Public land Illinois gobbler

The wild turkey disappeared from Illinois about 1910.  In 1958, state biologist Jarad Garver began a restoration effort in five locations.  All the locations were in the expansive Shawnee National Forest.  The forest, located in southern Illinois, contained good turkey habitat and plenty of space away from man.

With the growth of the turkey population came hunting seasons. 

I once asked nationally known turkey hunting expert, Ray Eye, what he thought was the greatest development in turkey hunting during the past 10 years that has led to successful hunting in Illinois.  His reply was the amount of educational material available. 

“Turkey hunters are more knowledgeable,” explains Eye. “They attend seminars, view outdoor television shows, listen to outdoor radio shows, read magazines and read all the books available.  What use to take years in the field to learn, they now learn from other people.” 

He also mentioned that there are more turkeys available which leads them to situations where hunters in the field learn more. 

That Illinois project began with 65 birds wild-trapped in Mississippi, Arkansas, and West Virginia.  The birds thrived inIllinois in the forest until there were sufficient numbers to transfer to other parts of the state. 

In 1970, the IDNR began to live trap and transplant wild birds.  They have since transplanted 4,768 birds to 279 sites in 99 of the 102 counties inIllinois.

 The first modern day turkey hunting season was in 1970 and a total of 25 birds were taken.  Since then record numbers of bird are taken each year. 

There are 96 counties open to turkey hunting. 

Turkey hunting is on a high level. Turkeys are on a high level.  People have more experience turkey hunting and there is more availability of turkey hunting.  With more encounters with wild birds, hunters are able to learn more in a shorter period of time than was the case a few years ago. 

In Illinois, not only are the turkeys doing well but so are the turkey hunters.  Hunter success can vary with weather conditions.  Rain will reduce hunter success numbers in part due to fewer hunters in the field.  Still there is an ever increasing harvest each year.


Posted 03/13/2012 by Donald Gasaway in Game Management, Hunting Small Game

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