Illinois' Spring turkey Outlook

Illinois' Spring turkey Outlook

Prairie State turkey hunters killed a record number of birds last spring. Could another record be ahead for 2005?

Photo By Mark & Sue Werner

"We've had a couple of subpar years in a row for reproduction," explained Paul Shelton of the Department of Natural Resources, regarding Illinois' turkey flock. "But the turkeys are holding their own in spite of that. All other things being equal, I would expect the spring season to be quite good and comparable to the past one."

Considering the fact that the 2004 spring season set another harvest record, his remarks ring of excellent news. The harvest total for 2004 came in at a whopping 15,066 birds compared with the previous year's 14,627. Hunter success averaged in the neighborhood of 25 percent statewide.

On the question of any "problem areas" within our state, Shelton indicated that turkey populations are really in pretty good shape.

"We do have some areas that could stand some improvement," he said. "But they could be taken care of if we could string together a couple of above-average production years."

Supplemental stocking remains an option in the future should specific areas show any potential need, but no stocking is planned and that kind of activity is no longer a part of the DNR's annual routine.

Five seasons are, once again, planned for this year to extend over a 32-day period. The first season opens April 4 in the South Zone and April 11 in the North Zone.

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

Additionally, to help put these ratings into perspective, we have added a rating in parenthesis that represents the county's average score based upon our system over the last five years.

This is how everything adds up for the 2005 spring turkey season.

ADAMS -- 3 (4.6) Ranked third in Illinois for total harvest, but the take last season (502) was still below the high (543) experienced in 2002. The five-year average harvest is 507.8 and public ground is available.

ALEXANDER -- 4 (3.4) Last season was the best ever with 123 birds in the bag, and the five-year average is 101.6.

BOND -- 1 (2.2) Last season saw 113 toms killed, one below the previous season. Five-year average is 92.6. No public access.

BOONE -- 2 (1.8) Forty-four birds last year marked their best season after experiencing two years of decline. Their previous high of 32 was reached in 2001.

BROWN -- 4 (4) A fairly consistent producer with a five-year average harvest of 283.6 turkeys, and their best experience to date was last season at 313 kills.

BUREAU -- 2 (2) Consistently increasing harvests since 2001, with last year's 112 birds representing their best. No public access hurts the score.

CALHOUN -- 1 (2.6) The numbers are large but a downward harvest trend, though slight, continues. The best year was 2000 (458), the five-year average is 412 and last year's kill was 375.

CARROLL -- 3 (3) Last spring's take of 226 was just under the five-year average of 237.8. If turkey hunters here can bank on nothing else, they can expect consistency.

CASS -- 5 (5.4) Nothing but improvement is their hallmark. The harvest in 1998 was 138 birds and Cass County has seen increases every year since until reaching their high of 246 during last season. Public ground is a bonus.

CHAMPAIGN -- 0 (N/A) Three spring seasons under their belt show little promise just yet. The harvests have been 23, 26 and 19, respectively. No public access.

CHRISTIAN -- 3 (2.8) Last season's take of 45 was just under the previous year (48) but above the five-year average (38). Public ground helps.

CLARK -- 1 (2) Strong harvest increases from 1998 (39) through 2002 (116) showed high potential but the last two years have leveled off at 105 and 108 birds, respectively.

CLAY -- 1 (1.8) Also has leveled off with the previous three seasons, having given up 204, 207 and 207 birds, respectively. No public access.

CLINTON -- 2 (2) No consistent trends here. Harvest totals from 2000 through 2004 were 69, 62, 90, 82 and 91, respectively.

COLES -- 2 (2.4) Nothing outstanding here. The five-year average kill is 24.4 birds, with last season coming in at 19.

CRAWFORD -- 3 (3.8) With the exception of two minor hiccups in the last five years, there has been steady growth. Last spring saw 167 toms go to the larder.

CUMBERLAND -- 1 (1.6) Last season was lowest in three with a bag of 53 birds. That still exceeds the five-year average of 50.6.

DE KALB -- 1 (N/A) Five spring seasons have been less than dramatic. The average harvest is 12.8 toms, and last year gave up 14.

DE WITT -- 1 (N/A) Four years here show a similar trend, though the numbers are slightly larger. The five-year average is 31.25 birds, and last year gave up 29.

EDGAR -- 1 (N/A) Five seasons of experience have yet to establish a trend. Last year's kill was 41 birds and the five-year average is 35.6.

EDWARDS -- 2 (2.4) Last season was their best after a rollercoaster past. Harvest totals for the last five years have been 43, 60, 47, 61 and 80, respectively.

EFFINGHAM -- 2 (2) The five-year average take is 58.6 birds while last season came in at 69

. No public access.

