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Versatile Hunter

Preserving Illinois’ Wingshooting Tradition

Thu, February 22, 2018

At one time in the not too distant past, opening day for upland bird hunting in Illinois was a celebrated occasion drawing more than 200,000 sportsmen into the field in pursuit of bobwhite quail or ringnecked pheasants.  For many young hunters of that era, their first experience with a rising covey of quail or a rooster rocketing out of the cover grew into a lifelong passion for shooting and the outdoors. 

However, over the course of four decades, much has changed.  As pheasant and quail populations dwindled in response to declining habitat, upland bird hunters also have nearly disappeared from Illinois and other Midwest states—their ranks reduced by 90% or more compared to years past.  Threatened too by this trend is the cherished Illinois tradition of wingshooting, especially if new, young hunters and shooters are not drawn into the sport.

Since its establishment in 1995, the Illinois Conservation Foundation (ICF), has been a proud partner of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and a financial supporter of many privately funded IDNR programs.  One such partnership program is the Illinois Wingshooting Program, which every year provides shooting clinics and controlled pheasant hunting opportunities for hundreds of youth, women and new hunters across the state. 

March marks the beginning of the 2018 Illinois Wingshooting Program.  Thirty-four separate wingshooting clinics are offered at 28 different state fish and wildlife areas, state parks, or private conservation/shooting clubs throughout Illinois.  Youth and women’s clinics are typically free, thanks to financial donations of local sponsors, while hunter clinics charge a small fee.  At the youth clinics and youth hunts, boys and girls ages 10-17 who have passed hunter safety and have an Illinois hunting license, receive individualized shooting instructions and participate in a controlled pheasant hunt emphasizing safe firearm use and ethical hunting practices.

On March 10, ICF is hosting a youth wingshooting clinic and youth pheasant hunt at the Torstenson Youth Conservation Education Center near Rockford, IL.  Co-sponsors of that event include the Northern Illinois Chapter of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF).

To register for that event, go to http://www.ILCF.org  To r.egister for other wingshooting clinics, go to https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/recreation/wingshooting/Pages/default.aspx.

The Illinois Conservation Foundation is an IRS 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit corporation established in 1995 to support the programs of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The ICF inspires today’s youth – tomorrow’s leaders – by providing quality outdoor education and programs that instill interest in conservation, ecology and sustainability.  Contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.


What exactly are the youth hunters supposed to go shoot since there are very few pheasant and quail compare to when I grew up? Once you used to be able to hunt railways and all waterway ditches in the area’s and had plenty of cover and property to gain permission to hunt.

Now farmers plow property line to property line with no fences rows or border grasses to speak of. Hedge rows are a thing of the past for cryin out loud.

I do not see the state of Illinois ever returning to a upland state until a lot of drastic changes in habitat occur and it’s really unfortunate for the youth of today as many may go thru a clinic etc but never see a pheasant around here to shoot.

Posted by kirkv on February 26

Actually Kirkv, there are habitat programs around such as NRCS’ Wetland Restoration Easement Program WRE.  I was out investigating a 74 acre wetland application on Feb 14th with NRCS Area Staff.  We saw dozens of pheasants flying back into the established Prairie grasses around the wetland from the adjacent corn fields.

Posted by TMalone on March 01

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