Tag Archives: goose hunting

North Zone Waterfowl – Ducks Done but There’s Still Geese

Wrote this on December 10th and never did anything with it…

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Some waterfowl observations.

For the first couple of weeks of the waterfowl season, it sounded like a war zone around Yorkville. Since then, things have died down considerably, hardly hear any shooting. There’s also not many geese hanging around down this way. They usually show up in bigger numbers when the ponds in the area start to freeze over. This stretch of the Fox River doesn’t freeze over because of the effects of the Yorkville dam and that’s a draw for the birds.

But, I have to drive east everyday for work now. I take Route 126 through to I-55. Between Yorkville and Plainfield it’s primarily farm fields. The closer you get to Plainfield, the more birds you see. Hundreds upon hundreds of them. In the fields, flying overhead in massive V’s and all over the DuPage River.

I’m assuming the draw for all these birds is Lake Renwick and all the strip mine pits in the area that are now fishing clubs. As those start to freeze over, a lot of the birds move to the DuPage River, which almost never freezes over.

A smart waterfowler would do a bit of research and check out the hunting opportunities around Plainfield. I know you can hunt on the DuPage River further south of Plainfield, only I can’t remember the details. No public blinds as far as I remember, so you’d need a boat blind. Better still, it might be worth someone’s while to find out if you can drift shoot out of a canoe through that section. I know you can do that on the Fox River down stream of Silver Springs State Park, why not on the DuPage?

As long as there’s open water around Plainfield, the birds will stick around. I’ve noticed for years that the geese hang around in that area all winter mainly because of the DuPage River. I would imagine there has to be a way to take advantage of this.

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Well, things have change a bit since then.

The season for ducks in the North Zone ended on December 18th, but the season for Canada Geese doesn’t end till January 17, 2013. There are still massive amounts of them around Plainfield, but the turn in the weather on Thursday has changed things a bit on the Fox River.

Friday night the geese were moving onto the Fox River down from my house. You don’t think of them flying at night, but I hear them all the time heading down to the river and then talking up a storm once they get there. That means this cold front has started to freeze the ponds in the area and they’re heading for open water. The river will get some skim ice now, but it won’t start to freeze over for awhile yet.

Cruising along the river on Saturday showed geese gathering all over the place. This is the first I’ve seen this all season. Remember my comment above about drift shooting down river from Silver Springs State Park?

I stopped on the bridge over the river that defines this down stream edge of the State Park. In the pool below the bridge and for down stream as far as you could see were geese, at least a couple of hundred of them. This is where you can supposedly start drift shooting on the river. If you want to try this I would get that info verified to make sure, but it’s been done in the recent past and I haven’t heard that things have changed.

That being said, I was out this morning around the beginning of shooting time watching a couple hundred geese leave the river and head for the surrounding fields.

No shooting to be heard anywhere.

The 10 day weather forecast shows low 30’s during the day and teens and twenties every night. This should bring considerably more geese to the river.

If you’re a dedicated Canada Goose hunter, you might not want to miss this.

Gone Huntin’

“What are you doing?”

Well, I was thinking that over the last 10 years I’ve got out duck and goose hunting one time. I used to like hunting for ducks and geese. Setting up the decoys, sitting in a blind all day. I’d get to watch a sunrise and a sunset while sitting on the edge of a river. Very peaceful, very relaxing.

“Noooo, what are you doing with that stick and a loaf of bread?”

Oh, that.

“You’re going to make me regret this conversation, aren’t you.”

You know how I always joke about going after all these resident waterfowl, the ones that hang around here pretty much all year, with a nine iron and a loaf of bread? I thought I’d give it a try. They’re so used to people throwing food at them, they’ll walk right up to you. Nice easy whack upside the head and you got a meal.

I did have to give up on the nine iron idea though cause I don’t have one. I tried to take my dad’s, he can’t golf anymore, but I made the mistake of telling him what I was thinking of doing with it. Besides, if I go out there walking around with a nine iron some guy will think that’s an invitation to strike up a conversation about golf. Ever have a conversation about golf? It’s worse than a conversation about baseball, hockey, football and basketball COMBINED! After a few minutes I’d be begging the guy for a couple of tee’s so I can shove them into my eardrums. It’s brutal.

“I can think of worse things… all I asked was…”

I actually learned this from watching kids. Remember I worked with the Chicago Park District’s Kid Fishin’ program years ago. Kids would bring their lunch along, kids never finish their lunch. So they would start ripping it to shreds and feeding it to the fish. Before you knew it there were ducks and geese streaming in out of nowhere to join in on the feast. They’d eat everything that hit the water or ground. They’d walk right up to your feet. That’s when I first got the idea that I should just pop one.

“That’s baiting, even I know you can’t bait birds.”

Ahhh, most hunting requires baiting. Yeah, they make this stupid law that you can’t go throwing food on the ground or in the water, but it’s all baiting. Think about it, you throw all those decoys out there in a place that you think might be inviting to waterfowl. Then you sit back and start talking to them. You have no clue what you’re saying to them. Hey man, over here, we got food. Or, hey, take a break, nice spot here. Or, hey baby, you wanna get yourself some? You have no clue what your saying to these birds, it’s all baiting.

