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Illinois Wild Turkey Hunting
Illlinois is a great hunting state- - and in our opinion that surely includes wild turkey hunting. Having said that, we cannot say that we received complete information from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) regarding wild turkey population density and the like. It was like pulling teeth, and then the information came with a lot of caveats. Having said that, we again commend the IDNR for its superb website - -the best we've ever seen. We'll give you all the contact information at the end of this article.
When we started the project of surveying all 50 states regarding its deer/wild turkey/waterfowl hunting opportunities, we said in our initial commentary (which is published on our site) on this 50 state project that we would point out what we consider are deficiencies or lack of information or cooperation on the part of regulatory agencies on all levels - -especially the state hunting regulatory agencies.
When we pressed the IDNR for an estimate of the Illinois wild turkey population, here is the written response we received from Paul A. Brewer, Wild Turkey Project Manager- - and we quote: "We do not attempt to estimate the wild turkey population in Illinois - -there is no way to do so that would provide a reliable estimate that would "close or best". I can tell you that in the fall of 2010, we received reports from our firearm deer hunters of sightings of 575,325 turkeys. Again, this is the number of wild turkeys seen by firearm deer hunters in 2010 - -NOT A POPULATION ESTIMATE."
Huh? We are scratching our heads. Why not have WILD TURKEY HUNTERS give their estimates. And why don't you estimate? Other states do. And then if you don't know the population how do you determine how many tags to issue, or what the population should be - -or what does IDNR management want the population to be. We are dissatisfied with the answer provided by the IDNR, and would urge our readers to contact LOCAL guides in an area that you want to hunt wild turkeys, and have those GUIDES tell you what the population is in that area. At least there'll be some frame of reference in that regard.
In all fairness, as a comparison, when we asked for this same type of deer population information from the DEER management people at the IDNR, they also said "we can't be accurate, and we don't usually estimate," but then in effect said, here are some figures that at least will give you some idea of population. THAT is a great way to answer our question and we commend the deer management people at the IDNR for that information. No hunter is going to criticize that type of attempt to help when answering questions.
Also - -contiguous states like Minnesota and Wisconsin provide "guestimates", and real world hunters and observers recognize that population estimates are just that - -and can be "off." So what? Give the person who may want to hunt wild turkey in Illinois as much information as possible, and keep it simple, without any of the too-often bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo.
As for harvest - -(and these are rounded off figures) - -spring, 2011, the wild turkey hunt harvest was about 16,000 birds – a little less - -and the wet spring didn't help. Fall turkey harvest last year both archery and firearm came in at about 1,400 birds. So the harvest is about 17,500 per year for both season and includes firearm and archery.
By the way, getting these figures was not easy - -the IDNR website does have them, but it's somewhat of a bear to get to them. Here's one direct link you may want to use: http://dnr.illinois.gov/dnrdirectmonitor/default.aspx.
The spring wild turkey hunt starts in different Illinois counties on different dates throughout the state - -in the fall, you can generally hunt (check the regs- - the firearms and archery seasons overlap somewhat), between October and January. So it's a good long season, but there are so many different regs for each hunting "zone/county/area," that its best – and we say this AGAIN!!!: Contact one of our partnership businesses or guides who are on this site. They will know what's going on in the area you want to hunt. And these "locals" are the best at finding the biggest gobblers, in the shortest time, with the greatest ease and safety.
To it's credit, Illinois has a youth wild turkey hunt, and special regs for the disabled which allow easier opportunities, without interference during the regular seasons.
There are very detailed significant regs as to what type of firearm, ammunition, bow, arrow, etc. can be used when turkey hunting in Illinois. Same with getting a "tag." This information - -all of it- -is clearly, simply and concisely stated on the IDNR website. So it's no big feat to find out what you need before you leave for hunting.
We have found as we have stated previously that Illinois is a wonderful state to hunt in (and we say that even knowing about the toll roads which contiguous states don't have). Great opportunities, great infrastructure, and some of the nicest "locals" and most capable guides anywhere. (just make sure you tell 'em you're a Bears fan - -especially if you're from Wisconsin or Minnesota). Search this site. It's got good numbers of these businesses and guides you'll want to contact.
Here is the contact indicia for the IDNR:
Springfield (Home Office)
One Natural Resources Way
Springfield, IL 62702-1271
Region I Office-Northwestern Illinois
2317 E. Uncoinway
Sterling, IL 61081
Region II Office-Northeastern Illinois
2050 West Stearns Road
Barlett, IL 60103
Region III Office-East Central Illinois
15676 State Highway 54
Clinton, IL 61727
Region IV Office-West Central Illinois
4521 Alton Commerce Pkwy.
Alton, IL 62002
Region V Office-Southern Illinois
11731 State Highway 37
Benton, IL 62812
Chicago Regional Office
James R. Thompson Suite 4-300
Chicago, IL 60601
Illinois Turkey Hunting News