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A quick look in the Illinois Department of Natural Resources 2015-16 Hunting Digest (www.dnr.illinois.gov) shows that Illinois is rich in public waterfowl hunting locations. Some are available by permit only and others are available on a first come, first served basis. Southern Illinois has a number of both.


Early season duck hunters find such species as pintails, teal, gadwall and wood duck. These fast flying ducks can and will come to mallard decoys. If you are on a tight budget, mallard dekes are the one of choice. Early in the season fewer decoys seem to work better with the larger spreads reserved for later. In some of the public hunting areas there is a requirement of 12 decoys in a spread.


Later in the season the mallards and other species tend to arrive. By the time the mergansers and golden eyes arrive the season is almost over.


The ducks are present in Illinois throughout the season. The geese tend to arrive in November through January. Most geese taken in southern Illinois tend to be Canada or Speckledbelly. Snows and blues stay in significant numbers in some areas. Because the southern Illinois goose hunting is dependent on a migrating flock, the avid goose hunter tends to watch weather reports and social media reports from areas of northern Illinois.


Once snows arrive for a sustained period of time (3-5 days) in northern Illinois, the geese begin arriving in numbers in southern Illinois. They then stay until the end of the season (usually the end of January).


IMG_0011Some popular public waterfowl hunting areas in southern Illinois include Rend Lake, Crab Orchard Lake, Mississippi River, Ohio River and Union County.


Rend Lake Wildlife Management Area contains some 7,690-acres near Bonnie, IL in Franklin County. Site specific information is available by calling the IDNR office at 618-279-3110 or writing them at RR#1 Box 168G, Bonnie, IL 62816. It attracts all species of waterfowl but is especially good for teal due to the exposed mud flats.


Most geese and ducks taken at Rend Lake come from hunters in boat mounted blinds. There are however some walk-in opportunities.


Oakwood Bottoms in Jackson County near Murphysboro, IL is about 3,400-acres of flooded timber that holds sucks throughout the season. Some will even overwinter. For more information contact IDNR at 618-687-1731.


Duck hunter find birds in areas near both the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Both rivers have public hunting available to those with boats who concentrate their efforts on areas off the sandbars and wing dams.


Union Conservation Area is about 2,800-acres near Jonesboro, IL in Union County. The refuge office is available at 2755 Refuge Road, Jonesboro, IL 62952. Their phone number is 618-833-5175.


Another popular area for public hunting opportunities is the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Williamson County. Operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the 23,000-acres near Marion, IL are a mecca for waterfowl. Parts of the refuge close to human activity during the winter.


Still there are ample waterfowl hunting areas on the refuge in blinds or independently from boats in the west end of the lake. For more information about waterfowl hunting there contact the USF&WS, 8588 Route 148, Marion, IL 62959 or call them at 618-997-3344.


Horseshoe Lake Conservation Area is another IDNR facility. Their address is Box 85, Miller City, IL 62962.


All tolled there are about 60,000-acrtes of public waterfowl hunting area in the southern tier of counties. That is not counting the water holes in the Shawnee National Forest which attracts many ducks and geese each year.


With the variety of site specific regulations, it is vital to contact a specific area prior to hunting there. Officials hare happy to inform the public at to the restrictions in their particular area. IDNR is dedicated to providing a safe and quality hunting experience on public land. Public land waterfowl hunting is alive and well in southern Illinois.


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