Squirrel calls, same thing, you’re baiting them with promises of something. Rotating wings on dove decoys, those stupid flapping flag like things waterfowl hunters wave around. Take a look at hunting in cornfields for waterfowl. You set up in a corn field after it’s been harvested and there’s corn everywhere. Brings in the birds by the hundreds. Oh sure, you can argue you didn’t put the corn there, but somebody did. It’s baiting.

Then, how about those idiots that go out deer hunting? There’s actually a product out there called #69 (like deer even know what that is) Doe-in-Rut Buck Lure. The graphic on the front, the one that’s supposed to entice you to buy this product, is an image of a big buck with his nose up the ass of a doe.

Really?

“Can I go now…”

That’s the ultimate in baiting. I know guys that would gladly give up food for sex. All I know is that if you’re dumb enough to put this stuff on then go out wandering around in the woods, I wouldn’t spend too much time bent over doing anything. You get what you deserve at that point.

“You really aren’t going to go do this, are you?”

There’s a score to be paid, remember. All I wanted to do was go out fishing and the geese picked the one spot I had to walk past that didn’t involve swimming in the creek. They honked and hissed, I tried to settle them down. Talked nice to them. Tried to hush them a bit, I’m heading on my way… and what do they do? They try to kill me.

Fun With Wildlife

It’s payback time.

But first, a decision needs to be made… white or wheat?

It’s a War Zone out There

North of the river from where I live are fields of corn and soybeans, virtually all harvested. I’ve been seeing hundreds of ducks and geese every day for the last few weeks. In those fields, on some nearby ponds and quite a few coming to the Fox River below my house at sunset. I can hear them late into the night, honking and squawking about something.

Saturday was the first day of waterfowl season in Northern Illinois. I walked out my door a little before 7 AM to go fishing. Sunrise was at 7:14. You can start shooting a half hour before sunrise. A loud volley went off before I got to my car.

I fished further upstream, about 10 miles. Here the river flows almost due south. To the west are more fields, more ponds and tucked into all this are islands of subdivisions. The shooting was almost constant. Based on three rounds in a shotgun and how many shots were being fired, there were 5-10 hunters in each blind. Ground blinds I’m assuming. I would check the time whenever I heard the shots. I wanted to know how long this would last. I checked after one volley and it was 9:45 AM. That was it, didn’t hear another shot after that.

Part of me gets a perverse pleasure out of knowing that residents of these island subdivisions are being awakened early on a Saturday morning by a barrage of gunfire. I guess their association should have mentioned that before the house was bought.

Fog off the river and low fog drifting overhead kept the light levels down. Clear skies would have killed the bite, if there was to be one. First spot produced a couple of fish, so I welcomed the fog and hoped it would stick around for awhile.

I enjoy the closeness of fog. It’s ability to keep you focused on what is near you. No distractions because you simply can’t see them. It also seems to kill off the surrounding noises. Nothing but running water, ducks and geese, I could hear the beaver swimming across the river not far from me.

The peak fall colors happened a couple of weeks ago. Fewer leaves on the trees and even then, not much color left to them. Vines on an old fence were still lit up bright red and other than that, the scenery is starting to take on the brown grays of the coming winter.

Fishing in semi-urban areas means tolerating the bad habits of others. If I were to collect all the garbage I come across while wading areas like this, I would have to have a couple of canoes in tow. I could easily fill both to overflowing.

Apparently, drinking the water has no real effect on the person that drinks the water.

The channel I fished has a large island making up one of the shores. Most of the bigger islands on the Fox have deer populations. I see them all the time. Sticking their heads out of the dense brush to watch me as I wade by and crossing the river to head back to the main land, in this case I’m sure to browse in the big field of trees and grass.

These must have waited till I passed by to make a run for it.

Whenever I finish fishing in this area, I cross the channel and wander onto the island. Buried in the trees and brush are the remnants of an old hunting shack. I never have asked if I can deer hunt on these islands. I know waterfowl is off limits, the shore on one side lost it’s rural look many years ago. But bow hunting deer? I don’t see why not. Today I had another doe staring me down as I wandered onto the island, then spooked a big buck that luckily decided to run from me rather than hold its ground.

Years ago I lived in Elmhurst. To mitigate a flooding problem in a low spot at the back of the yard, I planted prairie plants. One of the plants that grew was pokeweed. I once watched robins devouring the berries that appear in the fall. They would then go sit on the nearby wires, start wavering like a drunk and fall off the wire. Then they would go eat more of the berries and start over.

In the stretch that I fished today, with the drought and low water we’ve had this year, a gravel bar that normally has nothing growing on it is now covered in pokeweed.

After watching the robins years ago I did a bit of research on pokeweed and I distinctly remember reading that the berries, when ingested, are a hallucinogen. They never did say how many berries you had to eat and I’ve been reluctant to give it a try. I can no longer find that reference, but I did find that the berries have been used in the past as a treatment for arthritis. I can live with that, my bones hurt a bit more each passing year.

I read about a guy that has been eating five berries a day for years to help with his arthritis and he insists the berries work.