FAYETTE -- 4 (3.6) A strong upward trend has been evident over the last four years with harvests rising from 57 in 2000 to 140 last spring. Public ground is available.

FRANKLIN -- 1 (N/A) Only four seasons under their belt but reasonable harvest numbers show potential. Since 2001, the number of toms killed has been 64, 83, 101 and 89, respectively.

FULTON -- 5 (4.4) My spreadsheet shows steady harvest increases since 1998 (191). Last year saw a total of 437 birds in the bag and places this county as the fourth-highest producer in Illinois.

GALLATIN-HARDIN -- 2 (3.6) Numbers dropped from the previous year's 285 to last season's 252. That hurt their score. Otherwise, they have been a steady producer, with a five-year average of 255.6 birds.

GREENE -- 1 (2.8) Steady producer with good numbers, but last year's take was down slightly from the two previous years. The five-year average harvest is 373.2.

GRUNDY -- 1 (1.2) No powerhouse, but last year was a banner year with 36 birds. The five-year average is 23.6.

HAMILTON -- 4 (3.6) A minor blip in 2002 was the only blemish in steady harvest increases from 53 in 1998 to 140 last spring. Public ground is available.

HANCOCK -- 1 (2.2) Last spring's kill of 340 birds was 5 percent off the five-year average. Their seven-year graph is a mountain landscape.

HENDERSON -- 4 (4.2) Last spring's take (183) was above the five-year average (179.4) but still below their best season in 2001 (191).

HENRY -- 3 (3.2) The five-year average harvest is 33.2 and last season was on the money at 34. Public ground helps.

IROQUOIS -- N/A (N/A) Only three seasons under the belt, with an average kill of 23 birds.

JACKSON -- 5 (4.6) Steady increases since 1998, with an insignificant drop of four birds in 2000. The five-year average is 231.8, with the last two seasons hitting 263 and 270, respectively.

JASPER -- 4 (3.8) Last season was below the previous three but remained above the five-year average of 131.4 turkeys. Plenty of access saved the score.

JEFFERSON -- 4 (4) Consistent harvest increases have taken them from 135 birds in 1998 to 339 last spring. Public ground is available.

JERSEY -- 3 (4) Jersey has hit a slump. The five-year average is 304.4 but the last two seasons came in at 261 birds each.

JO DAVIESS -- 3 (3.6) Still the top producer in the state, though last season was the worst in seven years (696). The five-year average is 736 birds.

JOHNSON -- 4 (4.6) Last year saw a minor drop (219) from the previous season (224) but they remain well above the five-year average of 186.

KANKAKEE -- 3 (2.4) An increase of two birds helped their score, but this is no dynamo. The five-year average is 15.8.

KENDALL -- N/A (N/A) Three spring seasons show results of 13, 14 and 10, respectively.

KNOX -- 3 (3.2) Consistent harvest increases since 1999 (190) through last year (280). Public access would help.

LA SALLE -- 4 (3.2) Slow but steady increases over last five years. Last season saw 113 bagged. Public ground available.

LAWRENCE -- 5 (4.6) Last two seasons (135 and 138) were above five-year average (125.4). Public access opportunities.

LEE -- 3 (3.4) No trends yet, with harvest totals over last five years at 59, 74, 66, 81 and 80, respectively.

LIVINGSTON -- N/A (N/A) Three years' experience with total bags of 14, 12 and nine, respectively.

LOGAN -- 1 (1) Forty birds taken last year and a five-year average of 33.8.

MACON -- N/A (N/A) Four seasons under their belt, with harvest totals of 28, 24, 11 and 16.

MACOUPIN -- 4 (5.2) Down slightly last season (401) from previous year's take of 403. A strong and consistent producer with plenty of access.

MADISON -- 4 (4.8) Consistent increases over seven years, with the exception of a one-bird drop in 2003. Last year's take was 264 and five-year average is 234.

MARION -- 5 (5.4) Steady increases persist as 2004 came in at peak of 312 birds. Plenty of opportunities available, including public access.

MARSHALL-PUTNAM -- 3 (3.2) Last spring saw a drop (79) from previous season (84) but remains above five-year average of 69.4.

MASON -- 4 (4.2) Found a plateau over last three seasons with harvests of 191, 189 and 193, respectively.

MASSAC -- 4 (4.2) Modest but steady increases continue. Take last year was 75 and five-year average is 67.8.

MCDONOUGH -- 2 (3) Last season was worst in three, with a take of 139. The five-year average is 143.8.

MCHENRY -- N/A (N/A) Only three seasons of experience with kills of 29, 33 and 27, respectively.

