Illinois' 2006 Deer Outlook -- Our Best Hunting Areas

Illinois' 2006 Deer Outlook -- Our Best Hunting Areas

Just about anywhere in our state is a good place to hunt deer. But if you really want to boost your chances for success, aim for one of our hottest counties! (Nov 2006)

Illinois is well known throughout the deer enthusiasts' world as a hunting destination not only for trophy bucks but also as a state that allows all hunters a good chance at killing a whitetail. With an estimated 750,000 deer in the Prairie State, this hunting season holds excellent promise for success. Our bowhunting harvest is at a record level, firearms totals are outstanding and stable, the hunter success ratio is high, and public opportunities are at an all-time high.

If you've been wondering where all the hotbeds for deer are in Illinois, then pay close attention to the following projection. We've taken a critical look at harvest totals, hunter success rates and harvest densities throughout our state to create an analysis guaranteed to put you where the deer are.

According to Tom Micetich, manager of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources deer program, there are currently about 750,000 deer in the Land of Lincoln. Hunters in the bowhunting season and the first and second shotgun seasons in 2005 killed 178,683 deer in total. This was down 1 percent from the record-setting mark in 2004 of 180,317 whitetails. The first firearms season of 2005 brought in 77,051 deer, an increase of 4 percent over 73,819 in 2004. In the second gun season, 37,158 were harvested compared with 42,856 in 2004, a decrease of 13 percent, which is primarily attributed to the extraordinarily cold weather in the beginning of last December. Archers in 2005 brought in a record 64,474 deer, thus besting the previous record of 63,639 established in 2004.

Statewide in 2005, the gun kill averaged 2.04 deer per square mile, and the aggregate of all three seasons averaged 3.19. At the same time, bowhunter success stands at nearly 50 percent, and paid permit firearms hunter success is at 48 percent.

To arrive at a projection, we took figures from the archery, first shotgun and second shotgun seasons -- the most prominent kill descriptors -- and established a harvest density for each county. The harvest density is described in terms of deer killed per square mile. Densities throughout Illinois ranged from .16 deer harvested per square mile to 9.8. Relative hunter success percentages are also included in the projection, as is availability of public access.

Pike County led all counties in 2005 with 7,558 deer harvested. The deer kill per square mile was 9.1, and the hunter success rate was just over 50 percent. Adams County recorded 4,345 deer in the aggregate of all their seasons. Harvest per square mile was 5.0 and hunter success was likewise 50 percent. Fulton was next with 4,323 deer and a harvest density of 4.9, and half of all paid permit holders enjoyed success last year. Jefferson County brought in 4,124 animals, and densities were high, with 7.1 deer killed per square mile. Hunter success was likewise high, with 59 percent of firearms hunters scoring.

Calhoun County led all county harvest densities with 9.8 deer killed per square mile. Pike was a close second with 9.1, while Brown was at 8.0, followed by Pope (7.6), Hardin (7.3), Jefferson (7.1), Johnson (6.8), Williamson (6.5), Union (6.3) and Schuyler (6.1).

It has been said that you can go anywhere in Illinois and have a good chance to fill your deer tag. But closer to home, here's the best potential in your neck of the woods.

REGION 1

Region 1 produced 43,110 deer in 2005. Its total land area is about 13,076 square miles, which translates into about 3.2 deer killed per square mile.

Fulton County had the highest harvest in Region 1. There are 4,400 acres of public land in Fulton, including Anderson Lake Fish & Wildlife Area (FWA), (309) 759-4484, and Rice Lake FWA, (309) 647-9184, which allow only bowhunting.

Jo Daviess County brought in 3,094 whitetails last season, good for five deer per square mile. Hunters here were successful 41 percent of the time. Apple River Canyon State Park, (815) 745-3302, and Mississippi River Pool No. 12, (815) 273-2732, offer archery, shotgun and muzzleloader opportunities.

Peoria County hunters killed 2,803 deer in 2005, which comes out to 4.4 per square mile. But hunter success is slightly lower than the state average. Public bowhunting access can be found at Jubilee College State Park, (309) 446-3758, and Banner Marsh FWA, (309) 647-9184.

La Salle County tallied 2,709 deer last year. Density was 2.3 deer per square mile. Hunter success was at 48 percent. Starved Rock State Park and Matthiessen State Park, (815) 667-4726, and Marseilles FWA, (815) 765-2448, offer opportunities for bow, shotgun and smokepole hunters. Starved Rock also has a firearms program for disabled hunters.

