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Illinois Waterfowl Hunting Seasons Announced for 2008-2009

USFWS Service Regulations Committee approves Illinois Seasons Proposal:

Approval was received after the USFWS Service Regulations Committee meeting on July 30-31.

The following useful information about hunting in Illinois is from an IDNR press release issued 8/12/08.


Canvasback season will be closed, and the Scaup bag limit has been reduced during 40 days of the 60-day duck season. The wood duck bag limit has been increased from two to three birds daily this year.


Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) recommendations for a 60-day duck hunting season statewide – along with 85-day Canada goose seasons in the North and Central zones and a 66-day Canada goose season in the South Zone – have been approved for the 2008-09 waterfowl season by the Service Regulations Committee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Final approval from the USFWS is expected in September. While approving Illinois ’ proposed waterfowl seasons, the USFWS has decided to close hunting for canvasbacks and allow for an increase in the daily bag limit for wood ducks from two to three birds. Illinois has also selected an option to vary the daily limit for scaup (daily limit of one for 40 days and two for 20 days, as outlined below).


Illinois Duck Seasons for 2008-09

The USFWS is again allowing a 60-day duck season with a daily bag limit of six ducks. This marks the 12th consecutive year in which hunters in Illinois have been offered a 60-day duck season.

The Illinois duck season dates are as follows:

North Zone - Saturday, Oct. 18 - Tuesday, Dec. 16

Central Zone - Saturday, Oct. 25 - Tuesday, Dec. 23

South Zone - Thursday, Nov. 27 - Sunday, Jan. 25

The daily limit of six ducks may include no more than four mallards (two hens), three wood ducks, two redheads, one black duck, and one pintail.

Canvasback season is closed statewide for 2008-09.

The daily limit for scaup in each zone will vary during the season (limit of one for 40 days and two for 20 days) as follows:

North Zone scaup limits – Oct. 18-Nov. 3 and Nov. 24-Dec. 16 – daily limit of one

Nov. 4-Nov. 23 – daily limit of two

Central Zone scaup limits – Oct. 25-Nov. 10 and Dec. 1-Dec. 23 – daily limit of one

Nov. 11-Nov. 30 – daily limit of two

South Zone scaup limits – Nov. 27-Dec. 16 – daily limit of two

Dec. 17-Jan. 25 – daily limit of one

The daily bag limit for mergansers is five, only two of which may be hooded mergansers.

Possession limits are twice the daily bag limits.

The USFWS annual survey of key nesting areas indicated 37.3 million breeding ducks, 9 percent lower than last year’s 41.2 million birds, and 11 percent above the 1955-2007 long-term average. In 2006 there were 32.6 million ducks and in 2005 there were 31.7 million ducks. More details on specific duck species are below:

* Mallards - The mid-continent mallard fall flight forecast is 9.2 million. The fall flight index predicts 1.3 million young mallards will fly south this year compared to two million last year. Young mallards are generally twice as vulnerable to hunting as adults.

* Pintails - The northern pintail population of 2.6 million was 22 percent lower than last year. Pintails remain 36 percent below their long-term average, but the population this year was above the threshold of 2.5 million, again justifying a full season length according to the USFWS interim pintail harvest strategy.

* Canvasbacks - The canvasback population dropped 44 percent from last year’s record population to 489,000 and was 14 percent below the long-term average. Based upon this population estimate, the canvasback harvest strategy does not allow a nationwide canvasback season this year. As a result, the USFWS has closed the season on canvasbacks. Based on the harvest estimate from last year’s seasons, it is clear that harvest alone is not responsible for the drop. Canvasback estimates typically have higher variation than for many other species. Although it is possible that the large change in the population estimate is the result of normal sampling variation, the USFWS has no data to suggest this year's population estimate is not accurate.

* Scaup - Scaup population estimates of 3.74 million increased 8 percent over last year, but are still 27 percent below the long-term average. There is no strong evidence indicating that hunting is the primary cause of scaup declines and many agencies continue to conduct research to understand reasons for the population decline. This year, the USFWS offered the Mississippi Flyway three options which would result in a reduction of scaup harvest. In the Flyway and Illinois , a decision has been made to allow two scaup to be taken daily during 20 consecutive days of the 60-day season. During the remaining 40 days, one scaup will be allowed daily. Illinois seasons were set to allow two scaup daily during the 20 days when past aerial survey data indicated that the most scaup would likely be present in Illinois in each zone.

