Illinois' Spring Turkey Outlook

Turkey hunting success in the Prairie State should be about the same as last year. Here's how your county rates.

Photo by Bruce Ingram

By Daniel D. Lamoreux

According to Paul Shelton of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, turkey production rates last year were "off somewhat" from those experienced the year before, but populations statewide have been doing so well that he doesn't anticipate any serious repercussions.

Some specific areas have seen minor declines while the west-central and northwest portions of our state have been experiencing good growth. Approximately nine or 10 sites across Illinois have been listed for additional supplemental turkey stocking. Due to financial constraints and other priorities, however, stocking efforts may not necessarily take place in the immediate future.

On the whole, Shelton expects to see spring turkey harvest results consistent with recent seasons.

The following represents our county-by-county rating for potential hunter success. Five categories were used to weigh three factors impacting your hunting potential: population strength, historical hunter success and accessibility to hunting land.

One point was awarded to each county that has experienced three consecutive years of increasing harvest totals; that had a total harvest last season greater than it's five-year harvest average; that has a turkey population strong enough to support a fall hunt; that has public ground available upon which turkeys can be hunted; and that issues permits specifically for a hunting unit within that county independent of, and in addition to, the county's general permits. The highest possible score is five points.

ADAMS - 4
Ranked third in the state for total harvest last season (518) and for five-year average harvest (499). Extensive public access.

ALEXANDER - 4
Stable harvest last three seasons with 107, 104 and 105 birds taken, respectively. Access on the Shawnee National Forest.

BOND - 2
Steadily increasing annual success, from 58 birds in 2000 to 119 last year. Low score due to lack of public access.

BOONE - 1
Five-year average kill of 24 birds, though last season spiked at 32.

BROWN - 4
Last season's harvest was right at the five-year average, with 273 birds bagged. This was down from the previous year by three-dozen toms. Expect similar results.

BUREAU - 2
Showing good potential with harvest totals climbing from 55 in 2001 to 100 last season but still a relatively small population and no public access.

CALHOUN - 1
Scored low because of erratic harvest results and a lack of public access, but ranked fourth in the state for total harvest last season (397) and for five-year average (416).

CARROLL - 3
Slight drop in harvest last season hurt their score but still remains relatively close to the five-year average of 236 birds. Public ground a plus.

CASS - 5
Sixth consecutive year of increasing harvests. Climbed to 205 last season from the previous 182 and the five-year average of 175. Plenty of public access.

CHAMPAIGN - N/A
This will be the third spring season. The 2002 and 2003 spring results were 23 and 28, respectively.

CHRISTIAN - 4
Though numbers are small, harvests continue to increase. Last spring saw 48 kills, and the five-year average is 36. Public access to 2,300 acres.

CLARK - 1
After a four-year climb, last season's harvest dropped by nine percent to 106 birds. No public access and still a relatively small population.

CLAY - 2
Excellent harvest numbers, climbing from 120 in 1999 to 214 last season but no public access available.

CLINTON - 2
Slight drop in harvest last year (87) from previous high of 90. Numbers still unstable with moves both up and down over last four seasons.

COLES - 3
Last year was best in six with 30 toms in the bag. Five-year average is 24 and some public access is available.

CRAWFORD - 4
Good potential as filled tags increased again to 158 from the 1998 total of 63. Five-year average is 117 and access to public ground is a bonus.

CUMBERLAND - 2
Starting to show a positive trend with increased harvests over three seasons from 33 in 2000 to 70 last year.

DE KALB - N/A
This will be the fifth spring season here, so they'll qualify for a score next year. Unexceptional performance experienced so far with harvests of 10, 13, 12 and 15 birds in each of the last four years.

DE WITT - N/A
This will be the fourth spring season. To date, harvest numbers have been falling from 36 in 2001 to 27 last year.

EDGAR - N/A
Last season was best in only four spring seasons, with 43 in the bag. Previously the totals have been 36, 27 and 32, respectively.

EDWARDS - 1
Numbers recovered last season (62) to the 2001 level (60) with a five-year average of 50. No public access.

EFFINGHAM - 1
Relatively stable over last five years with an average of 56 kills. No public access.

FAYETTE - 4
Showing excellent harvest increases to 131 last year from 57 in the 2000 season. Some public ground available.

FRANKLIN - N/A
With three spring seasons under the belt, shows good potential. Harvest numbers have been 64, 83 and 104, respectively.