Knox County hunters killed 2,537 whitetails last year, which translates to about 3.4 per square mile. Hunter success was at 53.4 percent. Snakeden Hollow offers bowhunting, and Spoon River State Forest, (309)-879-2607, offers archery, shotgun and muzzleloader hunting.

Bureau County had a harvest of 2,441 deer. Putnam County had the highest kill density in the region with 5.1 deer per square mile. Rock Island boasted an average of 3.7 deer per square mile, and Carroll County had a harvest density of 3.6. The Rock River Basin through Ogle County also has a high density of whitetails.

REGION 2

Region 2 hunters killed 5,668 deer in 2005, which translates into about 1.29 per square mile.

Hunters in Will County bagged a collective 1,322 deer last year. Hunter success was 30 percent, and deer killed per square mile was 1.5. Des Plaines Conservation Area, (815) 423-5326, and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, (815) 423-6370, allow shotgun and archery hunters.

McHenry County tallied 1,165 deer in 2005, and there were 1.9 harvested per square mile, and success rate was only 22 percent. Moraine Hills State Park, (815) 385-1624, allows firearms hunting, but other than that, put on the old charm, because most of everything else is private land.

Grundy County brought in 1,023 deer last year for 2.3 per square mile. Hunter success was 39 percent. Heidecke Lake FWA, (815) 942-6352, and Goose Lake SNA, (815) 942-2899, welcome both bowhunters and shotgunners, but Goose Lake is antlerless only. Mazonia FWA, (815) 237-0063, offers archery hunting.

REGION 3

At 10,659 square miles, Region 3 tallied 17,792 deer last season, which comes to 1.6 killed per square mile.

Shelby County led the way with 2,275 deer, or 2.9 per square mile, with a hunter success rate at 50 percent. Wolf Creek State Par

k, (217) 459-2831, and Eagle Creek State Park, (217) 756-8260, offer bowhunting. Lake Shelbyville, (217) 774-3951, offers bow, shotgun and muzzleloader hunting, and has a firearms program for disabled hunters. Hidden Springs State Forest, (217) 644-3091, allows hunting with bow or gun.

Clark County came in with 2,096 deer in 2005. Density was high at 4.1 deer harvested per square mile. Hunter success is also high at 54 percent. But public land is at a minimum. However, there is a new bowhunting program at Lincoln Trail State Park, (217) 826-2222, that promises to be great this season.

Vermilion County hunters dropped 1,982 deer, or about 2.2 per square mile. About 42 percent of hunters were successful. Kickapoo SRA, Middle Fork FWA and Woodyard SNA, (217) 442-4915, allow bows, shotguns and muzzleloaders.

Coles County pinned 1,293 whitetails last season and Cumberland tallied 1,203 to round out the top five counties in the region. Success rates were at 50 and 48 percent, respectively. Coles had a kill density of 2.5, while Cumberland boasted 3.4 deer harvested per square mile. Public access is limited, but Fox Ridge State Park, (217) 345-6416, offers archery and shotgun opportunities.

Other noteworthy counties include Moultrie, where hunters killed only 607 deer, but 81 percent of all paid permits were filled in 2005. In Piatt County, 56 percent of hunters were successful last year, while in Macon County, 52 percent scored. In Iroquois County, half of all firearms permit holders bagged a deer in 2005.

REGION 4

With a collective 57,536 dead deer in 2005, Region 4 has established itself as one of the premier hunting destinations in the entire nation. Over the consummate of the area, the harvest density was an impressive 4.0 whitetails per square mile.

Pike and Adams counties were the best. They combined for 11,903 deer in 2005, translating into 7.0 per square mile. Better than half of all permit holders dragged a carcass from the field last season. Mississippi River pools No. 21, 22 and 23 offer superb hunting, primarily on islands in the river. The phone number there is (217) 285-2221. Ray Norbut State Park and Siloam Springs State Park, (217) 894-6205, offer good opportunities for all types of hunting.

Randolph County has over 18,000 acres of public access, so there's room for everybody. Hunters here in 2005 killed 3,465 deer, or 5.8 deer per square mile. Hunter success was 53 percent. Firearms and archery opportunities are available at Kaskaskia River FWA, (618) 785-2555, Turkey Bluffs FWA, Kidd Lake SNA, Randolph County CA, (618) 826-2706, and Ft. DeChartres Historic Site, (618) 284-7230.

