Shotgun hunters took 18,483 deer during the second weekend of firearms season, DNR reported today. That was down from the 27,213 taken during the second season last year. It also brought the 2013 total firearms harvest to only 74,191 — down dramatically from the 99,546 deer taken during the 2012 firearm season.
DNR officials again blamed the weather for the harvest decline.
"Opening day saw falling temperatures and gusty winds throughout the state, and southern Illinois saw rain/freezing rain turning to snow that continued through Friday with substantial accumulations," DNR noted in a news release. "Frigid temperatures persisted Friday and Saturday, with single-digit lows throughout the state on Saturday and highs that reached 20 degrees only in the south. Temperatures increased slightly on Sunday, with snow falling through much of the day in northern Illinois. Windy conditions prevailed throughout much of the season."
However, hunters around the state say they are having a hard time buying that explanation. Many who called Illinois Outdoor News this week — the second firearms season was Dec. 5-8 — said they spent the usual amount of time in their deer stands over the weekend. Most reported seeing few if any deer.
DNR Director Marc Miller seemed to concede more is at play than Mother Nature.
“Clearly this year’s preliminary firearm harvest numbers are below previous seasons, and while bad weather conditions throughout the state played a role, it cannot be the only factor," Miller said in a written statement. "Once all deer seasons are complete, our biologists will evaluate deer management goals on a county by county basis to achieve stability in our deer herd."