Firearm deer season sees decrease from last year; county numbers steady

Firearm deer season sees decrease from last year;

By Kathleen Clark

PALMYRA (Nov. 30, 2017) – The deer totals for the first firearm season are out, and while Macoupin County hunters took less deer than last year, they fared better than many counties throughout the state.

Macoupin County hunters took a total of 945 deer, just 22 less than last year. This made for a 2.81 percent decrease which was one of the lowest decreases in the area. Faring the best in terms of harvesting more deer locally was Madison County with an 11.04 percent increase and a total of 945 deer.

Illinois Department of Natural Resource’s preliminary totals show hunters in 102 counties harvested a total of 51,365 deer. This is a 5.67 decrease from 2016’s first season totals. This year’s first season ran from Nov. 17 to Nov. 19. At this time, a breakdown of sexes is not available.

Throughout the state, there was a wide range in how the counties did, but overall, the numbers appear to be keeping with the trend of decreasing slightly. The reason is not clear, and Illinois Department of Natural Resources has not indicated a concern with this trend. Weather is often a factor, and there were high winds throughout the Saturday of the first shotgun season. Also, archery numbers have seen a notable increase, which may be a factor in the overall harvest.

The table accompanying this article shows the total number of deer that hunters shot in Macoupin and surrounding counties during first firearm season in 2017 and each of the previous two seasons. Also noted is the year-to-year percent difference in harvest totals.

Just under a quarter of Illinois counties had an increase or stayed the same as last year’s first season harvest numbers. Only three counties managed to have a double digit percentage increase of deer taken. Those were Bond County’s 441 deer (a 13 percent increase), along with Madison County’s 493 deer and Marshall County’s 424 deer (each right at an 11 percent increase).

Despite lower harvest numbers in three-quarters of the state, the top performing counties include most of the usual counties. The top five are Randolph (1603), Jackson (1487), Adams (1408), Jefferson (1328) and Fulton (1270). Popular Pike County was sixth in the state with 1187 deer, an 11.87 percent decrease from 2016’s first season total. Macoupin County ranked 16th in the state with 945 deer.

Not counting Lake County’s three deer (compared to five last year), four counties saw decreases of over 25 percent compared to last year’s first firearm season. These were Stephenson (180 less deer for a 30.15 percent decrease), Grundy (57 less deer for a 26.64 percent decrease), Winnebago (56 less for a 25.81 percent decrease) and Scott (68 less for a 25.76 percent decrease).

Illinois’ record deer harvest was in 2005, when firearm season saw 123,792 deer shot. Since then, the numbers have generally decreased, with 79,559 deer taken during both firearm seasons last year. This accounted for 55 percent of all deer during the 2016-17 seasons.

Throughout the state, archers have taken 50,588 deer, which is 7.79 percent more than last year at this time. Bow hunters in Macoupin County are on track to harvest almost 22 percent more deer than in the 2016-17 archery season. Currently, 541 bucks and 398 does have been taken this year.

This weekend, shotgun hunters will take to the timber for the second firearm season, Nov. 30 to Dec. 3. Other deer hunting opportunities in the weeks ahead include Muzzleloader-Only Deer Season on Dec. 8-10 and Archery Deer Season, which continues through Jan. 14, 2018 (archery is closed Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in counties open for Firearm Deer Season). Most area counties are closed to shotgun hunting for the Late-Winter Antlerless-Only and CWD Deer Seasons.