Springfield – Gone is the excuse empty-handed deer hunters have
used in Illinois for decades: “If only I had another
When firearms hunters hit their treestands for the November
season, they will be allowed to stay 30 minutes past sunset.
The extended hunting period – previously hunters had to pack it
in at sunset – was passed as a new state law earlier this year and
is probably the biggest change hunters will see in 2007-2008.
Coming off last year’s 50th anniversary of firearms deer
hunting, the state is expected to produce another bumper crop of
bucks and does. Hunters harvested almost exactly 200,000 deer in
all seasons during 2006-2007. That was down slightly from the
record year of 2005-06, when hunters took 202,492.
Shotgun hunters took a total of 115,279 last season, while
archers killed 65,170. Other harvests included late-winter
antlerless-only (9,075), muzzleloader (5,939), youth (1,099), and
the special chronic wasting disease hunt (625).
Even as chronic wasting disease and epizootic hemorrhagic
disease take their toll on the deer herd, state deer biologist Paul
Shelton said the overall population in the state seems to have
remained fairly steady in the past few years, after peaking in
He estimates there to be 800,000 deer roaming the state. That’s
about 100,000 more than wildlife officials would like.
“Last year was a good harvest, and if the weather had
been a little better we might have come close to the previous
year’s record harvest,” Shelton said. ”During the firearm seasons
we had some rough weather. Then, again, a rough week or so during
the late-winter season.”
Even with perfect weather, there’s no guarantee that hunters
would thin out the deer herd. Shelton, like many others in his
field, believes many hunters are too choosy when it comes to taking
“Some would say the way to cut down the numbers is to
provide more hunting opportunities,” he said.”But any additional
opportunities would have to be for antlerless deer.”
Tim Overstreet, an archery and firearms hunter from Harrisburg,
agreed with that assessment, noting that he’s seen many hunters
from all parts of the state pass on perfectly nice does.
“They’d rather go home with nothing than take an
antlerless deer,” he said.
Harvests that push 200,000 deer seem common to Illinois hunters
these days, but 50 years ago firearms hunters really had to do some
hunting to find their deer. In that 1957 season, 33 counties
participated in a three-day season, with hunters harvesting about
Archers that year harvested 220 deer.
Other changes for deer hunters have likely been noticed. When
archery season began Oct. 1, the number of crossbows being used was
expected to multiply. A new law this year gives hunters age 62 and
older the right to legally use a crossbow during archery season
without a special permit.
How many hunters will take to the woods this season is still
unknown, but DNR officials expect the number to be similar to last
year, when more than 425,000 deer hunting permits were sold for
both firearms and archery seasons. Nearly 90,000 permits were
distributed to landowners.
DNR estimates there are 100,000 resident archery and 195,000
resident firearms hunters. But there is a growing number of
nonresident hunters – an estimated 21,000 nonresident bowhunters
and about 11,000 nonresident gun hunters.