SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Division of Wildlife Resources has proposed waterfowl hunting zone lines and season dates for the 2021–2025 seasons. The five-year proposal will be reviewed by the IDNR Natural Resources Advisory Board (NRAB) at its meeting March 30 in Springfield.
The proposal was generated after reviewing waterfowl abundance based on aerial inventories, average freeze dates, waterfowl hunter harvest data and hunter preferences as measured by multiple years of mailed surveys (Illinois Waterfowl Hunter Survey), meetings with waterfowl hunting constituent groups, five public open house meetings and questionnaires filled out at those open houses, and emailed comments. Information presented at open houses can be viewed on the IDNR website https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/Documents/Waterfowl%20Regulations%20Planning%20Open%20House%20Posters.pdf.
Proposed waterfowl regulations were presented to members of the NRAB and IDNR Director Colleen Callahan at the Board’s January 13 meeting, and the March 30 meeting will provide an opportunity for NRAB members to discuss the proposal and suggest changes or alternatives to the staff proposal. Once final regulations for Illinois waterfowl hunting are determined, they will be presented online and must be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service no later than April 30, 2020.
IDNR Wildlife Resources staff has recommended no changes to existing waterfowl hunting zone lines. Previously proposed changes (Option 1 and Option 2) did not receive strong support.
Among the recommendations:
• Season dates in the proposed regulations are similar to current dates in the North and Central zones, but trend slightly later than dates used during 2016–2020 to match hunter preferences and waterfowl migration.
• South Central Zone dates move a week later in two years but remain similar in other years to avoid opening day conflicting with first weekend of Firearm Deer Season in Illinois.
• South Zone dates have been shifted to either the Saturday following Thanksgiving Day or the Saturday following Thanksgiving weekend to match waterfowl migration and hunter preferences to maximize January hunting days.
• Teal season dates remain similar to 2016–2020 dates, while avoiding opening day falling on Labor Day weekend.
• Canada goose season dates have not changed and will include 15 days in September and reopening with duck season in each zone.
• Later Canada goose seasons were not considered at this time due to ongoing evaluation of the 3-goose daily bag limit and potential impacts to subarctic breeding Canada goose populations which still make up a substantial proportion of Illinois’ goose harvest.
• White-fronted goose season dates will be similar to current dates.
The proposed 2021-2025 waterfowl season dates and a map of waterfowl zone lines can be found on the attached press release.