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By CONNOR ASHLOCK
Hunters are calling their buddies and getting their gear ready for another season of occasionally aiming too high and hoping to reach the bag limit before that thermos full of coffee works its early morning magic. That’s right — hunting season is in full swing in central Illinois for game such as ducks, and according to Randy Smith, wetland wildlife program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, this year might be a promising one for hunters.
“I’m cautiously optimistic about this season based on habitat conditions,” Smith said. Smith highlighted that there are several factors to consider, including continental population, local habitat conditions, weather and hunting pressure.
“Many of the ducks we see in Illinois are produced in the states and provinces of the Prairie Pothole Region, primarily Saskatchewan and Manitoba,” Smith explained, “In general, duck populations are high — doing well, and we have fairly liberal regulations to take advantage of these populations.”
Although, COVID has put a pause on many things and hasn’t gone without affecting hunters as well. Smith further shared that habitat conditions in many areas throughout Illinois are better than they have been for the first time in years.
“This is important to attract and hold ducks locally, and we know that hunter success increases when the local population of ducks increases,” Smith noted. “Of course, there is nothing we can do about the weather. Flooding or an early freeze could reduce habitat available to ducks, or push many ducks out of the area early in the season.