* Wood Ducks - The USFWS has worked with the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways during the past decade to assess harvest potential of wood ducks in eastern North America . A model-based approach was used to predict population responses to increased harvest. Results indicate that wood ducks can support more harvest pressure and the two eastern Flyways are being allowed to increase the wood duck bag limit from two to three birds daily this year. The USFWS and Flyway Councils will monitor wood duck harvest rates to ensure that bag limits remain in line with the harvest level that the population can support.

The preliminary 2007-08 Illinois duck harvest estimate of 464,366 was 8 percent lower than in 2006 (507,464) and was the sixth highest harvest since state estimates began in 1981. The harvest was 33 percent above the long term average (348,654). The North Zone harvested an estimated 81,338 ducks, while the Central took 224,200 and the South took 153,404 last year. Preliminary mallard harvest was 265,369, the sixth highest since 1981. According to federal estimates, Illinois hunters took more scaup (14,416) than any other state in the Mississippi Flyway last season. Harvest of teal during the 2007 September season was 29,800 compared to 28,016 in 2006.

The quality of habitat for breeding waterfowl in the U.S. and Canada was not as good as last year due to drought in parts of the traditional surveyed area. The estimate of May ponds for the northern U.S. and Prairie Canada was 4.4 million, which is 37 percent less than last year and 10 percent below the long term average. In Prairie Canada , there were 3.1 million ponds compared to 5 million last year. Green-winged teal are the third most harvested duck in Illinois after mallards and gadwalls. Green-winged teal populations again increased to the second highest level since 1955. Blue-winged teal were at their fourth highest level recorded. Redheads again reached a record population. Gadwalls decreased 19 percent from last year but were still 56 percent above the long term average. American wigeon populations decreased 11 percent and were 5 percent below the long term average. 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. Many Illinois waterfowl areas along the Illinois River and at Lake Shelbyville and Carlyle Lake had high summer water levels which will likely cause poor duck food production. This could hurt hunting success on these areas this season. Rend Lake water levels have declined, which may result in decent moist-soil production.

September Teal Season for 2008

The statewide 16-day teal season is Sept. 6-21 from sunrise to sunset. The daily bag limit is four teal with a possession limit of eight.

Illinois Goose Seasons for 2008-09

The Canada goose season dates in Illinois are:

North Zone (85 days) – Saturday, Oct. 18 - Saturday, Jan. 10

Central Zone (85 days) – Saturday, Oct. 25 – Sunday, Nov. 9 and Monday, Nov. 24 - Saturday, Jan. 31

South Zone (66 days) – Thursday, Nov. 27 - Saturday, Jan. 31

During the regular Canada goose season in Illinois , the statewide daily bag limit will be two geese with a possession limit of four geese.

Spring was late on the Mississippi Valley Population (MVP) breeding grounds for Canada geese, resulting in poor breeding conditions and low production is expected. Early June aerial surveys found 305,190 breeding MVP Canada geese, down from 2007 and 17 percent below the 1989-2007 average. However, the total spring population estimate (breeding and non-breeding adults) was 626,358, larger than in 2007 (574,383) and about 4 percent above average. This indicates the MVP Canada geese from the last two years of good reproduction will be in the fall flight. Poor nesting conditions in 2008 will result in fewer young of the year in the flight. MVP Canada geese comprise about 51 percent of the Illinois harvest during the regular waterfowl season. Giant Canada geese produced in Illinois (23%), Wisconsin (8%) and Minnesota (8%) and other states and provinces provide 39 percent of the harvest in Illinois . Production of giant Canada geese is in these areas is expected to be normal. A higher percentage of young geese in the flock often indicates better hunting.

The preliminary Canada goose harvest estimate for Illinois during the regular season in 2007-08 of 141,205 was the highest recorded since state records began in 1981. The previous record of 128,387 was set in 2000. In 2007, North Zone hunters took 46,530 geese compared to 70,034 in the Central Zone and 21,163 in the South Zone. During the September 2007 season, hunters took an estimated 16,207 Canada geese in Illinois .

