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Dove hunting around the corner



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Dale Bowman ranks opening-day prospects for doves at nearby public sites:

Matthiessen SP: Good fields; should be one of Illinois’ best again. All hunters must wear back patch. Permit holders may check in at 9 a.m.

Kankakee River SP: Best sunflowers in years.

Shabbona Lake SRA: Great sunflowers.

Des Plaines SFWA: Sunflowers planted in time; a little weedy.

Silver Springs SFWA: Sunflowers a little late; a little weedy.

Iroquois County SFWA: Fair fields. Holiday opener means a packed draw.

Chain O’Lakes SP: Winter wheat mowed; fields wet.

Marseilles SFWA: Poor millet, so no draw. Spots marked with paint.

Mazonia North SFWA: Sign in at office.

Updated: August 26, 2014 8:50PM

It’s time to divine sunflower heads and count doves on wires.

With opening day for dove hunting on Monday — Labor Day — the fields will be packed. This year comes with season changes. In Illinois, the two seasons are Sept. 1-Nov. 14, which eliminated the gap before the small-game seasons, and Dec. 26-Jan. 9.

‘‘We hope this late season will provide a little more opportunity for those willing to brave the weather,’’ emailed Stan McTaggart, the agriculture and grassland-wildlife program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

In Indiana, three seasons were made: Sept. 1-Oct. 19, Nov. 1-9 and Dec. 13-Jan. 11. I’m curious how much interest there will be in the late seasons and how many doves will be available, though doves have made a significant shift to living year-round in urban/suburban areas.

Considering doves are the most harvested animal or bird in North America, there isn’t much information about how and why they move. When I was calling about field conditions at public sites, Kerry Novak articulated that well.

‘‘It is so frustrating,’’ said Novak, the superintendent at Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area. ‘‘We have one of our best sunflowers crops ever. The fields are in great shape. But I don’t know where the doves have gone. . . . Hunters may have to bring their own. Usually, if it is a good year, they line the wires on the south end of the park. They are not [doing that] this year. That worries me. I have more doves in my yard than at the park.’’

That variability shows in population estimates. Illinois is doing its part to help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Biologists banded more than 2,000 doves in Illinois this year. Report any bands online at

McTaggart said most state sites report fields are in good shape for the opener. That’s mostly true in northeastern Illinois, too. (See accompanying box.)

‘‘Success will depend on the weather and how many doves are in your particular area on Sept. 1,’’ McTaggart said.

That’s the truth.

Springfield wild

Gov. Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 3049, which puts gray wolves, American black bears and mountain lions under the protection of the Illinois Wildlife Code. That gives the IDNR the authority to manage the top predators and acknowledges 21st-century realities in Illinois’ outdoor world.

Starved Rock

In time for Labor Day weekend, the boat launch is open at Starved Rock State Park. Superintendent Mark McConnaughhay said trails east of the Visitor Center and Lodge are also open. The Riverside West Picnic Area will reopen soon.

Wild things

I’m waiting for the first report of common nighthawks flying at either ballpark.

Stray cast

The Cubs become like lakefront northern pike, while the Sox mimic yellow perch.

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