Macoupin County racked up an impressive 3,424 whitetails last season. Hunter success was about 50 percent and the harvest density was 3.9 deer per square mile. Public access is tough, but Beaver Dam State Park, (217) 854-8020, allows bows.

Hunters in Hancock County killed 3,100 deer in 2005, which translates to 3.9 per square mile, with a hunter success rate of 59 percent. Nauvoo State Park, (217) 453-2512, and Weinberg-King FWA, (217) 392-2345, allow bowhunting.

Schuyler County and Brown County hunters combined for an impressive 5,130 deer last season despite having a collective land area smaller than most other counties. This was a very considerable 6.9 deer harvested per square mile. Public firearms and archery access can be had at Siloam Springs State Park, (217) 894-6205, or Weinberg-King FWA, (217) 392-2345.

The best deer density in Illinois is in Calhoun County. Its small 259-square-mile frame saw 2,541 deer killed in 2005, or 9.8 whitetails per square mile. Hunter success was 46.2 percent. Public access for bow and gun hunters is available at Red's Landing, Riprap Landing, Calhoun Point, Fuller Lake WMA, Stump Lake WMA or Bachtown FWA. Call (618) 376-3303 for more information.

Greene County rounded out the top producers for this region. Last year, it produced 2,656 deer, which is roughly 4.9 whitetails killed per square mile. Hunter success was high at 57 percent.

REGION 5

The region with the highest overall harvest density goes to Region 5. In aggregate, 54,340 deer were taken in the archery and two shotgun seasons last year. This translates into just over five deer killed per square mile.

Top-ranking Jefferson County had a hunter success rate of 58.7 percent, and harvest densities indicated 7.2 deer per square mile. Mt. Vernon Game Propagation Center, (618) 242-0830, Rend Lake WMA, (618) 279-3110, and Rend Lake FL, (618) 724-2493, offer opportunities for archers, shotgunners and muzzleloaders.

Marion County hunters brought in 3,263 deer last season, translating to 5.6 deer per square mile. Hunter success was 58.4 percent. However, if you want to hunt here, most of the ground is private. Stephen A. Forbes State Park, (618) 547-3381, offers bowhunting.

Jackson County hunters took 3,071 whitetails in 2005. The kill rate was 5.1 deer per square mile, and 39 percent of all permit holders filled a tag last season. Public ground includes the Shawnee National Forest, (618) 253-7114, Kinkaid Lake, (618) 684-2867, Giant City State Park, (618) 457-4836, and Oakwood Bottoms, (618) 687-1731. You can use your weapon of choice at these sites.

Fayette County tallied 3,024 deer for a density of 4.2 per square mile. Half of all permit holders had success in 2005. Carlyle Lake WMA, (618) 425-3533, offers gun and bowhunting, and Ramsey Lake State Park, (618) 423-2215, is a good destination for archers.

Pope County added 2,932 deer to its credit, which was good for a density of 7.7 deer per square mile. Hunter success was just under 39 percent. Aside from the Shawnee National Forest, public access is available at Dixon Springs State Park, (618) 949-3394, for bowhunters, and there is a special youth firearms hunt there. Dog Island WMA allows shotguns, muzzleloaders and bows.

Wayne County hunters dropped 2,921 deer for a density of four per square mile. Most impressive was that 62 percent of all permit holders last year were successful. Private land reigns here, but you can hunt at Sam Dale Lake CA, (618) 835-2229.

Williamson and Union counties came next. They totaled 2,781 and 2,614, respectively. This breaks down to over six deer killed per square mile in both counties. Hunter success stands roughly at 45 percent. The Shawnee National Forest makes access easy, and there's a surplus of public areas, including Crab Orchard Refuge FL, (618) 997-3344, which offers the gamut of hunting preference and a firearms program for disabled hunters. Bluff Lakes FL, (618) 833-8572, LaRue Swamp FL, (618) 833-8576, Trail Of Tears State Forest, (618) 833-4910, and Union County CA, (618) 833-5175, likewise allow all weapons.

It doesn't really matter where you hunt in Illinois, because deer abound everywhere. But if you want to improve your chances for success, head for one of our hottest counties!

Find more about Illinois fishing and hunting at: IllinoisGameand

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