FULTON - 5
The 1998 season saw 191 toms taken. Numbers have climbed every year since then to reach last season's high of 418. Some public ground is available.

GALLATIN/HARDIN - 4
Numbers not as strong as Fulton but trend is the same. Harvest totals have climbed steadily from 181 in 1998 to 291 last year. Access is available in the Shawnee NF.

GREENE - 2
Slow but steady increases in harvest since 1999 (291) were reversed last season when harvest dropped about 5 percent from previous year (395). No access.

GRUNDY - 1
Starting in 1998, the harvest totals for six years have been 21, 7, 18, 17, 24 and 23.

HAMILTON - 3
Last season was best in six with 124 filled tags and represented a good recovery from the minor decline experienced during 2002. Plenty of public access is available.

HANCOCK - 1
Produces a lot of birds, but inconsistently. Last season was down (349) from the previous year (388). Five-year average is 351 kills. No public access.

HENDERSON - 3
The 2001 season saw 191 filled tags but the area has experienced slight declines. The harvest in 2002 and 2003 were 184 and 169, respectively. Public access is available.

HENRY - 3
Not a huge producer, but consistent. Last three seasons have resulted in harvests of 34, 39 and 39 birds, respectively.

IROQUOIS - N/A
This will be their third spring season. Twenty-five birds fell during 2002 season and 21 were bagged last year.

JACKSON - 5
A lot of access and as much potential, this county has seen harvest numbers increase from 129 in 1998 to last season's record high of 267. The five-year average is 214 turkeys.

JASPER - 4
Showing good recovery from the harvest decline experienced in 2000. That year, 63 birds were bagged. Harvest totals since have been 153, 150 and 163, respectively. Over 7,000 public acres are available.

JEFFERSON - 4
Revised numbers from the 2002 season reflect consistent harvest gains and helped improved their score. Last year was the best in six with a take of 334 birds. Public access is available.

JERSEY - 3
The 2002 season indicated strong recovery from a production decline experienced in 2001, but the 2003 numbers fell again to 269. Five-year average harvest is 316. Public access saved their score.

JO DAVIESS - 3
Still the top producing county but somewhat inconsistent. Five-year average harvest is 740 birds. The 2000 and 2002 seasons were above average; the 2001 and 2003 seasons were below that number. Plenty of access is available.

JOHNSON - 5
Numbers continue climbing as the harvest total reached 231 last year from the slump of 124 experienced in 2000. Over 14,000 public acres are available in addition to the Shawnee NF.

KANKAKEE - 3
No powerhouse but access saved their score. Harvest totals over the last six years were 25, 11, 9, 19, 11 and 19 birds, respectively.

KENDALL - N/A
Only two spring seasons under the belt with harvests of 13 and 14 birds, respectively. No access.

KNOX - 3
Strong harvest numbers here, but no public access. Has seen a consistent increase in harvest totals from 190 in 1999 to last season's high of 264.

LA SALLE - 4
Showing continued improvement over slump experienced in 2000 when 65 birds were bagged. Last year set a high of 109. Public access helps the score.

LAWRENCE - 4
An insignificant decline in 2002 was apparently a glitch. Last season's harvest of 137 was best in six years. Five-year average is 115 and public access is available.

LEE - 3
Last year's recovery to 81 birds offset the slump experienced the year before (66). Five-year average improved to 67 kills.

LIVINGSTON - N/A
This will be their third spring season. Harvest in the last two years was 14 and 12 birds, respectively.

LOGAN - 2
With five spring seasons behind them now, this county finally qualifies for a score. Lack of public ground has hurt. Harvest numbers since 1999 have been 33, 22, 29, 35 and 44, respectively.

MACON - N/A
Only three seasons of experience but the area is due for improvement. Totals to date have been 28, 24 and 11 birds, respectively.

MACOUPIN - 5
Strong showing continues with the 2003 harvest the best yet at 411 turkeys, up from 217 in 1998. Becoming a top producer. Public land is available.

MADISON - 5
Another area of high promise that also has public access. Last year's harvest of 253 was simply another upward step in a string of many. Five-year average harvest is 215.

MARION - 5
Success has more than doubled in six years from 128 kills in 1998 to 309 last season. Public access to 2,500 acres only adds to the glitter.

MARSHALL/PUTNAM - 4
Numbers are still small but a 268 percent increase in harvest totals since 1999 shows the potential. Eighty-six hunters killed a turkey last season compared to 32 in 1999.

MASON - 5
A lot of access and steadily increasing harvest totals keep this county rated high. The bag of 193 birds last year was best in six seasons and access is plentiful.

