Highland News Leader

Highland tells waterfowl hunters to use blinds or lose them

In this file photo, Canada geese congregate on Silver Lake in Highland during winter.
In this file photo, Canada geese congregate on Silver Lake in Highland during winter. File photo

Duck and goose hunters with blinds on Highland’s Silver Lake will be required to use double the amount of decoys required by state law and will be subject to losing rights to their blinds if they do not use them often enough.

“Although we’ve always had a waterfowl hunting ordinance in place, we usually defer to all Illinois Department of Natural Resources rules and regulations,” said the Director of Parks and Recreation Mark Rosen.

But that changed June 19 when the Highland City Council approved several changes to its ordinance regarding use of Silver Lake by waterfowl hunters.

Ryan Hummert, the city’s natural resource manager, said that the IDNR requires hunters to have at least 12 decoys while hunting. However, the new city ordinance will require blind holders to deploy a minimum of 24 decoys at all times while using the blind. All decoys must also have the owner’s name, address, and telephone number.

“We feel as though it will require the hunters to utilize their designated blind locations more frequently, as well as allow us to better monitor usage of the blind locations on the lake,” Hummert said.

The amendment also requires those with permits to blinds to use them. Blind holders that do not use their blind each waterfowl season will be subject to losing their privileges for two consecutive years.

“The hope is that it will force more hunting or free up the blind for other hunters,” Rosen said in a memo to the city manager and council members.

City officials said some landowners adjacent to Silver Lake have, in the past, purchased blind spots not to hunt, but to keep others from doing so, because they did not like early-morning noise near their homes during hunting season. In turn, this has generated complaints from actual hunters who have been unable to secure a blind.

“We have had a few complaints of hunters not occupying their blinds during the season, which does prevent potential new blind holders from acquiring a blind spot each year,” Hummert said.

The city has a limited number of permits available each year.

“We currently have 28 blind locations on the lake,” Hummert said. “The ordinance will allow up to 33, but we have removed a few due to safety restrictions with new homes being built around the lake.”

Hummert said that the city will begin monitoring usage of blinds very frequently throughout the 2017-2018 waterfowl season, which starts Nov. 11, 2017 and runs through Jan. 9, 2018, in the south/central zone, which includes Silver Lake, according to the IDNR website.

“The city will be monitoring usage very frequently throughout this upcoming waterfowl season,” Hummert said.

In another part of the amended ordinance, for safety purposes, anglers are required to observe of 250-feet distance when fishing. To alert anglers that hunters are using their blind, the new amendment requires hunters to raise a black flag whenever they are present, and to take the flag down when they are finished. The ordinance also states that the black flags will be distributed to blind holders by the city.

“We have a very successful waterfowl program on Silver Lake and are looking to maintain that level of success each year,” Hummert said.

Out-of-state boat fees decreased

The council also approved the reduction of the fee for out-of-state boating license fees for use of Silver Lake.

According to Rosen, the current fees range from $125 to $500, annually. However, the city has recently been receiving many queries from Missouri boaters who want to use the lake. The Silver Lake Commission recommended the fee reduction, based on comparisons to other lakes in the area, like Governor Bond Lake in Greenville. The commission also concluded that the lake is a feature that attracts people to Highland, so that would be a benefit of decreasing the fees.

Rosen said that this year was the first year that the city has sold an out-of-state boating license in over a decade. He said that the fee decrease will increase the probability of selling more licenses, based on the number of phone calls and discussions he has had with out-of-state boat owners.