The 2009 deer season began a little slow, but it closed out with a bang.
“For mid-January weather, this was about as good as it gets,” said Paul Shelton, forest wildlife program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Shelton said that deer hunters taking to the field for the last three days of hunting experienced excellent conditions, which he described as “a good way to close out another successful season.”
Wet weather earlier last year caused a late planting and subsequent late harvest of the corn crops. Illinois experienced its fourth wettest year on record. With corn still standing in early October, deer were difficult to find during the early archery hunt. The slow action continued through the first firearms season as well.
A cool dry spring in 2010 allowed most farmers to get into the fields in April and early May. That is more than a month earlier than they were able to plant a year earlier. If the hot summer months hold up, most of the grain should be out of the fields either before or shortly after the beginning of the archery season. That bodes well for a good statewide harvest in 2010-2011.
Improved conditions and the addition of an expanded seven-day split late-winter firearms antlerless-only Deer Season as well as the special chronic wasting disease (CWD) deer season in select counties helped Illinois deer hunters take a total of 189,277 deer last season.
The late-winter season provides additional harvest opportunities in another 70 counties as a deer population management tool.
The total season harvest was greater than the 2008-09 harvest of 188,901. The record harvest occurred during 2005-06, when hunters killed 201,301 deer.
This past year hunters in the prairie state harvested 50.5 percent does and 49.5 percent bucks.
Taking a closer look at harvest figures by county, it becomes apparent that those counties that topped the list by zone last year almost unfailingly did so again this year.
Hunters in such a diverse state as Illinois need to take a variety of factors into consideration in selecting a hunting area. In addition to proximity to home, there are such things as quality of habitat, public land availability, amount of managed and/or leased land and the amount of city and urban development. Most of the top areas seem to be near rivers and agricultural fields.
For an extensive list of public hunting areas and their associated management offices, refer to the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations 2010-2011. It is available wherever licenses are sold and from all office of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. It can be requested on line from the IDNR website at: www.dnr.state.il.us, or by mail from the IDNR, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702-1271.
Let’s take a zone-by-zone look at Illinois deer hunting, studying the top-producing counties in each zone and at public hunting opportunities in all parts of the state. Because top counties do tend to be quite consistent from one year to the next, this overview should provide excellent direction as to which counties will provide the best hunting prospects in all parts of the state this fall.
Nestled in the northwest corner of the state and basically along the Mississippi River is one of the most picturesque regions of the Prairie State. Despite all the fine scenery in the area, though, the harvest from the area is the second lowest in Illinois. This may be in part due to the land taken up by the urban areas associated with the Quad Cities.
A total harvest of 17,683 in 2009-10 marked an increase of 465 deer over the previous year. The top county was Jo Daviess, with 4,147 deer killed, which was an increase of 433. In third place was Carroll County, the next county to the south. Both counties have a western border on the Mississippi River. Carroll County’s harvest in 2009-10 was 1,973, compared to the previous year’s total of 1,915. Second place in the zone was Knox County with 2,966, a slight decline of nine deer.
In the north-central part of the state, Zone 2 is rich in agricultural fields, which provide a constant source of food for the whitetail population. The organic rich soil can hold large amounts of water for long periods of time. The zone is largely rural farmland and lies a little more than 100 miles west of Chicago.
Year after year, the same three counties produce the majority of deer harvested. Peoria County produced 3,364 deer last year. That is more than the total for the three top counties in Zone l and represents an increase of 18 deer from the prior year. In second place was LaSalle County, with 2,825. Third went to Bureau County with 2,769.
Peoria County does not have public hunting available, but LaSalle County offers public hunting at Mitchells Grove State Nature Area, Mathiessen State Park, Marseilles Fish & Wildlife Area, and Sandy Ford State Nature Area.
Bureau County has archery only hunting at Mautino Fish & Wildlife Area and Hennepin Canal State Park. Other public deer hunting opportunities within the region are found at Miller Anderson Woods State Nature Area and George S. Park State Nature Area.
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