SPRINGFIELD, ILL. - The Illinois Department of Natural Resources will require telephone reporting of wild turkey harvested by hunters, rather than the familiar county check station reporting system, beginning with the 2001 spring wild turkey hunting season, Director Brent Manning announced today.
"Although the network of county check stations has served the Department and the hunting public well, there are more efficient alternatives for collecting turkey harvest data," Manning said. " The decision to change the turkey check station system to a phone-in system was made only after very careful consideration."
Prior to this year, successful spring turkey hunters were required to take their bird to their county check station by 2 p.m. on the same day it was harvested. At the check station, trained personnel gathered information about the bird, and also asked the hunter a series of survey questions about their hunting trips. These data were later analyzed by biologists, who used the information to assess the status of turkey populations and to make decisions regarding proper management of the wild turkey.
Under the new reporting system, spring turkey hunters will still be required to tag their harvest immediately upon retrieval and must check their harvest via a toll-free telephone call by
2 p.m. that same day. During the phone call, hunters will be asked to provide a variety of information to assist biologists in managing Illinois^ turkey population. Hunters should review the questions listed on the back of their permit prior to making the call, and to be prepared to answer them. After providing all of the information, hunters will be given a 10-digit confirmation number to verify that they checked in their harvest. The confirmation number must be written on the leg tag in the appropriate boxes, so hunters should have a pencil or pen handy when making the call.
"From a hunter^s standpoint, the primary difference is that turkey hunters will no longer have to travel to a check station to register their harvest," said IDNR Forest Wildlife Program Manager Paul Shelton. "The phone-in system will be convenient for hunters while still providing the Department with the data necessary for proper management of wild turkey in the state."
Shelton said while many Illinois hunters may think of the system of county check stations for deer and turkey harvest as a permanent institution, that has not been the case.
"Our current mandatory archery deer check stations have only been in place since 1990. Prior to that, hunters reported harvest using a mail-in system. For turkey hunting, we used a mail-in system during the fall archery season that ended on January 11."
Spring turkey hunting began in Illinois in 1970, when only three counties (Alexander, Jackson and Union) were opened for a three-day period. One thousand hunters took 25 birds during the inaugural season. In the 30 years since, the number of counties open to turkey hunting has grown to 88, season length has increased to 31 days, and harvests have topped 11,000 birds. More than 35,000 turkey hunters participate annually.
"The primary purpose of registering deer and turkey harvest is to gather biological information necessary for proper management," Shelton said. "Wildlife laws and regulations, and their enforcement, are necessary to insure that good data are being collected, but are not the primary purpose of check stations. It is true that information available at check stations can be useful for law enforcement purposes, but that same type of information will continue to be available with a mandatory phone-in system. If anyone makes the conscious decision to violate harvest regulations, they will run the same risks of being arrested under the current system as they did under the old."
In the past, successful hunters were given a turkey pin for bringing their turkey to the county check station. Although turkey pins will no longer be given out for reporting harvest, collectors have asked that the IDNR continue to make them available for those who wish to purchase them. As a result, pins will still be available to turkey hunters and pin collectors for $5 each. Proceeds from the sale of the pins will be used to support wild turkey management in Illinois. Pin order forms are included with turkey permits or may be obtained by contacting IDNR Merchandise Sales, 524 S. Second St., Springfield, IL 62701-1787.
The four 2001 spring wild turkey seasons in the Northern Zone are April 16-May 16; the four 2001 spring wild turkey seasons in the Southern Zone are April 9-May 9.