Jeff Lampe's outdoors column
Will they stay or will they go?
Every year brings the same question heading toward Sept. 1 as nervous dove hunters ponder the proclivities of their flighty prey.
Talk has been particularly animated lately, what with north winds and a forecast calling for evening temperatures in the 50s.
So far there are scattered reports of doves leaving private fields they had been frequenting earlier this week. Reports are also mixed from public sites, though overall there's no indication mourning doves left central Illinois en masse.
Dove numbers looked good at Banner Marsh and Double T on Thursday according to site staff. Squirrel hunters also spotted impressive flocks at Mackinaw River on Thursday morning. At Green River, site manager Scott Loomis said 'I got birds out of the fields (Thursday afternoon) and they were flying in the afternoon, unfortunately not like the numbers I had two or three days ago and certainly not like two weeks ago.
'But I can remember a day like this last year before the opener and then we still had a good year.'
Of course, the only way to be certain is to hunt Saturday's opener. Dove season runs through Oct. 21 and then again Nov. 3-11. Hours are sunrise to sunset, except for the first five days on many state sites.
The daily bag limit is 15, including Eurasian collared doves, ringed turtle doves and white-winged doves. Most years Illinois fields about 70,000 hunters who harvest around 1.5 million birds.
Canada geese are also fair game Saturday for the early season, which runs through Sept. 15. Participants in the early hunt should encounter plenty of young birds.
This was an above-average year for the resident goose hatch based on summer banding results. Production was particularly strong around Chicago, where banding studies showed 2.23 juvenile geese per adult — well above the average of 1.21 juveniles.
The hatch was also good in west-central Illinois, where banders found 2.63 juveniles per adult. That's above the average of 2.07 and is much better than last year's count of 1.51 juveniles.
Most geese shot in the early season are taken on private land. Good bets are wheat or alfalfa fields, particularly near a pond. Harvested sweet corn patches and silage fields are also very good. Flooded fields could also be hot spots in northern Illinois, where persistent rains have left plenty of water on the landscape.
Hunters shot 14,578 Canada geese during last year's early season.
FEW DEAD DEER:
While several nearby states face serious outbreaks of a deadly deer disease, Illinois has so far escaped with few whitetail casualties from epizootic hemorrhagic disease.
Aside from scattered reports of deer that appear to have died from epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), Illinois deer biologist Paul Shelton said calls have been slow to his office in Springfield.
'I'm sure our field staff have been getting them, but I've only had one or two calls around here recently,' Shelton said Wednesday. 'I'd have to say generally speaking if we're having a really big outbreak going on we tend to have a quite a few calls here in the central office.'
That doesn't mean deer are not dying. In what has become an unfortunate summer ritual, a few bucks have been found dead. There are reports of a dead 10-pointer in Adams County, an 8-pointer in Peoria County and a 10-pointer in Clark County.
But that's fairly minimal so far compared to Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana, where outbreaks of EHD — or blue-tongue — have been sizable. Wet weather may be helping in Illinois. EHD outbreaks are typically worse during dry years when deer congregate around remaining water.
Symptoms of the disease include sluggishness, difficulty breathing, a high fever or swelling of the head, neck, tongue or eyelids. Deer with more virulent strains may develop lesions and hemorrhages.
Illinois River duck food is not a total loss after all.
The bad news is flooding wiped out most corn and small grains planted north of Peoria, with only four private clubs between Spring Bay and Lacon still holding out the water earlier this week.
But Rice Lake and Anderson Lake should keep at least part of their planted refuges.
The river flooded Anderson Lake on Thursday and appeared likely to wipe out 117 acres of corn and 120 acres of moist-soil plants in the Carlson Lake area. Likely to survive the flood is 60 acres of corn in the West Point walk-in area.
At Rice Lake's Barton Field, a fair portion of the 100-acre compound was not under water Thursday afternoon. If the corn stays standing, that refuge should also have food for this fall.
Bullfrog season ends today. .?.?. Iowa opens its rabbit season Saturday and allows cottontail hunting through Feb. 28. Now there's an idea worth pursuing here in Illinois.
is Journal Star outdoors columnist. Write to him at 1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61643, call (309) 686-3212 or e-mail email@example.com.