Pathetic Public Land Wild Bird Hunting in IL

I think we all know how pathetic the public land hunting is for upland bird hunters in IL, but I never knew how truly bad it was. I was looking around on the IL DNR website and I see they publish an annual report of hunter trips and harvest on the 215 IL DNR managed hunting sites:

https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/Documents/IllinoisPublicHuntingAreasReport.2015.2016.pdf

Some take away numbers:

372,842 acres open for public hunting (hunted acres out of 477,000 total)
60,597 hunted acres on controlled pheasant hunting land (by my quick count)
_________
312,245 acres net of controlled hunting areas


29,968 total IL DNR land pheasant harvest
28,655 pheasants harvested on controlled pheasant areas (released birds)
__________
1,313 wild pheasants taken on public land


660 total quail harvest on public land (yes SIX HUNDRED sixty - not a typo)


So that is 1,973wild upland birds taken from 312,245 acres - 1 bird for every 158 acres managed by DNR. I almost can't believe these numbers they are so sad, but they are right there in black and white published by the ILDNR.

Has the upland bird hunter been completely forgotten by IL DNR? :mad:
 
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Hockeybob

Member
Trax,

It is sad isn't it. The IDNR has completely forgotten about the upland hunter. Years ago the emphasis went to Deer and Turkey. I hunt released birds now and do enjoy it as its all I got here. I long for the days where we chased wild birds all day down in Livingston county. I did get a public land date in December to one of the Pheasant areas. It's down by Bloomington - Normal. It's 80 acres, can't believe it's any good but if your interested let me know I can take 3 guests.

Bob
 

jphunter

New member
Yep utterly disappointing!:mad: What's even more sad is that the upland hunter is "allowed" one permit per year to hunt the managed properties. I spend my money elsewhere.
 

UplandHntr

Active member
Luckily being right at the WI state line Im not far from some ok upland areas and have a place in N WI to retreat to. IL is truly a screwed up state with no turnaround in site. I do hunt COL as its a mile down the road. I suspect my new springer will be catching the chickens there this year. Shes a rocket and those birds arent the brightest
 

whatsnext

New member
It is very sad indeed, that is why I make a couple trips to Iowa for weekend hunts and a few 3 to 4 day hunts in Kansas. Hopefully one day I will be able to move to a more bird dog friendly state, because we all know you cant make a bird dog if there are no bird's.
 

gforcetrivers

New member
Indy chirping in

I will volunteer myself and my Pudelpointer PACKER if you need two more boots and a good dog on the ground! Rivalry aside!
 

odenney

New member
The big money is in big game, as long as the deer, elk and turkey hunters shell out the big money then the states will cotton to them. I am a firm believer that small game hunting is the foundation of all hunting, It costs thousands of dollars to get a deer hunt in run by outfitters, because most of the shooters (not hunters) all want bragging rights on the big buck.
 
The big money is in big game, as long as the deer, elk and turkey hunters shell out the big money then the states will cotton to them. I am a firm believer that small game hunting is the foundation of all hunting, It costs thousands of dollars to get a deer hunt in run by outfitters, because most of the shooters (not hunters) all want bragging rights on the big buck.

Yes DNR has to cater to the demand from the hunters, but we have a real chicken and egg problem here: There are < 25,000 upland bird hunters in IL per IL DNR. When harvest of upland birds was over a million birds I bet they sold a lot more licenses. Today it is under 100,000 total harvest of quail and pheasants.

I would sure like to see someone like PF put together a plan that we can all lobby our state reps for. I don't have the answers, but I would like to see the habitat stamp raised to $10. I would even be in favor of a $10 upland bird stamp like WI has a pheasant stamp - provided they have to spend the money on upland habitat. My guess is those 25,000 are diehards and the extra $10 wont phase them. The roadside mowing issue with IDOT seems like a no brainer if we had some people pushing for it?

We are never going back to the good old days. I just don't want to see the day when wild birds are only a memory in this state, and game farms are all we have left. Unless something changes drastically we are a generation or two away from it.
 

