Illinois deer harvest summary reveals ups and downs statewide
Springfield — Across the board, the state saw a 2.24 percent increase in the deer harvest this season compared to the 2016-17 season.
A total of 147,535 deer were taken, 3,232 more than the 144,303 taken last season.
Archery hunters had an 8 percent increase, gun hunters just above a half -percent increase and muzzleloader hunters nearly a 12 percent increase. Some 900 fewer deer were shot during the youth season, marking a 28 percent decrease from last year’s record-setting harvest of 3,272.
Top counties for the total harvest were Pike (4,344), Fulton (4,046), Randolph (3,684), Adams (3,684) and Jefferson (3,645). Despite a 3 percent decline in harvest numbers, hunters in Pike County harvested 298 more deer than second place Fulton County. Of the top five, Jefferson County saw the biggest increase with 10.93 percent more deer taken than last year. Only Fulton was open during the late winter season, and hunters there shot 269 deer during that time.
The majority of the state’s counties (62 of them) had an increase over last year’s harvest. Most improved were Moultrie and Lake County, whose 579 and 329 deer , respectively, put their harvest right at 19 percent over last year’s. Most numbers stayed comparable to recent numbers, with half of the counties being within 5 percent of last year’s total harvest. Other notable improvements were Douglas (330), Alexander (728) and Clinton (1,116) counties, each with an improvement of about 16 percent.
Counties that saw the biggest decreases were DeKalb, where 283 deer made an almost 20 percent decrease from the 2016-17 season. Ogle (1,561 down from 1,794), Winnebago (833 down from 934), and Stephenson (1,346 down from 1,508) counties also had decreases of 10 percent or more.
The state says the complete breakdown is not yet available, but overall hunters took 56 percent males and 44 percent females this year. Looking at archery numbers, about 54 percent of the 57,937 deer harvested were bucks.
The number of permits sold for the 2017-18 season is not known currently, but there have been some trends in the past few years. A look at the final Deer Harvest Reports show that during the 2013-14 seasons, 618,575 permits were sold. That number dropped by nearly 54,000 leading to the 2016-17 season. Despite the drop in permit sales, about a quarter of permit holders have harvested a deer each year.
During the past five years, overall deer harvest numbers in Illinois have made for an average of just above 148,000 deer each year. The 2015-16 season saw the highest harvest with 155,131 deer taken and last season was the five-year low with 144,303 deer taken.
There were 22 counties open for the late winter season in 2017-18, two fewer counties than the year before. Counties that are at or below their individual deer population goal for two consecutive years may be removed from the late winter season. There were also 15 counties in northern Illinois open to the Special Chronic Wasting Disease Season (one less than the 2016-17 season). Hunters throughout the state shot 3,505 deer during these seasons.
DNR reported hunters using muzzleloading rifles harvested 3,700 deer during the December season, compared with harvest 3,308 in the 2016 muzzleloader season. This accounts for about 2.5 percent of the total harvest.
Deer harvested during the youth season accounted for 1.6 percent of the total harvest.