September Canada Goose Season for 2008

The statewide September Canada goose season in all zones will be Sept. 1-15.

During the September season only, Illinois retains a Northeast Illinois Canada Goose Zone that includes Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee , Kendall, Lake , McHenry and Will counties. During the September season only, the daily harvest bag limit for the Northeast Zone is five geese (possession limit is 10). For the first time, Illinois is extending the five-goose daily bag limit for the September season to the North and Central zones (possession limit is 10). The September season daily bag limit is two geese (possession limit of four geese) in the South Zone.

White-fronted Goose Season – 2008-09

North Zone – Friday, Oct. 31 - Saturday, Jan. 10

Central Zone – Friday, Nov. 21 - Saturday, Jan. 31

South Zone – Thursday, Nov. 27 - Saturday, Jan. 31

During the Fall 2007 survey in Saskatchewan and Alberta , biologists counted 764,300 Mid-continent Population white-fronted geese, similar to the previous year. Production is expected to be improved from last year and near average. White-fronted geese were again abundant in the Central Zone last January and another record harvest of 4,882 white-fronts was taken statewide in Illinois , compared to the old record of 4,684 set in 2006. Aerial survey data indicates that white-front populations usually peaked in January in the Central Zone. Since Illinois gets only 72 days to hunt white-fronts, the season in the Central Zone will be open during the last 69 days of Canada goose season. Because of the split Canada goose season, white-fronted goose season will actually be open during three days when Canada goose season is still in the first closed period in the Central Zone.

Snow Goose and Brant Season – 2008-09

North Zone – Saturday, Oct. 18 - Saturday, Jan. 10

Central Zone – Saturday, Oct. 25 - Saturday, Jan. 31

South Zone – Thursday, Nov. 27 - Saturday, Jan. 31

The bag limit is 20 snow geese with no possession limit and one brant in all zones with a possession limit of two.

Conservation Order Snow Goose Season - 2009

North Zone – Sunday, Jan. 11 - Tuesday, March 31

Central Zone – Sunday, Feb. 1 – Tuesday, March 31

South Zone – Sunday, Feb. 1 - Tuesday, March 31

During the Conservation Order snow goose season, there is no bag limit. Hunters may use unplugged shotguns and electronic calls. The legal hunting hours extend to one-half hour after sunset.

During the 2008 Midwinter Survey, biologists counted 2,455,100 light geese (snow, blue and Ross’ geese), 16 percent fewer than in 2007. A normal spring occurred on the high Arctic where snow, Ross' and cackling (were called small Canada geese until recently) geese breed. Production is expected to be average and better than last year. During last year’s regular snow goose season, hunters in Illinois took an estimated 6,700 snow geese. An estimated 52,314 snow geese were harvested during the 2007 Conservation Order snow goose season in Illinois . This represents a 30 percent decrease from the 2006 estimated harvest of 74,268 snow geese. The South Zone accounted for 63 percent of the harvest in the state. Most of the harvest in the state occurred in February.

Illinois Youth Hunt Seasons for 2008

The Youth Waterfowl Hunt seasons for 2008 are listed below for each zone.

(Bag limits are the same as during regular seasons for all species of waterfowl and coots)
North Zone – Saturday, Oct. 11 - Sunday, Oct. 12

Central Zone – Saturday, Oct. 18 - Sunday, Oct. 19

South Zone – Saturday, Nov. 15- Sunday, Nov. 16

Waterfowlers are encouraged to take qualifying young people hunting during the Youth Waterfowl Season. During the 2007 season, an estimated 8,981 youths shot 9,141 ducks, 1,701 geese and 850 coots during the youth hunt weekends.

For more information on Illinois waterfowl seasons, check the 2008-09 Illinois Digest of Waterfowl Hunting Regulations.

All hunters are reminded to register with the federal Harvest Information Program (HIP) prior to heading to the field. The program is designed to produce more accurate federal waterfowl harvest estimates. Hunters should include the free HIP certification when they purchase their hunting license or sportsmen’s combination license. Hunters can also register for HIP online through DNR Direct ( or by phone toll-free at 1-888-6PERMIT (a convenience fee will be charged). Registration each year with HIP is mandatory. will publish updates regarding season dates and regulations whenever they become available.

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