George

Member
When I was younger my father took me a few years in a row to a farm he hunted in Livingston county. To this day that's the most wild pheasants I've seen in this state. It doesn't help when close to 90 percent of the land in the state is privately owned, or that fact that farms disc all their crops. This state caters to deer hunters and waterfowl hunters. What you need is farmers working in partnership with pheasants forever so they can farm but still leave some grassland for wildlife.
 

petrey10

New member
Guys it's not all a DNR issue... It's multle things... It's the ag industry .... It's the state budget.... It's Chicago...

I'm very fortunate bc last year our group shot 72 wild Illinois roosters. The bird numbers are decent in good cover but you got to invest in that good cover.

I keep telling pf in my area if you want a quick increase in habitat then do two things... First no roadside mowing of more than 6' till July 31... Two make all 120' drainage district soil erosion set aside not mowable and give incentive for WIHA. THAT IS LITERALLY MILES AND MILES OF GOOD HABITAT.

but there has been a huge jump in crp acres already. Now the problem is they are hitting the national crp cap set by the 2014 farm bill. You need to let your legislation know you want that raised. Use your voice. If we band together it will be heard.
 

Prairie Drifter

Active member
I think we all know how pathetic the public land hunting is for upland bird hunters in IL, but I never knew how truly bad it was. I was looking around on the IL DNR website and I see they publish an annual report of hunter trips and harvest on the 215 IL DNR managed hunting sites:

https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/Documents/IllinoisPublicHuntingAreasReport.2015.2016.pdf

Some take away numbers:

372,842 acres open for public hunting (hunted acres out of 477,000 total)
60,597 hunted acres on controlled pheasant hunting land (by my quick count)
_________
312,245 acres net of controlled hunting areas


29,968 total IL DNR land pheasant harvest
28,655 pheasants harvested on controlled pheasant areas (released birds)
__________
1,313 wild pheasants taken on public land


660 total quail harvest on public land (yes SIX HUNDRED sixty - not a typo)


So that is 1,973wild upland birds taken from 312,245 acres - 1 bird for every 158 acres managed by DNR. I almost can't believe these numbers they are so sad, but they are right there in black and white published by the ILDNR.

Has the upland bird hunter been completely forgotten by IL DNR? :mad:
Great numbers Trax! IF you'll allow me to try to give a Kansas answer to an Illinois question while working blind, I'd give it a try. I don't know the situation in Illinois, but in Kansas on my area what gets done is directly proportional to budget and manpower. Mix in work load and you have the basic framework. In Kansas, there is an average of 7,000 acres to be managed by each public land employee. I'm one of the lucky ones to be below that number where my area is 4,685 acres, BUT, I have a 144 acre fishing lake within those acres that in the busiest years will attract 90,000 man-days of visitation. Acres cost money and visitors cost money. Now, for perspective, when I moved here 24 years ago, my budget was $10,432 TOTAL. I had no money to hire help and limited equipment to do the work. If you understand that there are 11 marshes, over a dozen ponds, over 2 miles of canals, 3 miles of dams, 11 buildings, 3 toilets, 8 miles of roads, 1 shelterhouse, 6 rock jetties, 2 boat ramps, 2 boat docks, 50 miles of fence, 3 information shelters, 2 tractors, vehicles, equipment, etc to maintain with those $ and 1 full-time employee. Add to that the fact that this area, like most public areas in Kansas, is centered on a riparian corridor where you have a high level of hydrology that tends to accelerate plant succession, and controlling that trend is a major focus. The mistake many managers make is that they try to manage their area for things that it might not be best at producing. A manager can waste a lot of $ and time trying to get what isn't easy to get. Also, if you go through several managers in quick succession, the area tends to be "lost" in their learning curve. Back to focus: now, 24 years later, my budget for the wildlife area is $28,000 and for the lake $15,000. To put that in perspective, I have a tornado siren at the lake that alone cost $15,000. I didn't want it as maintaining a piece of equipment that's value equals my budget will result in it's passing down the road or other projects being put off in order to maintain it. Anyway, I could get lost in the magnitude of this talk, but you should be getting the idea that it is a mountain of a job with a mole hill of a budget and workforce that we work with. Consider burning goals of 1000 acres, 50 acres of food plots, noxious weed spraying for 4-6 different species, woody encroachment control (cedars, dogwood, locust, elm, Russian Olive), disturbance disking in the marshes, millet seeding wetlands, fire break working, and the list goes on.

