Heartland Outdoors: Through the Lens

Southern Illinois Aerial Waterfowl Surveys Delayed

Saturday, November 16

Hunters have been voicing frustration with the Hunting Digest for several months. Thankfully digests shipped this week and should currently be in the hands of DNR site offices, staff, and vendors. But another frustration has surfaced for waterfowl hunters. There have been no southern Illinois aerial waterfowl surveys performed yet. South central season opener has come and gone and south zone opener is looming on the horizon.

Hunters who routinely check the weekly survey results, and use them as tool have been frustrated since late October. Usually the flights for the southern region begin around the the last 10 days of October.

Not this year.

Hunters aren’t the only ones frustrated. DNR site staff have been bombarded with the question, ” Where are the survey numbers? Are they doing the surveys? ”  along with the months long refrain “Are the hunting digests here yet?”.  Unfortunately, the staff had no answer to give users.

I reached out to Randy Smith Wetland Wildlife Project manager for IDNR in hopes of getting some clarification to when the survey data might be available for southern Illinois hunters.

According to Smith:

“The state initiated a new procurement system in 2019. We anticipated delays to contracts such as aerial surveys (southern, west-central and northeastern Illinois), and began our internal process a month sooner than previous years, but delays have still held things up. Additionally, Federal Aviation Administration approval procedures for low-level flights changed and DNR nor our survey pilot was aware of the change, further adding to the delay.

We anticipate those approvals clearing any day now, and will begin conducting surveys and posting results as soon as we are able.

As a reminder, the purpose of conducting these surveys is to monitor populations, long term trends in waterfowl abundance and habitat use and to assist in making management decisions. The surveys also serve as a great resource to hunters for scouting and migration tracking, but that is not their primary function. Thus, DNR has a great interest in completing as many surveys as possible as well; each survey missed leaves a hole in our dataset, and we are equally frustrated with the situation.”

I for one appreciate that Smith was willing to answer my question, explain the situation. Rather than feel angry and frustrated with IDNR, I can understand that sometimes despite everyone’s best efforts things just go awry. This seems to be one of those situations.

My frustration however remains with the failure of IDNR to effectively communicate the delays and snafus in a timely manner. We understand that mistakes can happen, that things can go awry. Just be up front and tell us.

The delay of the printed copies of the hunting digest is perfect example. Once it was determined that a reprint of the digests would be neccesary, simply issue a statement telling constituents that there would be a delay and give them an expected date. At the very least, keep site staff informed so that they are not placed in the awkward situation of having to say “I don’t know”.  Same with the aerial surveys.

As I have always said to IDNR -  Just Talk to Us. It’s frustrating that we have to keep uttering those four simple words. Communication is key. Public perception of IDNR continues to decline into the negative region. Constituents continue to feel disenfranchised and left out. Frustration in getting even the simplest of questions answered runs high. So my plea to IDNR once again is JUST TALK TO US. Get out in front of issues, problems, let us know what’s happening.

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