Turkey Hunting Season to Open in Coming Days

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As turkey hunters take to the timber in the coming days, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is issuing a reminder to put safety first. Some Illinois State Parks where a high concentration of turkey hunters are anticipated will be closed to mushroom hunting until 1 p.m. daily. IDNR estimates approximately 50,000 people will turkey hunt during the next six weeks.

“We haven’t had many accidents during turkey hunting seasons of the past, and we’d like it to stay that way,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Joel Brunsvold. “We are balancing all the interests of all the people who enjoy Illinois State Parks in the spring, from hikers to hunters.”

Most properties under the jurisdiction of the IDNR that offer Spring Turkey hunting will not be open for morel hunting until after 1:00 pm daily. This restriction will be in place through May 5 in the south turkey hunting zones and through May 12 in the north zone. However, some sites with low turkey hunter densities may remain open all day, so morel seekers are advised to call ahead before planning a morning morel hunt. Some sites may also close equestrian and popular hiking trails where turkey hunting is allowed.

“We’re taking these extra precautions because harvesting turkeys requires a different strategy than hunting many other species,” said Galen Westerfield, Conservation Police Chief.

Unlike many other animals, turkeys can distinguish colors, and the fowl is very alert to the slightest movement by humans. As a result, the turkey hunter wears camouflage, rather than the blaze orange worn during other types of hunting season.

IDNR offers the following turkey hunting safety guidelines:

• Know your target is legitimate game and a legal animal before firing.
• Make sure you have the appropriate hunting license and permit, as well as a habitat stamp unless exempted."
• If hunting on private property, secure the permission of the landowner in advance.
• Be respectful and aware of other hunters.
• Turkey hunting is allowed from 30 minutes before sunrise, until 1 p.m.

IDNR estimates approximately 50,000 people will turkey hunt during the next six weeks. Permits are issued for five different turkey seasons, varying between the north and south zones of the state. The south zone includes Crawford, Jasper, Effingham, Fayette, Bond, and Madison counties, and all counties south of those. The fives turkey seasons in the south zone are April 4-8, 9-14, 15-20, 21-27, and April 28-May 5th. The five turkey seasons in the north zone are April 11-15, 16-21, 22-27, April 28-May 4, and May 5-12. A hunter is allowed up to three permits for the spring turkey season with an allowable harvest of one turkey per permit.

The wild turkey population in Illinois now tops 100,00, after dropping to near extinction in the middle part of the last century. Rules that are in place as needed for public safety, as spring is a time when Illinois State Parks are popular for a variety of activities. The rules have been crafted to maximize enjoyment for the largest number and variety of park visitors.