Counties cut from late-winter deer season

Springfield — Keeping true to its original promise, DNR trimmed 10 counties from the list of those open for late-winter deer hunting.

The news came earlier this month as the agency announced dates for the upcoming season.

Cass, Christian, Henry, Johnson, Lawrence, Mason, Morgan, Tazewell, Union and Wabash counties – each which participated in the most recent late-winter season – will not be open for the seven-day season, set for Dec. 27-30 and Jan. 18-20

Hunters in the 10 counties have had relative success during past late-winter seasons, which allows hunters to take antlerless deer with shotguns, muzzleloaders and handguns.

During the 2011-12 late-winter campaign, Union and Johnson counties had harvests of 295 and 240 deer, respectively. Wabash County hunters took only 57 deer, but harvests in the other seven counties ranged from 73 in Mason to 162 in Morgan.

The statewide harvest during last year’s late-winter season was 14,931, up slightly from the 14,884 deer taken in 2010-11.

Hunter success is mostly to blame for counties being taken off the late-winter list.

DNR’s option of closing the season when individual counties reached certain deer control milestones came out of the state’s Joint Legislative Task Force on Deer Population Control in 2008. DNR officials said at the time that they would use a formula to determine if the “bonus” season would be open in each county.

With the announced changes, there will be a total of 56 counties open for the late-winter season this year, while 10 northern Illinois counties will be open for the special CWD season, which runs concurrent to the late-winter season.

Retooling and readjusting its deer seasons will continue to be common practice, DNR hinted while announcing the season dates.

“Later this year, the DNR wildlife division will be seeking public input as it continues to look for ways to improve Illinois’ deer management program,” a DNR press release stated.

DNR expanded the late-winter season and made “extra” permits available in some counties beginning in 2009 to encourage hunters to harvest more deer in areas where populations were above suggested goals. 

A late-winter permit costs $17.50 for resident hunters.

Season dates

Otherwise, there is little change in this year’s deer seasons. The archery season will again open Oct. 1 and will run through Jan. 20, 2013. The youth firearms deer season will be Oct. 6-7, while the regular seven-day firearms will be Nov. 16-18 and Nov. 29-Dec. 2. The muzzleloader-only deer season will be Dec. 7-9.

Last season’s total harvest was 181,411, down from the 182,270 taken in 2010-11. Hunters took 97,886 deer during the firearms season, 4,886 during the muzzleloader-only season and 1,856 during the youth deer season.

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