Breaking down what happened and what is in store for each deer-hunting period
Expectations of a record deer harvest in Illinois this year fell just short of reality.
But after effectively losing several hunting days to bad weather, deer hunters did come close to a new benchmark during the 2007-08 season.
Though numbers are preliminary, totals released by the Department of Natural Resources indicate Prairie State deer hunters bagged 198,544 whitetails. That's up slightly from last year's count of 197,113 but is behind the 2005-06 overall record of 202,492.
While weather played a factor in hunters missing the mark, there's no denying Illinois appears to have reached a plateau in terms of deer harvest. In other words, merely selling more tags won't guarantee that hunters will take many more deer.
Consider that the DNR set a record in permit sales, allocating 378,000 during firearm season alone. Yet the harvest increased only slightly.
Given that, it will be interesting to see what ideas arise in Springfield between now and next fall. Remember, the DNR entered this year hoping to take more deer and slow what — by some — is viewed as a steadily increasing whitetail herd.
That's something to ponder over the next 247 days until bow season opens. So are these summaries of the 2007-08 deer seasons.
Extremely warm temperatures limited the harvest to 897 deer, down from 1,099 the year before. That despite an increase in hunting permits to 5,206 from the previous year's total of 3,654.
1. Pike 39, 2. Jefferson 34, 3. Fulton 33, 4. Marion 31, 5. Macoupin 27
Youngsters shot 46 percent bucks in the first season antlers were fair game. New counties opened, including Mason, where Noah Sarff of Manito shot a nice 8-pointer.
With more notice about the Oct. 11-12 statewide hunt, permits will increase and so should the harvest.
Bowhunters could not overcome a slow start and finished with 64,217 deer, down 1.5 percent from last year but still the third highest harvest behind last year's 65,179 and the 2005 record of 66,582.
1. Pike 3,704, 2. Fulton 1,598, 3. Jefferson 1,502, 4. Peoria 1,318, 5. Adams 1,313
Archers shot 50.9 percent bucks, and several were impressive. Most notable statewide was Joel Eggers' 11-pointer out of Randolph County, which green-scored 198
inches typical. My personal favorite, though, is the huge LaSalle County 17-pointer shot by Dave Gorisek of Mark.
Expect a similar harvest Oct. 1 to Jan. 15, 2009. Until then, watch for legislation expanding crossbow season to any and all users.
A record-setting first season of 85,490 deer was followed by inclement weather. Even so, gun hunters managed to shoot 31,218 deer during the second season to finish at 116,708. That's better than last year's 115,279 deer and ranks second only to the record 2005 harvest of 124,560.
1. Pike 3,732, 2. Jefferson 2,805, 3. Adams 2,791, 4. Fulton 2,671, 5. JoDaviess 2,662
At least four area hunters bagged bucks topping 200 inches, led by the 20-point, 243-inch Knox County bruiser Marty Sharp of Gilson shot. Brad Jockisch of Peoria shot another Knox bruiser.
The first gun hunt is late this fall (Nov. 21-23) and may not coincide with the rut as nicely as it did last fall. And based on the last two years, you can expect a snowstorm Dec. 4-7 during second season.
Cold, snow and freezing rain slowed muzzleloader participation, as the harvest of 4,333 was down from last year's 5,943 deer and from the 2005 total of 4,874.
1. Pike 199, 2. JoDaviess 141, 3. Fulton 115, 4. Hancock 110, 5. LaSalle 107
The best trophy I saw belongs to Janice Nash of Elmwood. She shot an 11-point Peoria County buck at 4:40 p.m. on the final day of blackpowder season after nearly calling it quits early. Oh yeah, it was the first time she had ever fired a muzzleloader.
Look for more hunters in the field Dec. 12-14, as muzzleloaders are increasing in popularity.
Despite bitter cold, last weekend's late-winter harvest of 11,506 antlerless deer surpassed the 9,364 shot in 2006-07. Seven new counties opened to hunting and accounted for 424 deer. But the main cause for an increase is growing awareness of the season, which allows hunters to use unfilled firearm tags.
1. Pike 712, 2. Jefferson 431, 3. Adams 371, 4. Wayne 370, 5. JoDaviess 355
Expect another harvest increase Jan. 16-18, 2009 as even more hunters plan on this as a third firearm season.
Chronic wasting disease
CWD season was held in seven northern counties, and the harvest of 883 deer was up from last year's 808. The increase came from LaSalle, Grundy and Ogle counties, which were added to the special hunt this year.
1. LaSalle 322, 2. Ogle 234, 3. Grundy 123, 4. McHenry 78, 5. Winnebago 66
Don't be surprised if another county joins the Jan. 16-18, 2009 hunt. And look for pressure to allow buck hunting in the late-winter season as soon as a CWD mega-buck is publicized.
JEFF LAMPE is Journal Star outdoors columnist. Write to him at 1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61643, call (309) 686-3212 or e-mail to email@example.com