Whitetail hunters playing catch-up
Springfield — Slugs hitting houses, guns that are way illegal and bucks’ antlers locked together in a fight to the death.
As it turned out, fowl weather ranked rather low on the list of sideshow distractions during the state’s opening weekend of firearms deer season.
But weather is blamed for a slightly lower harvest than 2015.
DNR had not tabulated numbers from the second weekend (Dec. 1-4) of the season, though many felt hunters would pick up the pace a bit. According to DNR, 54,452 deer were harvested during the first weekend, compared to the 57,870 taken the first weekend last year.
CPOs were busy across the state (see Page 3) with a variety of cases, including two separate reports of deer slugs hitting houses in District 1. In one of those cases, DNR reported that the homeowner “elected to chew out the hunter in lieu of criminal charges.”
In Mercer County, CPO Steven Francisko was called to a scene where two bucks were locked together by their antlers. One of the bucks was dead. A hunter shot the other one and tagged it said Francisko, who issued a salvage tag for the dead buck.
Weather-wise, high winds, rain and changing weather hindered the harvest during the opening weekend, hunters and biologists agreed. In the state’s richest deer region – west-central Illinois – temperatures were in the 70s the day before the opener. A cold front with 30 mph wind gusts and light rain moved in the afternoon of opening day.
Deer bedded down until the wind settled on the final day.
Still, counties in that region fared well – Adams County topped the state with 1,642 deer and Pike County, the traditional state leader, was fourth with 1,346. Hancock County had 1,079 deer harvested, while Schuyler County had 901 and Brown County had 645. Each of those counties experienced a decline from last year.
Other counties across the state had mixed results. An increase from year-to-year totals were seen in Champaign County (142 last year to 165 this year), while Macon County matched its 2015 number (170). Sangamon County saw an 18 percent decrease (471 last year to 385 this year).
In Bureau County, 704 deer were taken, compared to 715 the year before. Carroll County had an increase from 502 to 529. Lee County dropped from 410 to 359, and Ogle County had a harvest of 538, compared to 582 last year.
Harvest in southern Illinois counties was down almost across the board. Declines compared to the 2015 opening weekend were in Alexander 283 (52 fewer than 2015), Edwards 282 (35 fewer), Franklin 808 (103 fewer), Gallatin 296 (26 fewer), Hamilton 786 (21 fewer), Hardin 605 (89 fewer), Jackson 1,562 (24 fewer), Jefferson 1,276 (118 fewer), Johnson 1,166 (47 fewer), Marion 1,051 (42 fewer), Massac 367 (51 fewer), Monroe 704 (29 fewer), Perry 814 (25 fewer), Pulaski 281 (77 fewer), Randolph 1,582 (39 fewer), Saline 618 (32 fewer), Union 1,060 (221 fewer), Wabash 131 (20 fewer), Washington 672 (50 fewer), White 547 (31 fewer) and Williamson 1,060 (143 fewer).
Wayne County’s harvest (1,035) was up 13 compared to last year.
Fayette County recorded a harvest of 1,050, down from the 1,157 deer taken last year, while Effingham (624), Shelby (782) and Marion (1,051) had decreases.