Illinois shotgun harvest declines

Springfield — With roughly three weeks remaining in the 2016-17 deer season, the odds are stacked against hunters’ efforts to match last year’s harvest of 155,229.

But that’s nothing to get worked up about, DNR says.

An 8.5-percent drop in the shotgun harvest caused fret in some circles, but muzzleloader hunters were able to make up a little ground in what has been a disappointing season for gun hunters. According to DNR’s figures, the Dec. 9-11 muzzleloader season produced a harvest of 3,297 deer, up significantly from last year’s total of 2,403. This year’s muzzleloader season was a bounceback, pulling numbers closer to the 2014 harvest of 3,475 and the 2013 harvest of 3,536.

Shotgun hunters harvested 79,429 deer during the seven-day season, a decline from the 2015 harvest of 86,847. This year’s total is still above the 2014 harvest (74,575) and the 2013 harvest (74,318).

A total of 54,452 were taken during the first weekend (Nov. 18-20) and 24,977 were taken during the second weekend (Dec. 1-4).

“It’s not a surprise that the deer harvest some years goes up and some years goes down just based on the number of permits available, hunter success and the size of the deer herd in a particular county,” DNR Spokesman Tim Schweizer told the Illinois News Network. Pointing to a formula that has drawn the ire of many hunters, he noted that deer-related vehicle accident ratios are used to determine how many deer permits are distributed in each county.

“Deer-vehicle accident rates might not change a whole lot or might be higher in some counties than others,” Schweizer told the INN. “All of those numbers are factored in when it’s determined how many permits are to be issued. The biologists look at those numbers very closely and make decisions each year on how many permits are issued – in particular, where permit adjustments need to be made to best manage the deer herd.”

DNR has floated the promise of a new deer management program in recent years – a statewide survey of hunters was conducted three years ago, along with public meetings to discuss potential changes.

Major alterations, such as a bag limit for archery hunters, were floated but have not been acted upon.

A statewide decline

Archery hunters had taken 48,688 deer as of Dec. 16. They are slightly behind pace to match last year’ archery harvest of 56,767.

As for shotgun season, Adams County had the top harvest this year at 2,358, which was down slightly from last year’s 2,398.

Other examples of shotgun harvests from various counties around the state (with last year’s total in parenthesis) show declines:

Bureau 998 (1,129), Rock Island 782 (818), Henry 592 (748), Whiteside 574 (729), LaSalle 216 (753), Lee 151 (510), Putnam 122 (335), Bond 571 (677), Madison 622 (736), Monroe: 921 (958), Randolph 2,287 (2,339), St. Clair: 661 (755) and Washington: 948 (1,001).

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