Muzzleloaders see harvest spike

Springfield – Muzzleloader hunters had their third best weekend
in history, taking 4,697 deer during Dec. 11-13.

That’s a jump of nearly 400 deer from last year’s 4,310 and
second only the 2006 record of 5,973 and the second-best total of
4,879 killed in 2005.

The muzzleloader numbers followed a mostly-disappointing
firearms harvest of 99,419 – the lowest firearms harvest in eight
years. Weather and a slow grain harvest were to blame for the
decline during the two gun-hunting weekends.

Still on tap for Illinois deer hunters is the late-winter
season, which has been expanded to seven days this year (See Page
3).

Top muzzleloader counties in 2009 were Pike (221), Fulton (124),
Jo Daviess (114), Hancock (109) and Jefferson (103).

The 99,419 firearms harvest was down from 105,595 a year
ago.

DNR officials blamed this year’s low result on standing
corn.

As the corn harvest lingered in the 20-40 percent range for
several weeks during a rainy spell, hunters struggled. They took
66,126 deer during the Nov. 20-22 opening weekend, compared to the
2008 opener that saw a harvest of 71,894.

During the second weekend, when farmers traditionally have 100
percent of the corn crop harvested, just under 20 percent remained
in the field. The second half of the 2009 season ended Dec. 6 with
hunters taking 33,293 deer, a bit below the 33,701 taken during the
2008 second season.

“Harvest during the second season was nearly identical to last
year,” DNR Forest Wildlife Program Manager Paul Shelton said in a
statement following the second weekend.

“We did experience a slow start during the first firearms
season.”

DNR reported that more than 360,000 permits were issued for the
2009 firearms season.

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