MASSAC - 4
Also showing steady growth, though numbers are still small. Harvests have climbed from 25 in 1998 to 74 last year.

MCDONOUGH - 3
Five-year average harvest is 141 birds. One hundred fifty-seven was last season's take. Some access available.

MCHENRY - N/A
This will be their third spring season. The last two produced 29 and 33 turkeys, respectively.

MCLEAN - N/A
Also experiencing their third season. Two previous years produced 32 and 23 birds, respectively.

MENARD - 3
Reasonably steady increases in harvest with high of 82 last spring and a five-year average of 68.

MERCER - 3
Steady growth continues with harvest total of 134 last year and five-year average of 102. No access.

MONROE - 3
Last season saw another slight increase in harvest to 172 from the previous year's 168. No access.

MONTGOMERY - 4
Exceptional growth was seen from 1998 (33) through 2002 (131), leveling off in 2003 (132). Some access.

MORGAN - 3
Experienced another slight increase in harvest last season (268). Five-year average is 215.

MOULTRIE - N/A
Only two previous spring seasons with totals of 26 and 20 birds, respectively.

OGLE - 3
Last season strongest in six with 80 turkeys. Five-year average is 59.

PEORIA - 3
Saw another slight increase last year (115) from previous season's 102. Access available to about 1,200 acres.

PERRY - 5
Consistent growth continued to high of 223 birds last year from 89 in 1998. Over 5,000 acres open to public.

PIATT - N/A
This will be fourth spring season. Prior numbers since 2001 are 19, 4 and 15, respectively.

PIKE - 4
Our second-highest producer with 605 birds bagged last year and a five-year average of 557 turkeys. Public land is accessible.

POPE - 3
Harvest dropped last season to 392 from the previous high of 422. Access available on Shawnee NF.

PULASKI - 1
Last season improved to 79 birds. Five-year average is 53. No access.

RANDOLPH - 4
After good growth, harvest leveled off over last two seasons to just over 300 birds. There's plenty of public land available.

RICHLAND - 3
Harvest still increasing to 124 turkeys last season from previous year's 112, but no public access.

ROCK ISLAND - 4
Showing continued potential as harvest climbed to 190 last year from 91 in 1999. Some access is available.

SALINE - 3
Harvested 97 birds in 2003. Five-year average is 72. Access available.

SANGAMON - 3
This is first year to qualify for a spring rating. Harvest since 1999 has been 37, 42, 56, 44 and 71 birds, respectively.

SCHUYLER - 3
Reasonably consistent producer with an average of 338 birds over five years. Some access to public ground.

SCOTT - 3
Small but steady growth continues to 189 birds last season and a five-year average of 168.

SHELBY - 3
Good for a couple dozen birds and some public access.

ST. CLAIR - 1
Has an 84-turkey average, with 98 taken last year. No access.

STARK - N/A
This will be their fifth spring season. Harvest totals to date were 19, 17, 13 and 10, respectively.

STEPHENSON - 1
Last year's forecast said 148 was the magic number and the season produced 147 birds. No access.

TAZEWELL - 3
Leveled off at 17-bird average. Public ground saved the score.

UNION - 4
Growth is continuing as 291 turkeys were taken last season and about 7,500 acres are open to the public.

VERMILLION - 3
Last season was best in six with 93 birds. Five-year average is 61. Plenty of public access can be found.

WABASH - 1
Last spring's 50 toms boosted the five-year average to 40.

WARREN - 1
Neck and neck with Wabash County, holding a 41-bird average.

WASHINGTON - 2
Production continues to rise from 55 birds in 1998 to 155 last season but access is not available.

WAYNE - 5
Success has doubled since 1998 (118) with last season's take of 240 birds. Add their public access and we have a winner.

WHITE - 1
An increased harvest last year (94) from the five-year average of 68 simply hasn't helped the score yet. No access.

WHITESIDE - 4
Stable results with harvest of 120, 122, 120 and 139 over the last four years and plenty of public access.

WILL - N/A
Only two spring seasons under the belt. Experienced harvests of 21 and 27 turkeys, respectively.

WILLIAMSON - 5
Strong potential as last spring's 156 filled tags more than tripled the 45 experienced in 1998. Public access is also available.

WINNEBAGO - 2
Has an average of 110 birds and the last two seasons were only slightly better. No access.

WOODFORD - 2
Some improvement last year with 48 kills compared to 35 as the five-year average. No access.



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