Pheasants Forever recently released their much anticipated 2011 pheasant population forecasts for each state. Along side this report the Illinois DNR has also released their 2011 status reports for both pheasant and quail.
So what can we look forward to here in Illinois this fall and winter? According to the reports hunter numbers were up almost 9% last year with 24,213 hunters making a trip to the field. This increase also lead to a small increase in the harvest of 64,451 pheasants (up 0.2% from last year.) These increases however do not appear to have had much of an impact on the population at large. Survey data shows observers recorded 3.6% more birds per stop this year. However, they only recorded pheasants at 34.7% of their stops which is a 10.6% decrease from last year. The changes from 2010 to 2011 were not statistically significant according to the DNR.
Last winter was the 17th coldest on record and the statewide average rainfall was slightly above normal. Snowfall for December through February totaled over 45 inches especially in the northern parts of the state. Further on into the nesting season Illinois experienced the 2nd wettest June on record. The largest of the rainfall totals occurred in the northern two-thirds of the state.
What’s the bottom line you ask? According to both Pheasants Forever and the IDNR we can expect roughly the same number of pheasants as we saw in 2010. The crop harvest is on schedule so far which might make hunting a little easier than previous years. The best areas are projected to east central and northern Illinois. The highest averaging counties continue to be Ford, Iroquois, Livingston, McLean, Carroll, and Whiteside.
Season dates for Illinois this year are November 5, 2011 through January 8, 2012 in the North zone and January 15, 2012 in the South zone. Hours (sunrise to sunset) and bag limits (2 roosters per day with 6 in possession after the 3rd day) remain unchanged from last year.