Turn off the television and video games and grab your turkey call; there are more places for young turkey hunters to go hunting this coming spring! The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has a new program, Illinois Recreational Access Program (IRAP) which leases property from private landowners to provide for more places for youth turkey hunting. With a three-year grant from the USDA-FSA, the IDNR will provide additional hunting areas available to young turkey hunters (under age 16).
Three spring turkey seasons will be available for youth hunters through IRAP:
- Spring Youth Season, which gives the kids a head start on turkey season, will run March 31- April 1 (southern zone) and April 7-8 (northern zone)
- Season 3, April 21-April 25 (southern zone) and April 27-May 2 (northern zone)
- Season 4, April 26-May 2 (southern zone) and May 3-May 9 (northern zone)
Interested youth turkey hunters will need to apply for an IRAP Youth Turkey Hunting permit through the IDNR’s website at http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/conservation/IRAP. In addition, many county Soil and Water Conservation Districts will have information and forms available at their offices.
Hunters will need to choose the county they wish to hunt in and then a random drawing will be held for each county/site. Youth hunters can request up to two turkey permits. For example, they can request to hunt the Spring Youth Turkey Season and Season 4.
Not all counties will have youth turkey hunting available. One will need to check the IDNR’s website, to see which counties have IRAP youth turkey hunting available as well as how many hunting sites there are per county. Currently, there is more than 5,000 acres enrolled in IRAP in 14 counties, including Iroquois and Bureau counties and Sangamon, Macoupin and Pike counties. More sites are being added weekly so it is important to check IDNR’s website.
Other public access activities IRAP is leasing property for include:
- To allow for fishing in ponds, rivers and streams, creating more places for families to fish.
- Creating additional access points along public rivers to enhance access by non-motorized water craft.
- To have places for nature lovers to explore, birdwatch and photograph wildlife.
This program is just a start in addressing several challenges the IDNR faces. IRAP’s goal is to promote outdoor activities to our youth and families in hopes of educating and recruiting additional outdoor enthusiasts who might otherwise not have the opportunity to participate. In addition, this provides for access to specific locations that may otherwise be closed to the public, expanding outdoor opportunities in general.
You can get involved with the program
- Landowners who enroll in the program for three years become eligible for a wildlife management plan to be established or have an existing plan updated for their property, focusing on forest management.
- Forest management plans will be written to the standards of the EQIP. Management plans will address invasive species, opening of the canopy, natural oak/hickory forest regeneration, etc.
- With the 3-year agreement, IRAP can assist the landowner with project funding to cover management practice implementation.
- Landowners will also receive a stipend for each turkey season that they allow access (amount based on the acreage offered for the program).
Insurance and Other Information
- Each IRAP participant is required to sign a liability waiver at the time when they apply for the youth turkey hunt.
- Liability for hunting activities on state leased land is covered under the State of Illinois Recreational Use of Leased Land Act, 745 ILCS 67.
- In addition landowners may purchase insurance on their property through IRAP and be reimbursed for their expense ($2 million liability).
- Landowners may withdraw from the program at any time during the year with a 30-day written notice.
- IRAP payments to landowners will be made in December following the approved activities for the preceding year.
- At times, there could be the possibility that IRAP leased property may not have an assigned hunter use the property (more properties enrolled in the program than hunters that registered for the lottery in any given county).
For Additional Information Please Contact:
Illinois Recreational Access Program Coordinator
One Natural Resources Way,
Springfield, IL 62702-1271