MCLEAN -- 0 (N/A) Three seasons here as well, with takes of 32, 22 and 26.

MENARD -- 3 (2.4) Slow but steady. Has risen from low of 49 birds in 1999 to high of 86 last year.

MERCER -- 2 (3.4) Minor drop last year (125) from previous season (132). Average over five years is 111.4.

MONROE -- 3 (3.6) Leveling out over last three years with harvests of 168, 171 and 172.

MONTGOMERY -- 3 (3.8) Last season was best at 133 toms. Five-year average is 108.6. Public ground helps.

MORGAN -- 2 (3) Good numbers but no access. Five-year average take is 240 and last season topped the chart at 270.

MOULTRIE -- N/A (N/A) Three seasons under the belt, with dismal results last year. Harvests were 26, 20 and nine, in that order.

OGLE -- 4 (2.8) Production has doubled from 49 kills in 2001 to 98 last year. Access doesn't hurt.

PEORIA -- 3 (2.6) Also had a good season last year (155) that came in well above the five-year average of 108.8.

PERRY -- 4 (5) Last year (202) was a d

ip below previous season (213) but still above the five-year average of 193.4.

PIATT -- N/A (N/A) Last season was best in only four, with numbers coming in at 19, four, 15 and 21, respectively.

PIKE -- 4 (4.2) When you're No. 2 you try harder, and Pike is within striking distance of the top producer. A total of 620 birds were killed here last season.

POPE -- 2 (3) Production dropped last season (352) from previous year (387) but was on the mark with the five-year average of 352.6 birds.

PULASKI -- 1 (1.4) Numbers are respectable but lack of access hurts. Harvest over last five years amounted to 43, 61, 59, 78 and 77 birds, respectively.

RANDOLPH -- 4 (4.6) Last season (304) was a hair below their best (308) in 2002 but well above the five-year average of 275.8. Good access.

RICHLAND -- 2 (2.8) Leveling off at 121 birds for each of last two seasons. No access.

ROCK ISLAND -- 3 (3.4) Steady increases ended last season with a slight drop (178) from previous year (189). Access is available.

SALINE -- 4 (3) Last season was best yet at 112 kills. The five-year average is 81.8 and access is available.

SANGAMON -- 4 (N/A) Six seasons under their belt and showing promise. The five-year average take is 60.2 but last year came in strong at 91 birds.

SCHUYLER -- 3 (2.8) Nice recovery last season (380) after two seasons of minor drops. Average over five years is 349.6.

SCOTT -- 1 (3.2) Last season was worst in five with a take of 154. The five-year average is 171.2. No access.

SHELBY -- 4 (2.6) Last year was best at 34, and five-year average is 27.6 turkeys.

ST. CLAIR -- 1 (2) Last year was best at 128, and five-year average is 96.2 toms.

STARK -- 0 (N/A) The numbers speak for themselves. Take in last five seasons was 19, 17, 13, 10 and 12, respectively.

STEPHENSON -- 2 (1.5) Showing recovery last year (172) but still below best of 179 in 2000 season. Five-year average is 157.2 birds.

TAZEWELL -- 4 (2.6) Low harvests but has experienced four years of growth and has public access. Twenty-seven birds last year, while 18 is the average.

UNION -- 4 (3.6) Solid harvest increases since 2000 (167), topping out at 290 birds last season. Access helps their score.

VERMILLION -- 4 (3) Two back-to-back seasons have helped their score. Last year saw 100 birds on the table and five-year average is 75.2. Access helps, too.

WABASH -- 2 (1.8) Five-year average is 43.6. Last year's bag was 53.

WARREN -- 2 (1.8) Five-year average is 44. Last year's take was 51.

WASHINGTON -- 1 (2) A drop in harvest last year coupled with no access hurt their score. Five-year average take is 122.6 birds.

WAYNE -- 5 (5.4) Modest harvest increases have continued, with a five-year average of 214.6, and last season being the best at 235.

WHITE -- 2 (1.6) Ninety-four birds marked the best season yet, one ahead of the previous year. Five-year average is 79.2.

WHITESIDE -- 5 (4.4) Nice increase last year of 164 birds compared with previous season's 138. Access is a bonus.

WILL -- 1 (N/A) Only three seasons with kills of 21, 27 and 22, respectively.

WILLIAMSON -- 5 (4.8) Strong showing over last seven years as harvests have increased from 45 in 1998 to 176 last season. Access and opportunity really help the score.

WINNEBAGO -- 2 (3) Five-year average take is 116.4 birds, with last year coming in at 132. Lack of access hurts.

WOODFORD -- 2 (1.8) Five-year average is 40 birds. Last season gave up 50. No access.

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