IL: State’s deer hit neutral

Springfield – Slowly, but surely, Illinois' deer population is reaching equilibrium.

There have been a lot of factors, but a better harvest sex ratio is a primary factor.

"I would have to say the sex ratios of our harvest the last couple years have been really, really good, and that has gotten us where we are," said Paul Shelton, upland forest manager for DNR. "The last couple years the sex ratio was about 50-50 for all the seasons combined."

Illinois deer project manager Tom Micetich said lower kill rates in recent seasons are no reason for alarm.

"The harvest has been in decline since 2007, which is by design," Micetich said.

That "design" was set forth in 2008 after the Legislature established a Joint Task Force on Deer Population Control charged with making recommendations to manage the state's deer population, then estimated at between 750,000 and 800,000 deer.

Now, Micetich estimates there are 700,000 to 750,000 deer in the statewide herd.

"We're kind of where we want to be, except for a few counties that are going the wrong way," Micetich said.

Shelton is confident that "peak populations are down.

"That doesn't mean things are perfect everywhere – we still have some work cut out for us, but we're making progress," he said. "Even with our deer-vehicle collisions, we had that task force a few years ago, that was one of the concerns back then. If you look at that, our collisions peaked in 2003 and 2004, and they've been going down ever since. We have been having some measure of success in taking down the high level herds in areas we needed to. We're pleased with that."

The Illinois deer herd has been stuck with several hemorrhagic diseases in the past few years. Shelton said the outbreaks have not been a significant factor for the statewide herd. The diseases tend to affect deer locally.

"I think the biggest thing you can say about those kinds of diseases when you have a very high number deer herd it is going to be more noticeable because there will be more deer found," Shelton said. "But, it is not a cause and effect type of thing."

The 2011-12 archery deer season got off to a quick start with hunters harvesting more than 5,000 deer on the opening weekend.

"It's a long season," Shelton said. "We started out, it's been since 2005 that we had an opener that started on a Saturday. That always gives you a pretty quick boost when you start on a Saturday and Sunday. Given the weather we've been having before then, and what we've had since, we hit it just right."

Categories: Hunting News, News Archive, Whitetail Deer

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