So, what to do. Talk to your manager and see if several of you together could make a grass-roots effort and start projects that would significantly increase the area's ability to produce birds. Where fire is so much more effective than a chainsaw, maybe that could be a focus. Helping to spray woody invasion might be another option. Disturbance disking could be another. Tree girdling another. Just taking care of the trash pickup or parking lot mowing could free him or her up to do more habitat work. Anyone can fix fence, clean fire rings, clean toilets, paint buildings....... So much has to wait because of more important projects, if you adopt something, the manager will be free to do more with their time. Just my 2 cents!
 
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Crossing shot

New member
I wish we could do a do-over. There were many abandoned railroad tracts that would have eased the fragmentation problem. We mainly hunted abandoned railroad tracks when we were teenagers.

Now I see opportunity from city folks, including me, moving to a few acres in the country.
 
Great numbers Trax! IF you'll allow me to try to give a Kansas answer to an Illinois question..........

I absolutely believe that the IL DNR has a lot of hurdles standing in the way of better upland hunting on its land. I doubt the budgetary figures are better on a per acre basis here. Unfortunately plant succession and lack up funding for habitat work means the habitat gets worse every year in which things are left behind for more pressing issues.
 

Prairie Drifter

Active member
I absolutely believe that the IL DNR has a lot of hurdles standing in the way of better upland hunting on its land. I doubt the budgetary figures are better on a per acre basis here. Unfortunately plant succession and lack up funding for habitat work means the habitat gets worse every year in which things are left behind for more pressing issues.
That's how these areas get out of hand. However, simple, cheap management techniques like prescribed fire can help restore those habitats to a more productive state if too much time hasn't passed. Timing of the burns and selection of humidity and wind can increase that. Simple things like several guys with their thermos full off coffee and chainsaws can open up the canopy of a woodland and initiate basal cover that will again support upland birds. You chip away and soon you have enough space for another covey or flock of pheasants.

We have a problem here with disparity of money available. Some areas have significant ag incomes and manage well into 6 figures. Others are based on sand and narrow riparian corridors and squeak along with 1/6-1/10 the $ per acre. Where budget fails, manpower and ingenuity can conquer. My retriever trial club spent several years having work days to clear out the timber around and above several ponds with chain saws. They found that those trees were the cause of limited hydrology in some of those ponds and removing them allowed the pond to stay full. You can make a difference, it only takes the first step. Find a manager that is receptive on an area with history of producing birds and you should be able to see results in 1-2 years if you put in some time.
 

jphunter

New member
The problem with this is that our Dnr doesnt want the help and has been told not to allow help whether it be monetary or labor. Our state government is in shambles and they are playing their games trying to getvtheir way. Until that stops it wont get any better.:mad:
 
The problem with this is that our Dnr doesnt want the help and has been told not to allow help whether it be monetary or labor. Our state government is in shambles and they are playing their games trying to getvtheir way. Until that stops it wont get any better.:mad:
There is a group helping at Des Plaines. I was told by a now retired worker there not to get involved. The state employees may be worried about their jobs if volunteers do the work IDK.
 

Prairie Drifter

Active member
I guess my input would be that you not bow to innuendo or personal prejudices and contact areas you would like to help yourself and let them say whether that would work for them or not. There are plenty of personal biases that are unfounded when it comes to government and the only way you know is if you make the contact yourself.
 

jphunter

New member
I guess my input would be that you not bow to innuendo or personal prejudices and contact areas you would like to help yourself and let them say whether that would work for them or not. There are plenty of personal biases that are unfounded when it comes to government and the only way you know is if you make the contact yourself.
I have made these contacts with help of several organizations.
 

Prairie Drifter

Active member
I have made these contacts with help of several organizations.
jp, so you know, I was not dising on you. I am saying that every manager is an individual and there is probably one somewhere that has the self-confidence and time in to not be threatened by taking on volunteers. For the most part we all have more plans than we will ever have help or budget to accomplish. If there is a fit, great success can be achieved. I understand government direction etc, but an area has to be managed for what it can do best. To do otherwise will result in higher costs and higher labor needs. I rarely get significant volunteer offers. The Kansas Muzzleloaders do work days here as have the Jayhawk Retriever club and our local archery club. The high school has been doing work days the last 2 years and the help can be great!
 
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