Whitetail gunners up their numbers

Pinckneyville, Ill. — Although the number of deer taken during the first weekend of gun season far eclipsed last year’s total, few of those taken during the hunt were considered “trophy” bucks.

Which suggests Illinois hunters are less picky this year.

DNR reported the harvest to be 72,111, an increase from the 66,501 deer during the first weekend of the 2011 firearms deer season.

Perry County seemed to be a perfect case study for the first weekend. While hunters there upped their harvest from 822 last year to 956 this year, the general sentiment was that they saw a lot of deer on the first two days of the season and heard many shots fired, but were not seeing as many big bucks as expected.

Still, without even seeing DNR’s numbers, there was a feeling the harvest was strong there.

“We’re busy. We’ve taken about as many deer as we can take,” Leroy Lamczik, of Lamczik’s Processing Meat Packers in DuQuoin, said on Nov. 18, the final day of first season. Lamczik noted that he had taken in a lot of does, but there had been a number of large bucks brought in from nearby Pyramid State Park and the DuBois area.

Big buck reports were sparse and scattered across the rest of the state. Brandon Kaufman, of Savanna, took a nice 19-pointer that green-scored 203 in Carroll County on the final day of the season. Kaufman had shot his first buck, a 9-pointer, with a bow the week before.

According to DNR, the top five counties for the first firearms weekend were Pike, with 2,108 deer, followed by Fulton (2,048), Adams (1,938), Jo Daviess (1,877) and Randolph (1,665).

In Williamson County, which had a harvest of 1,145, compared to the 2011 total of 1,103, hunters said they enjoyed good deer movement and a lot of rutting activity during the gun season. Darren Paschedag, of Granite City, does much of his hunting in Williamson. This year he hunted with his nephew, Blake Moss, of Glen Carbon, who got his first deer ever using a muzzleloader that Paschedag got for him as an early Christmas present.

“Friday evening [Nov. 16] he missed a really nice nine or 10 pointer, and 10 minutes later he got a seven pointer,” Paschedag said. “I’m almost glad he missed the big one. It would have been hard for him to top that one.”

Paschedag said another hunter in his party saw a “parade” of bucks following a lone doe, including two with sizable racks.

Amy Johnson, of Benton, said her location in Franklin County was not as productive.

“The spot we hunted in this year was dead compared to what it usually is,” she said, adding that there seemed to be more hunters than usual. Johnson also said that the drought had been especially hard on the crops in that location and suspected that in the absence of a really good food source, many of the doe groups she and her husband normally see were spending time in a different part of their range.

As for the bump in this year’s first season harvest, DNR officials credited near-perfect weather.

“Temperatures were cool, winds were calm, crops were out of the fields, and rutting activity was ongoing,” said Paul Shelton, DNR Forest Wildlife Program manager. 

Shelton pointed out that roughly 60 percent of the deer taken during the first weekend were bucks, compared with 61 percent bucks taken during last year.

As of Nov. 20, DNR had issued more than 334,000 firearms deer hunting permits for the 2012 season. The second firearms season runs Nov. 29-Dec. 2. The two firearms seasons resulted in a harvest of 98,820 deer in 2011. 

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