For 70 years, hunters have been shooting waterfowl like ducks and geese at Wolf Lake on the city’s Far South Side. It is the only state park within city limits, and one of the only places to hunt in Chicago.
Wolf Lake became a state park in 1947, but its history stretches well before that.
President Abraham Lincoln is said to have been a frequent visitor, and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln is reported to have once nearly drowned in its waters. In 1965, the park was renamed the William Powers State Recreation Area, after a nature-loving former Chicago alderman.
According to Chicago municipal code, Wolf Lake is one of just a few places to hunt within the city. Lake Calumet, to the west, is another. Hunters are only permitted to use shotguns, which fire at lower velocities than rifles.
Illinois’ hunting resources aren’t being utilized they like used to, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the state wildlife agency that manages the park.
The number of hunting licenses purchased by state residents has declined significantly since an all-time high of 553,000 in 1956. For the 2015-16 season, that number fell by nearly half to 271,000 licenses.
“Generally speaking, yes, we’ve seen a trend where, as far as the actual hunters that have gotten out and hunted, has continuously declined,” said Nicky Strahl, IDNR’s wildlife and hunter heritage biologist. “Every now and again there’s a jump up, it seems like there’s some kind of push for hunting which is great, but then it’s followed by a decline.”
Illinois residents born on or after Jan. 1, 1980 must complete a safety education program before purchasing a hunting license.
In an effort to promote more hunting, the IDNR began issuing youth hunting licenses in 2014. That permit allows residents ages 18 and under to hunt under the direct supervision of an adult with a hunting license.
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