The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) announced changes to dove hunting procedures at state sites due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The changes will provide greater protection to both the hunting public and site staff during the season.
The following changes in regulations will apply to all state sites participating in the Free Dove Permit Program, which uses an online application process to distribute permits for each of the first five days of the dove season (Sept. 1-5):
1. No standby drawings will be held during the first five days of the dove season. Hunting will be limited to those individuals who applied for and received a free dove permit via the Springfield-based lottery drawings. In the past, standby drawings were held to fill vacant positions remaining in the dove fields, but these drawings often resulted in crowded conditions at site offices which could potentially violate current crowd restrictions and social distancing guidelines.
2. There will be no drawings for field and stake positions. All Free Dove Permit holders will randomly be assigned to a field (if there are multiple fields) and a stake number in that field. Each permit holder will be mailed his or her field/stake assignment, a map, a harvest reporting card and the drop box location for the site.
3. Hunters should report directly to their assigned field/stake on the day of their hunt; there will be no checking in at the site office. Harvest cards should be placed on top of the vehicle dashboard so they are clearly visible through the windshield.
4. Permittees must begin their hunt at their assigned stake. Beginning at 2:00 p.m., hunters may move to an unoccupied stake within the same field if they wish.
5. Upon completing their hunt, hunters must record their harvest on the provided harvest card and deposit the completed card into the drop box at the site. Locations of drop boxes will be provided in the information mailed to each hunter.
6. The Free Dove Permit online application will close at midnight Sunday, Aug. 16. This will allow sufficient time for all permit holders to be mailed their information before Sept. 1.
The following changes in regulations will apply to all state non-permit dove hunting sites which conduct daily drawings to assign hunters to fields and/or stakes:
1. No daily drawings will be conducted. Fields and/or stakes will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis using a drive-through check-in line at the site beginning at 9:30 a.m. All hunters must remain in their vehicles during the check-in process.
2. Drive-through check-in locations for each site can be found on the IDNR website.
State sites which allow unrestricted dove hunting during the first five days of the season will be unaffected by these changes. Beginning Sept. 6, all sites will revert to their normal hours and regulations for the remainder of their season, with hunting opportunities offered on a first-come, first basis (no drawings, etc.). Hunters are reminded that normal rules concerning windshield cards and harvest reporting remain in effect. The Illinois dove season runs Sept. 1, 2020 through Nov. 14, 2020 and Dec. 26, 2020 through Jan. 9, 2021. There are dove hunting opportunities on state sites beyond the first five days of the season.
Hunters should follow all public health guidelines issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health, including wearing masks when social distancing cannot be achieved and refraining from congregating in parking lot areas. Through responsible actions, hunters can help ensure that site hunting programs continue to offer Illinoisans healthy outdoor recreation opportunities.