IL: Deer harvest down as herd size stabilizes

Springfield – A decline in this season’s deer harvest is being
viewed as effective deer management by DNR.

But some of the state’s deer hunters aren’t seeing the bright
side.

Totals released by DNR after the Jan. 16 close of the
late-winter and archery season reveal that hunters took a total of
181,936 deer in the 2010-11 campaign. That’s down more than 7,000
from the 189,277 deer taken in 2009-10.

The state-record deer harvest was 201,301 in 2005-06.

“Those days are gone, even though we all thought at the time it
would get even better,” Larry Keene, a deer hunter from
Collinsville, said during the early January Let’s Go Fishing
outdoors show in southern Illinois. “I hunted for 20 years, but I
didn’t even get a permit this year. I saw so few deer last year
that I didn’t bother.”

Other hunters say they have faith in DNR’s management plan, but
spotty deer sightings cause frustration.

“I guess it boils down to us being spoiled,” said Danny Ricci,
of suburban Chicago. “I think the next five years will tell what
kind of shape the herd is in.”

The fact that hunters had bountiful harvests early in the decade
may be a factor in lower harvest totals.

“During the past seven years, liberal permit quotas and seasons
have allowed Illinois deer hunters to reach record harvest levels
as biologists have worked to control herds and curb population
growth in many counties,” DNR Forest Wildlife Program Manager Paul
Shelton said when announcing the harvest totals.

“However, as goals are achieved, harvests tend to decline and
stabilize. Management is all about maintaining a quality herd at
desirable and sustainable densities. So we’ll be studying the data
so that we can adjust harvest levels as appropriate to strike a
balance between the need for herd control and the need to provide
recreational opportunities.”

Bowhunters took 63,584 deer during the archery season, which
ended Jan. 16. That was only slightly behind the 64,864 taken last
season. Late-winter antlerless-only and the special CWD deer season
harvest was 14,843, compared with 17,826 last year.

Hunters took 98,700 deer during the 2010 firearms season, 3,276
during the muzzleloader-only season (Dec. 10-12), and 1,533 during
the youth hunt.

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