QUINCY -- Spring has sprung, and that means the opportunity to experience hunting and fishing throughout Illinois traditionally exists.
Such tradition is being put on hold this spring.
The coronavirus pandemic that has shut down schools, businesses and government buildings also is taking a toll on outdoor recreation. Although the shelter-in-place order decreed by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker allows for outdoor exercise, there are limitations facing hunters and anglers.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources shut down access to state parks, fish and wildlife areas, recreational areas and historic sites, a decision that took effect March 15. Illinois was the first state to fully close its state-funded outdoor recreation areas.
According to Rachel Torbert, deputy director with the IDNR, "We know it was the right (decision) as we continue to see other states encounter large crowds in their state parks, as well as closures of other state parks, recreational areas and federal sites."
The IDNR is working closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Governor's office to assess when it can safely reopen all state-funded outdoor and historic sites.
Those closures mean a delay in the start of the spring trout fishing season and a lack of access to hunting ground for the spring turkey season.
The catch-and-release trout season was scheduled to open March 21 at 56 ponds, lakes and streams throughout Illinois. Each of those sites was stocked with rainbow trout by the IDNR with more than 80,000 trout being stocked statewide. Another 80,000 trout will be stocked in October.
The catchable trout season was scheduled to open April 4, but that will be delayed until the state facilities reopen. It not only denies anglers an opportunity to fish for trout, but the sale of inland trout stamps funds the Illinois Catchable Trout Program.
The spring turkey season won't be on hold entirely, but the likelihood a strong number of hunters take to the field is bleak.
The IDNR has canceled all upcoming events related to hunting and fishing that were planned at state sites, but it will allow turkey hunters to continue to hunt on private land.
According to Torbert, "hunters and anglers who wish to hunt or fish during the ‘Stay at Home' order may do so provided they have the appropriate licensing and permits and are hunting or fishing on private property or at sites which are currently open to the public.
"We ask our hunters and anglers to help their fellow outdoorsmen and women by following all public health directives, including staying at least six feet away from other sportsmen and staying home if they're exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19."
The spring turkey season is set to open April 6 in the South Zone and April 13 in the North Zone, which includes Adams, Brown, Hancock and Pike counties. Turkey hunting is broken up into five seasons ranging from five to eight days and concluding May 7 in the South Zone and May 14 in the North Zone.
Hunters can learn more about state-run properties and access to such land by visiting the IDNR website at dnr.illinois.gov.