Streaks of orange appear over the horizon in the east. Gradually they disappear as the cloud cover blocks out the sun. The day is gray and damp but not our spirits as hunters. It is waterfowl season in southern Illinois on public waters.
Late in the season the bulk of the ducks tend to be mallards and the Canada geese begin to arrive. The abundance of public water in southern Illinois attracts waterfowlers from across the nation for the late season action.
Rend Lake Wildlife Management Area contains some 7,690 acres near Bonnie, Illinois in Franklin County. Site specific information can be obtained by calling the IDNR office at 618-279-3110 or writing to them at RR1, Box 168G, Bonnie, Illinois 62816. Carlyle Lake Wildlife Management Areas is about 8,764 acres in Fayette County near Vandalia. The address for the Site Superintendent is RR2, Box 233, Vandalia, Illinois 62471 and their phone number is 618-425-3533.
Private water also holds birds, but they can be difficult and/or expensive to gain access for hunting. That does not mean that the average hunter has to have second rate hunting. Not at all!
Good hunting areas for duck and goose hunting can be found on many state management areas such as Oakwood Bottoms, RendLake and Carlyle Lake. The past few years, both of the later have held birds right on through the season. Some birds even wintered with us in Illinois.
Oakwood Bottoms is about 3400 acres of flooded timber in Jackson County near Murphysboro,Illinois. For information about it, contact IDNR at 618-687-1731.
Far southern Illinois has always been known for the goose hunting. Up to now the secret has been the excellent duck hunting.
Ducks are taken in areas near both the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Fewer public hunting areas are found along the eastern part of the state. Both areas have good harvests. More recently the focus has been around the Union County Conservation Area, Crab Orchard Refuge and Horseshoe Lake. Commercial goose hunting clubs have taken to managing crops in a way that is not baiting and does not run afoul of the laws on baiting. Yet, they do attract ducks to their areas.
Union County Conservation Area is about 2800 acres near Jonesboro, Illinois in Union County. The refuge office can be reached at 2755 Refuge Road, Jonesboro,Illinois 62952. Their phone number is 618-833-5175.
Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Williamson County is operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The 23,000 acres near Marion, Illinois are a Mecca for waterfowl with parts of the refuge closed to humans. There is ample waterfowl hunting from refuge blinds or independently from boats in the west end of the lake. For more information about waterfowl hunting at the refuge contact USF&WS, Marion, Illinois 62918 or call the refuge office at 618-997-3344. Additional information can be obtained from the Williamson County Tourism Bureau, 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, Illinois62959. Their phone number is 800-GEESE-99.
Horseshoe Lake Conservation Area is operated by the IDNR for an office at Box 85, Miller City, Illinois 62962. Their phone number is 618-776-5689. The Alexander County hunting area contains some 4,190 acres and is open to waterfowl hunting with special hunts for physically challenged persons in addition to regular hunting programs.
Traditionally there are a lot of ducks in the Cache River area and there is public hunting available. Cache River State Natural Area, in Johnson County, is an unusual cypress swamp hunting area. The 9,507 acres is different from the more traditional hardwood hunting areas to be found around Illinois. For information about the hunting program contact the Site Superintendent at 930 Sunflower Lane, Belknap, Illinois or call the office at 618-634-9678.
Moving to big waters areas, ducks are taken from boats with blinds. Rend and Carlyle reservoirs are excellent examples. Both also have excellent walk-in opportunities.
Other walk-in areas include LaRue Swampand Oakwood Bottoms. Both areas enjoy excellent hunting. LaRue Swamp Federal Land is 1000 acres inUnion County near Wolf Lake. For information call 618-833-8576.
The above areas combine to provide over 60,000 acres of waterfowl hunting in the southern tier of counties. They do not include several hundred thousand acres in the Shawnee National Forest that also contains waterfowl that visit it each winter. Public land waterfowl hunting is alive and well in southern Illinois.