Springfield — One-third of the Illinois shotgun deer harvest last year took place on opening day, continuing a decades-long trend by hunters to “get while the getting is good.”
Expect the same fast start in 2022.
Heading into the firearms season – it runs Nov. 18-20 and Dec. 1-4 – questions center of dry conditions and whether the deer herd is being affected by drought in many parts of the state. However, hunters do have reason to be encouraged by the success of the Youth Hunt held in early October. According to DNR, the three-day season resulted in a harvest of 3,298 deer – nearly double the 2021 harvest of 1,847. The top five counties were the usual mix: Randolph (182), Pike (126), Effingham (98), Fulton (89) and Jefferson (89).
“It was a typical youth weekend for our part of the state – saw a couple of deer one day, nothing but a coyote the second day, and a couple more deer the third day,” reported Paul Owens, who mentored his daughter, Raelyn, from a St. Clair County stand (see Page 11) during the October hunt.
Shotgun hunters are coming off of a disappointing 2021 season that featured a
harvest of 70,456 – a significant drop from the 77,160 deer taken during
the 2020 campaign.
The decline can partly be blamed on fewer hunters taking to the woods.
Firearm permit sales also were down last year, with a total of 275,611 distributed by DNR, compared to the 281,028 in 2020.
Just five years ago, in 2017, DNR sold more than 300,000 firearms permits.
As for the deer, the 2021 gun season harvest was made up of 59.4% bucks
and 40.6% does. That compared to 57.3% bucks and 42.7% does in 2020.
The top five harvesting counties in 2021 were Randolph (2,106), Adams
(1,990), Jackson (1,865), Jefferson (1,818), and Fulton (1,667).
Hunters remain curious
As of Oct. 28, DNR had not reported numbers from the archery deer season, which opened Oct. 1.
For many years, the agency’s website had offered
daily harvest updates for each county. But when a new online system was
implemented two years ago, those daily updates ceased.
DNR did recently post information on the 2022-23 late winter deer season, which will run Dec. 29 – Jan. 1 and Jan. 13-15.
Counties open for the late winter season will be Brown, Clay, Coles, Crawford,
Effingham, Fulton, Hamilton, Hancock, Henderson, Knox, Macoupin,
Madison, Marion, McDonough, Mercer, Monroe, Monroe, Perry, Putnam,
Randolph, Rock Island, Saline, Schuyler, and Shelby.
Meanwhile, it is still unclear how the new state law allowing rifles for deer hunting will affect the late winter season.
Effective Jan. 1, 2023, hunters will be allowed to use centerfire, single-shot rifles in certain calibers. On DNR’s website,
the statement “Administrative rules are still being developed to
accommodate the new law” remains prominently displayed.
The 2022 muzzleloader season is set for Dec. 9-11.
Hunters may also can use a muzzleloader during second firearms season, Dec. 1-4.