Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Hunters aim to muzzle gloom

Springfield — A disappointing firearms season could lead to an increase in the number of permits sold for the upcoming muzzleloader-only deer hunt.

The muzzleloader season, set for Dec. 13-15, has always been a “Plan B” for many firearms hunters, especially those who were not able to harvest a deer during the seven-day shotgun season.

Some blackpowder enthusiasts eagerly participated during the first muzzleloader season, which coincided with the second firearms weekend (it was held Dec. 5-8).

Whenever or however they hunt, muzzleloader hunters have proven to be reliable. Permit sales have remained rather consistent over the past five years, hanging in the 35,000 to 40,000 range. There was a spike to nearly 42,000 in 2009. Last year, a total of 39,856 were sold.

Harvests have been less stable, dipping to 3,614 in 2012 after reaching 4,902 in 2011. Muzzleloader hunters took only 3,328 deer in 2010 after a harvest of 4,745 in 2009 and 4,366 in 2008.

The state record harvest of 5,973 was set in 2006.

Regulations for the muzzleloader season have also remained fairly unchanged.

n A muzzleloading firearm is defined as a firearm that is incapable of being loaded from the breech end.
n For muzzleloading firearms, the minimum size of the projectile must be .44 caliber, and the wad or sleeve is not considered a projectile or a part of the projectile.
n Only black powder or a “black powder substitute” such as Pyrodex may be used. Modern smokeless powders are an approved blackpowder substitute only in muzzleloading firearms that are specifically designed for their use.
n Percussion caps (shotgun primers are legal), wheellock, matchlock or flint type ignition only may be used, except the Connecticut Valley Arms electronic ignition shall be legal to use.

Crossbow season under way

The second year of the state’s open crossbow season began Dec. 9 with far less fanfare than last year’s inaugural campaign.

The season is tied to the regular archery season, ending Jan. 19, 2014.

Little change is in store for crossbow hunters. State regulations still call for crossbows to have a minimum peak draw weight of 125 pounds and a maximum peak draw weight of 200 pounds. Other rules require that crossbows:

n must have a minimum overall length (from butt of stock to front of limb) of 24 inches.
n use broadheads that may have fixed or expandable cutting surfaces, but they must have a minimum 7⁄8-inch diameter when fully opened.
n Broadheads with fixed cutting surfaces must be metal or flint-chert-or obsidian-knapped; broadheads with expandable cutting surfaces must be metal.

Archery harvest update

Bowhunters have made quite a comeback after getting off to a rather slow start in 2013.

As of Dec. 1, archery deer hunters had harvested 50,873 deer, down slightly from the 51,414 taken at the same point in 2012. In early November, archers had fallen behind last year’s pace by nearly 4,000 deer. The rut and the fact that firearms hunters were going to be hitting the woods on Nov. 22 likely helped and motivated bowhunters.

According to DNR, the harvest as of Dec. 1 consisted of 49 percent does and 51 percent bucks (24,945 and 25,928). Buck harvest during the last week of November was 51 percent, DNR noted.

The top five counties as of Dec. 1 were Pike (2,227), Fulton (1,456), Jefferson (1,256), Adams (1,098) and JoDaviess (969).

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