Springfield — Opening day of the shotgun deer season went about as planned – a lot of shooting and more than a few big bucks taken, especially in the central and southern parts of the state.
But it’s the December seasons that may determine this year’s overall harvest.
The second firearms season and first muzzleloader season are Dec. 8, with the second muzzleloader season Dec. 13-15.
Meanwhile, archery hunters also get a bonus in December, as the open crossbow season opens.
Despite reservations and apprehensions by some, the inaugural season did not appear to affect the overall deer harvest, and DNR law enforcement reported few incidents involving crossbow hunters.
This year’s open crossbow season – also called the “archery device of choice season” – will kick off Dec. 9.
Traditional archers have had a slow opening, harvesting 44,387 deer as of Nov. 17, which is down from the 48,179 taken at the same point last year.
“Heavy storms and tornadoes in mid-November played a big part in pushing the harvest numbers lower than would be expected on what is traditionally the highest harvest weekend of the archery season.,” DNR noted in its weekly harvest report.
Doe harvest slowed down during the typical rutting period through early and mid-November. At this point, the total harvest had been 50 percent does and 50 percent bucks.
Buck harvest during the week of Nov. 10-16 was 65 percent.
The top five counties during archery season so far are Pike (1,977), Fulton (1,306), Jefferson (1,070), Adams (993) and JoDaviess (887).
As for shotgun hunters, although firearms hunters typically take a majority of deer during the first weekend season, this year’s second weekend could produce an unusual bounty due to weather conditions in most of the state during the first season.
“If a hunter can’t get in his stand, or spend much time in his stand because of rain and wind the first weekend, then he’s pretty motivated when the second season comes around,” said Bobby Schmidt, of Belleville. “It’s not like bowhunting when you have a 100 or whatever days. A gun hunter only has seven.”
While some hunters around the state are concerned about seeing fewer deer, others say they are seeing too many. Meat processor Tinker Stevens, at Eldorado Processing, told the Harrisburg Daily Register that the seasons in southern parts of the state should be extended in order to cull the herd of deer.
“The deer are overpopulating. I have seen small bucks with five to six does. That usually doesn’t happen,” said Stevens, who noted deer coming in are in good shape. “The deer all have plenty of meat and are healthy this year,” he said.