Firearm deer numbers dip
By Kathleen Clark
Enquirer Democrat Contributing Writer
Last week, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources reported a preliminary total of 75,349 deer were taken by hunters during the seven-day Illinois Firearm Deer Season that concluded Dec. 8.
The 2019 preliminary harvest total compares to the final total of 80,957 deer harvested during the firearm season in 2018.
The 2019 regular firearm season had 5,608 less deer harvested than in 2018. This marked a 7 percent decrease across the state. Of the 100 counties open for the firearm season had there were 88 with a decrease in total harvest numbers, although most counties were within 10 percent of last year’s harvest (65 of them).
After tallying up both firearm seasons, the top five counties were: Randolph, 2,253; Adams, 2,174; Jackson, 2,099; Pike, 1,925 and Fulton, 1,899.
These counties had similar harvests to last year, except for Jackson, where 341 less deer made for a 14 percent decrease. Notably, Adams County’s 165 less deer made for a 7 percent decrease.
Macoupin County hunters took 1,557 deer, the ninth most of any county.
Counties that saw an increase include Woodford, up to 603 from 2018’s 542, and Kankakee with 216 compared to 199. The average increases for these 12 counties were 16 deer. They include Lake (5; up 4), Woodford (603; up 61), Kankakee (216; up 17), Grundy (287; up 17), Iroquois (493; up 27), Vermilion (509; up 21), Boone (146; up 6), Moultrie (236; up 9), Tazewell (494; up 11), Jasper (1,028; up 13), Greene (1,042; up 13) and Williamson (1,857; up 3).
Hunters had more luck during second season this year than last. For the time period of Dec. 5 to 8 they took 25,176 deer; compared to the 22,060 taken during last year’s second season.
Hunters harvested 50,173 deer throughout the state during the first season (Nov. 22-24). The majority of the deer taken then was well over 65 percent. Bucking this trend was Boone County, where just 48 percent or their 146 deer were taken during first season.
Although the firearm numbers were lower than last year, the five-year average for the season only dropped by about 300 (down to 80,565).
Macoupin County hunters experienced an 8.6 percent decrease from last year. The numbers dipped from 1,703 in 2018 to 1,557 this year. other area counties had similar numbers; Montgomery, 799 compared to 800, Morgan 632 compared to 747, Jersey 627 compared to 671 and Sangamon 524 compared to 560. Greene County had a slight increase, up to 1,042 from 1,029.
Archery Hunters Steadily
Increase Harvest Numbers
While gun hunters put a few less tags on deer; archery hunters are hitting their targets with more frequency than last year. As of Dec. 16, the archery numbers for the state of Illinois showed that archers harvested 61,131 deer – just 238 shy of the total for the 2018-19 season. To date, many counties have seen an increase in archery numbers. This includes Macoupin, 1,148 thus far in 2019 – up from a 2018-19 total of 1,018. This is also the case in Marion County; 1,088 so far – up from last year’s total of 974.
Statewide, the sex ration for the archery season is 33,940 bucks (56 percent) and 27,173 does. The sex ration for firearm season is not available yet. The archery season continues through Jan. 19.
Traditionally, archers have harvested about 40 percent of the deer taken in Illinois each year. The majority, Just over 50 percent each year, are taken during the seven days of regular firearm seasons.
Opportunity in Select Counties
The Late-Winter Antlerless-Only Deer Season and CWD Deer Season will be on two upcoming weekends – Dec. 26-29, 2019 and Jan. 17-19, 2020. These seasons are open in 35 counties including Brown, Clay, Crawford, Effingham, Fulton, Hamilton, Henderson, Knox, Lee, Macoupin, Madison, Marion, McDonough, Mercer, Monroe, Perry, Putnam, Rock Island, Saline, Shelby, Boone, Carroll, DeKalb,
Grundy, JoDaviess, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, LaSalle, Livingston, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, Will and Winnebago.
The late-winter antlerless only and CWD firearm seasons have averaged 5,084 deer, combined, the past five years. This season has contributed to more than 3 percent of the total harvest each year and the number of counties participating has varied from 47 to 35.
In October, youth hunters throughout Illinois harvested 3,775 deer; the most of any season ever.