division of wildlife resources, expects a similar season to last for upland hunters in Illinois:

We don’t expect the season to be all that different than last year. Look for good habitat and you will probably find birds. . . . Hopefully the weather this week will be conductive for the farmers [harvesting crops]. The opener may be slow [because of crops in the field], but I don’t expect much of a change overall from last year.

As to the crops, corn is only 19 percent harvested through Sunday (compared to the average of 86 percent) and beans 35 percent harvested, compared to an average of 92. In northeast Illinois, virtually no corn is harvested (only three percent through Sunday–I think I misread it slightly higher last week).

One farm worker said many farmers are beginning to talk about a holiday harvest, and some of them meant Christmas, not Thanksgiving. Things do look that far behind in northeast Illinois.

During the hunting seasons, the extended online version of the IHR, which comes at the end of the Midwest Fishing Report in the Sun-Times on Wednesdays, is usually posted here on Tuesdays.

If you have suggestions, email me at or post in the comments.

We begin with upland game opening on Saturday, may they line up in cover as good as this year on opening day..



Seasons open Saturday. Daily bag for cock pheasant is two, for gray partridge is two and bobwhite quail, eight.

For the complete pheasant hunting prospects, go to

Here’s a recap of pheasant hunting last season:

An estimated 29,016 hunters harvested 103,399 pheasants. The number of hunters afield was 19.3% lower than last year. Harvest was about the same as last year (up 0.6%). Daily harvest per hunter [.73 pheasants] was up 25.9%. That means that even though fewer people hunted pheasants last season, those that did were much more successful.

And a capsule of counts:

IDNR staff conducted 54 spring pheasant audio counts in May. Observers heard calls in 2009 (37% below the five year average). The largest declines were recorded southern part of the pheasant range. Conversely, observers conducting the North American Breeding Bird Survey more pheasants than in 2008. The change was not statistically significant.

For the complete quail hunting prospects, go to

Here’s a recap of quail hunting last year:

An estimated 21,962 hunters harvested 151,170 quail. The number of quail hunters afield was 10.8% lower than last year. Even though hunters spent more time in the field last year, they harvested 19.9% fewer birds than in the previous season.

And the counts:

IDNR biologists surveyed 53 routes in 2009 for whistling bobwhites. Observers recorded an average of 7.33 calls per stop, virtually the same as last year’s average.

As to gray partridge, if somebody actually shoots one, I would like some details. Some birding friends of mine are trying to identify any wild ones still around. And I not talking about escapees on the outskirts of hunting clubs, but wild partridge. If you have a story like that, please contact me at


Rabbit hunting in Illinois continues its dramatic slide: Harvest last season dropped 36.7 percent from 2007-08 to only 154,216 rabbits by only 40,077 hunters (down 18.3 percent). And it is not the fault of rabbits.

I just find that sad. Rabbit hunting is such an easy entry point for young hunters and I feel like we are squandering those opportunities.

Season opens Saturday. Daily bag is four.

For the complete rabbit hunting prospects, go to

Here is a recap of rabbit hunting last year:

An estimated 40,077 hunters harvested 154,216 rabbits. The number of hunters afield, daily harvest rate, and number of days afield were all much lower than the 2007-08 season.

And a capsule of counts:

The best available index of the fall cottontail population trends is the June-July road-kill index. The southern Illinois index decreased by 19.5% and the northern Illinois rabbit index increased 35% from the previous year. Even though numbers are up in northern Illinois, there are still more rabbits in southern Illinois where this year’s index was still 28% higher.


The rut is here. As Paul Shelton noted in his weekly report on bowhunting:

Harvest sex ratios continued to shift this week, with buck harvest exceeding doe harvest for the first time. Sex ratios for the week were 47.7% does to 52.3% bucks. Overall sex ratios to date are 63.2% does: 36.8% bucks.

Shelton also sent indication that, despite the lousy weather, bowhunters in Illinois are just off the record pace:

Preliminary archery deer harvest totals through Sunday, November 1 stand at 27676, compared to previous year totals of 24737 (2008), 24168 (2007), 27949 (2006), and 29330 (2005). Continuing rains during the week depressed harvest until the weekend – as a result, daily harvest rates during the period Monday-Friday were only 473 deer/day, down significantly from the average weekday harvest of 791 deer/day during the same period in the previous four years. Top 5 counties are Pike (1440), Fulton (753), Jefferson (677), Peoria (637), and LaSalle (596).

Illinois firearm and muzzleloader-only deer permits that have not yet been issued to hunters can be purchased over-the-counter for the first time this year. For a list of DNR Direct license and permits agents, go to

With all the deer being harvested, this is a good time for a reminder to participate in the Illinois Sportsmen Against Hunger program. To find a list of processors and more information go to

Firearm deer season is Nov. 21-23 and Dec. 4-7. Muzzleloader-only season is Dec. 11-13.


