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Dove hunting opens Saturday in Illinois

Doves are being seen good numbers sunflower fields appear be good shape as hunters await first day Saturday Illinois’ dove-hunting

Doves are being seen in good numbers and sunflower fields appear to be in good shape as hunters await the first day Saturday of Illinois’ dove-hunting season. | For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 30, 2012 6:21AM

The drought brought odd beauty and
unexpected hope for dove hunters.

‘‘For the drought, we had sunflowers that are absolutely beautiful: huge and abundant and clean,’’ said Kerry Novak, the site superintendent at Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area. ‘‘Right next to it, the corn is suffering.’’

Dove hunting opens Saturday and, along with the opening of early Canada goose season, signals the start to fall hunting.

‘‘The sunflowers look good despite the drought,’’ said Mark McConnaughhay, the new site superintendent at Matthiessen State Park, traditionally a top dove spot. ‘‘They have seen doves. But, as always, they were fickle. They may be here one day and gone the next.’’

A lot of us noticed an influx of doves in late July and early August in the collar counties.

‘‘I have seen doves for three weeks, and they keep coming in,’’ said Andy Anderson, the veteran site tech at Iroquois County State Wildlife Area, another top dove spot.

While doves are here, they’re not necessarily at public sites.

Jeff Wepprecht, the site super at Des Plaines and Silver Springs state fish and wildlife areas, and I noticed more farmers planting their own sunflower plots for dove hunting. And fewer farmers plant silage corn (cut much earlier than field corn is picked), so fewer fields are open.

‘‘And it could be that flyway has changed a little bit, too,’’ Wepprecht said. ‘‘Nobody can say for sure.’’

That’s one oddity about doves: As abundant and popular for hunting as they are, relatively little study is done on them.

Another impact of the drought — early corn harvest — might help or hurt. As of Sunday, Illinois had 6 percent of corn harvested. The five-year average is 1 percent. That opens more fields, but district wildlife biologist Bob Massey pointed out that also might ‘‘disperse dove use to fields [that] might not normally hold doves this time of year.’’

‘‘Everything looks pretty good,’’ Wepprecht said. ‘‘We are ready for the season. It is a matter of whether the doves are here.’’

The remnants of Hurricane Isaac are the wild card. Forecasts keep changing about whether it will arrive Saturday.

Basic regulations remain the same. The daily bag limit is 15 mourning and/or white-winged doves. There is no bag limit on Eurasian-collared doves and ringed turtle doves, but they only may be hunted during the mourning-dove season, and hunters must leave the field if they have a limit of mourning/white-winged doves.

I anticipate my usual Sept. 1 feast of grilled dove breasts and jalapeno pepper slices wrapped in bacon.

Stocking reduction

Because of natural reproduction and historic low levels of prey fish in Lake Michigan, the Lake Michigan Committee came up with a new management strategy for Lake Michigan salmon. The stocking of Chinook will be cut in half (1.6 million) in 2013, pending implementation by the states. Wisconsin and Michigan would bear the brunt of the reduction. Illinois only would reduce its Chinook stocking by 20,000 and Indiana by 25,000. That should ensure a fall run of salmon for the shoreline of southern Lake Michigan.

Stray cast

The Tigers are as annoyingly persistent as gobies.

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