Deer hunters patient for now

By Tim Bunton
Contributing Writer

Springfield —  Will the peak of 2016’s rut run smack into the firearms deer season? Shotgun hunters will have to wait and see.

In the meantime, bowhunters seem to be taking a similar approach to Morgan County’s Kyle Young, who took his 6-year-old son, Landon, out on an October hunt and “saw several fawns, a couple does and a 4-point buck that were quite active.”

Young did not take any shots.

Bowhunters behind pace

A month into the archery season, there appears to be a wait-and-see attitude. Hunters in a few counties have reported seeing very few – or even zero – deer, but a majority indicate they have had opportunities.

As of Oct. 21, hunters had taken 8,804 deer – about the same number they had taken at the Oct. 12 milepost last year. So if you do the math, hunters are about 9 days behind the 2015 pace.

According to DNR’s Paul Shelton, the harvest to date has consisted of 71 percent does and 29 percent bucks (4,425 to 1,810). The top counties were Pike (228), Fulton (167), Adams (159), Jefferson (151), and JoDaviess (140).

The key for gun hunters this year will be to start early. During the past four years of firearms seasons, a full 30 percent of the deer killed were taken on the first day, while 25 percent and 17 percent of the total harvest occurred on the second and third days, respectively. Quick math reveals that the first weekend accounted for 72 percent of the total harvest.

In 2015, 33 percent of the firearms harvest was taken on opening day.

And as hunters take to the woods during this year’s firearms season – Nov. 18-20 and Dec. 1-4 – the trend isn’t likely to change.

Despite disease and other factors, participation and harvest numbers during the firearms season have remained relatively steady over the past five years.

The state sold 323,155 shotgun permits last year, up a bit from the 315,083 permits sold in 2014, which was a steep decline from the 331,190 sold in 2013 and the 359,265 sold in 2012. In 2010, there were 358,494 licenses sold. In 2008, the total was 351,112.

Firearms deer permits and muzzleloader-only permits remaining after this year’s lottery drawings have been available over-the-counter from permit vendors.

Gun hunters harvested 86,847 deer in 2015, an increase from the 76,575 during 2014 and the 74,318 taken in 2013. It was far below the 99,546 harvested during 2012, the 97,820 taken in 2011 and the 98,944 in 2010. The last time the firearms harvest topped the 100,000 mark was in 2008, when hunters bagged 106,018.

CWD sampling

Deer hunters statewide are encouraged to allow samples to be taken for chronic wasting disease sampling from adult deer they harvest.

Check the DNR website for locations that are serving as CWD sampling stations, which will take samples from entire deer or deer heads through Jan. 15, 2016.

Youth hunts

Youth deer hunters harvested a preliminary total of 3,259 deer during the three-day Youth Deer Season (October 8-10), compared to 2,841 in 2015.

This year’s total was a record for that season, surpassing the previous record of 3,123 deer taken in 2012. Harvest sex ratios were 50.3 percent female to 49.7 percent male (1,639 to 1,620). The top five harvest counties were Randolph (130), Pike (129), Jackson (98), Jefferson (93), and Adams (89).

Categories: Hunting News, Whitetail Deer

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