Illinois State Police and Department of Natural Resources Offer Open Range Program November 14 Hunters given an opportunity to sight-in shotguns before deer hunting season SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois State Police (ISP) announced today its firing ranges will be open on November 14 to hunters for sighting in and test-firing their shotguns in a safe environment for the upcoming deer hunting season. Firing ranges in Joliet, Pontiac, Pawnee, Effingham, Pecatonica, and LaSalle will be available to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Illinois State Police, in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources, will again offer the Open Range Program to hunters to sight-in their shotguns before the upcoming hunting season, said ISP Director Jonathon Monken. This annual program provides firearm experts from the State Police and Natural Resources with an opportunity to promote hunting safety by ensuring the safe and appropriate use of shotguns. The Open Range Program is another great way for hunters to hone their skills and practice safety by making sure their firearm is in proper working order and sighted accurately. We’re happy to partner with the Illinois State Police on such a worthwhile program for our hunters, said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller. The public is asked to call one of the ranges listed below before the scheduled date to make a reservation. Targets will be provided, and there is no charge for use of the range. Participants must possess a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card and transport the firearm legally by having it unloaded and enclosed in a case. District City Telephone Contact District 5Joliet815.726.6377 Ext. 206 Sergeant Chris Garibay District 6 Pontiac 815.844.1500 Trooper David Diller District 9Pawnee217.786.6278 Trooper Rich Mahan District 12 Effingham217.347.2761 M/Sergeant Kelley Hulsey District 16Pecatonica815.239.1152 Ext. 242 M/Sergeant Lisa Ditzler District 17 LaSalle815.224.1171 Ext. 117 Sergeant Bob Cessna


If you have an entry for Buck of the Week, e-mail the photo and story to The stories and photos run in the outdoors page of the Sun-Times on Wednesday, and the expanded online version is usually posted here on Tuesday.


Second season opens Saturday and runs through Nov. 15.


Remember the daily bag is now six ducks not to include more than four mallards (two of which can be hens), three wood ducks, two redheads, two scaup (entire 60 days this year), one canvasback (full 60-day season), one black duck and one pintail (full 60-day season).

The daily bag on Canada geese is two.

The DU Migration Map is posted at


With winds behind the front, Saturday was a solid day, even at the public sites. Heidecke Lake reported 29 hunters took 33 ducks, including a mix of redheads, buffleheads, blue-wing teal, mallards and shovelers. That slowed to 20 hunters taking six ducks on Sunday. Even hunters at William Powers had a solid Saturday with 11 hunters bagging 11 ducks, by Sunday it dropped to eight hunters taking two geese and four ducks.

Duck season runs through Dec. 15. The Canada goose season runs through Jan. 9. White-fronted goose hunting is open.


Braidwood had a solid opening weekend with 98 hunters taking 126 ducks and six geese. Even Mazonia and Mazonia South had a decent opening weekend with 149 hunters taking 59 ducks and 12 geese.

Duck season runs through Dec. 29. The Canada goose season is an odd split: the first through Nov. 15; the second, Nov. 24-Jan. 31. White-fronted geese do not open until Nov. 21.


The 60-day duck season opens Nov. 14. The split 66-day Canada goose season is Nov. 14-15 and Nov. 29-Jan. 31.


Season runs through Feb. 28.


Time to apply for resident hunters to apply for spring turkey permits is now. The deadline for the first lottery is Dec. 1. Best is to go online through

When I get numbers for fall shotgun turkey hunting, I will post them.

Bowhunting is open through Jan. 17, except it is closed during the firearm deer seasons in those counties open to firearm deer hunting.


Open to Sora and Virginia only. Season runs through Nov. 13


Runs through Nov. 30.


Season runs through Dec. 20


Season ends Feb. 15, except it is closed during firearm deer seasons in applicable counties (Nov. 21-23 and Dec. 4-7). Squirrel hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. The daily limit is five squirrels with a possession limit of 10.


Hunting season ends March 31, except it is closed during firearm deer seasons in applicable counties.


Hunting in the north zone for raccoon and opossum opens Thursday. Hunting in the south zone for raccoon and opossum opens Tuesday.


Trapping in the north zone opens Thursday for muskrat, mink, raccoon, opossum, striped skunk, weasel, coyote, badger, red and gray fox, and beaver.

Trapping in the south zone opens next Tuesday for muskrat, mink, raccoon, opossum, striped skunk, weasel, coyote, badger, red and gray fox, and beaver.


For IDNR hunting info, click here.

For the Illinois 2009-10 Digest of Hunting & Trapping Regulations, click here.

For the 2009-10 Digest of Waterfowl Hunting Regulations, click here.

For the 2008-09 Illinois Public Hunting Areas Report, click here.

For Illinois crop reports (generally posted Monday afternoons, holiday weekends are the exceptions), click here.

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