Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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‘Chatty’ off-season ends, bowhunters in the woods

Barry, Ill. — For deer hunters, the past seven months so closely resembled an NFL off-season that one could have expected to see some sort of “fantasy draft” prior to the Oct. 1 archery opener.

Anticipation of changes to the 2014-15 seasons created chatter in coffee shops and social media from the time the season ended in January until DNR officially announced changes in late July.

“It started to become like football – the season never really ended,” cracked Brad Thomas, of rural Fulton County, whose step-son arrowed his first deer on Oct. 3. “It’s a relief to see the season start so we can hunt deer and stop talking about them.”

And hunt we did.

The first week of the archery season (Oct. 1-8) saw a harvest of 6,237 deer, a big jump over the 4,739 taken during the opening week last year and closer to the  6,993 taken during the opening week of 2012. DNR reported that the five-year average harvest for opening week of archery season had been 7,297. However, those numbers are affected by the calendar and the number of weekend days included in opening week.

Top producing counties during this year’s opening week were Pike (221, compared to 206 in 2013), Fulton (208, compared to 132 in 2013) and Jefferson (175, compared to 130 in 2013).

As of Oct. 8, hunters had taken 4,322 does and 1,915 bucks – quite similar to last year’s first week division of 4,073 does and 1,635 bucks.

Last year’s statewide archery harvest of 57,364 extended a gradual decline. The 2009 archery season had a harvest of 64,819. That number dropped  to 63,570 in 2010, 61,974 in 2011 and 59,805 in 2012.

Bowhunters, who will once again share the woods with crossbow hunters beginning Dec. 8, were basically spared from the latest round of deer season changes. Those changes removed 20 counties from the late-winter season and reduced the number of firearm permits available in some counties.   

Statewide, the number of either-sex shotgun permits was being reduced by 4,925. Antlerless-only permits were being reduced by 6,375. The 11,300 permits amount to a reduction of about 4.1 percent.

Last year, 277,585 firearm permits were made available, compared with 266,285 for the 2014-15 season.

DNR also noted that quota reductions will affect the second firearms season.

The Illinois archery season runs through Jan. 18. The firearms seasons are Nov. 21-23 and Dec. 4-7.

A week into the archery season, bowhunters seemed to be seeing plenty of live deer – and, unlike the past two seasons, few dead ones. Blue tongue and EHD outbreaks in 2012 and 2013 took thousands of deer out of the state’s herd.

“I’m seeing deer, plenty of deer, but they’re not really moving yet. Once we get to the rut, they’ll be moving,” Carter Smith, who guides hunts in Pike and Adams counties, told the Quincy Herald-Whig.

Dave Kranz, who runs Dave’s Bait and Tackle in Crystal Lake, noted that hunters in northern Illinois took advantage of cooler temperatures.

“We have seen a lot of deer brought in to be processed and four or five were nice bucks in the 130- to 155-inch class,” Kranz said.

Nolan Bruns, of Pinckneyville, took one of the nicest bucks – an 8-pointer – in deep southern Illinois.

Turkey hunters kick off season

Bowhunters chasing turkeys were slightly above pace with last year’s opening week totals. Hunters had taken 111 birds as of Oct. 8.

Fayette, Marion and Adams counties each led the harvest tally with six turkeys each.

The 2014 statewide fall shotgun turkey season is Oct. 25 – Nov. 2.

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