Or maybe he’s just too stoned to care about the pain at that point.

If I get up the nerve to give this a try, I’ll let you know the outcome.

Either one would work for me.

The Ducks and Geese
Don’t Know How Lucky They Are

By the time 2001 rolled around I had already been exploring the Fox River in the long stretches below Oswego and Yorkville. Back then I lived in Elmhurst and would drive 40 miles one way to spend the day exploring the river and it’s islands. The Orchard Road bridge had yet to be built, so the stretch below Oswego still had a certain wild charm.

During my exploring I kept coming across duck blinds tucked onto islands. Most had seen better days and looked like they hadn’t been used in years. One I came across was in pretty good shape and on a short pole sitting off to the side was a sign that said it was a designated waterfowl blind.

That same year a friend gave me all the guns he didn’t use anymore and told me to put them to use. A couple of them were perfect for waterfowl. I was 45 years old at that point and had never hunted a day in my life. I had never shot a gun either except for a BB gun. I knew it would take me awhile before I could hunt effectively.

I had searched the IDNR website looking for information on waterfowl hunting on the Fox River. There was no information to be found. One day while exploring down stream of Yorkville I stopped by the office at Silver Springs State Park.

An older woman was behind the counter. I asked her about waterfowl hunting out on the river. I was told there wasn’t any and none was allowed. I knew she was lying to me, but kept my mouth shut. I knew I had just run into some kind of Good ‘Ol Boy network and I wasn’t Good ‘Ol boy enough for her. I let it go. I wasn’t ready for waterfowl hunting anyway and spent that year upland game hunting for the first time.

The following year while out fishing and exploring, I came across more blinds with more of the yellow signs next to them. I stopped in at Silver Springs again. The same older woman was there behind the counter and I asked her the same questions as the year before. I was given the same line of crap I was given then. This time I politely let her know she was lying to me.

At that moment a guy walks in the door, goes behind the counter and sits down at a desk. I turned my attention to him and asked him the same questions. He reaches under the counter, pulls out a map and continues to go over all the designated waterfowl sites throughout the whole area I had been asking about. He noted all the ones I already knew about.

The older woman scurried out the door and said under her breath “I don’t know why anyone would want to hunt along here, the Fox River isn’t a flyway anyway.”

I beg to differ.

A few years later that map finally showed up on the IDNR website.

Ten years later and we are having one of the mildest winters I can remember. Usually by the middle of January the Fox River is pretty well covered in ice except for the areas immediately downstream of dams. This year with all the open water, coupled with the fact that the river is flowing below normal levels, the river is filled with ducks and geese. I’ve been driving up and down the river the past week and have seen more waterfowl on the river than ever before.

A few weeks ago I read an IDNR report on the progress of the waterfowl migration. It was bleak for those that live south. They were barely getting 10 percent of the birds they normally see. In the north zone the season for Canada Geese ended on January 7th. In the zones further south, just barely further south, they can hunt these geese till January 31st. I imagine they aren’t seeing all that many.

There are thousands of them hanging out in the barely 10 miles of the Fox River that I’ve checked. A friend that lives nearby estimated four or five hundred of them were flying over his house the other day.

Today’s check on the geese was kind of ironic.

Plenty of them hanging out within shooting range of a blind.

For as far as I could see up and down the river from that point, there were hundreds more ducks and geese. Except for the very edges, the river was pretty much ice free.

I knew that not much further down stream were a couple of more designated blind sites. Sure enough, not much further down stream there were quite a few more waterfowl.

We’re ten days out from February. Usually by then things are starting to warm up and the ice locked river starts to open up. Though the ten day forecast shows nights dipping below freezing, all of the day time temps are above that. This just might be the first year I can remember when the river doesn’t freeze over.

In a way I feel sorry for all those waterfowl hunters further south that were hoping for some Canada Geese, but it doesn’t last long. If the weather continues the way it’s been going all winter, we can have an unusually warm river come March.

That means in about six weeks I can be out there tying into some pretty good smallmouth bass fishing. I’ll probably have to kick ducks and geese out of my way to get to the best water, but I can live with that.

And for all those waterfowl hunters further south sitting around waiting for geese to show, well, there’s always next year.

Geese Must Taste Like Shit

I don't recall seeing anyone in this blind this year.

In the north zone of Illinois, duck and goose hunting started on October 15th.

Starting then, every morning I would hear gun shots going off down on the river or out in the surrounding cut corn and bean fields.

Duck hunting in the north zone ended on December 13th and so did the morning ritual of gun shots.

Which is odd, since goose hunting in the north zone doesn’t end till today, January 7th.

With the mild winter we’ve had so far, the geese have not left.

There are hundreds of them down on the river below my house.

Out in the fields and ponds near me, hundreds more hanging around.

Every sunset and sunrise hundreds of geese are either leaving or coming back to the river, flying directly over my house and in the skies for as far as I can see.

And yet, I’ve not heard a single gun shot since December 13th.

Until this morning, the last day of goose season in the north zone of Illinois.

Three lone shots out on the river.

He must have the same recipes I have, I think geese taste pretty damn good.

I never did get my act together enough to go do it myself.

I have to fix that problem for next year.