Firearm Deer Season Turns in Record Harvest

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Hunters in Illinois harvested a record-setting preliminary total of 114,113 deer during the 2004 firearm deer season, Department of Natural Resources Director Joel Brunsvold announced today. The preliminary harvest total compares with the previous record harvest total of 103,961 deer taken during the firearm season last year.

The preliminary second-season (Dec. 2-5) harvest total of 41,976 compared to the second-season harvest of 39,780 in 2003. This year’s preliminary first-season (Nov. 19-21) deer harvest was 72,137 compared with a first-season harvest of 64,181 in 2003. The figures do not include deer harvested during hunts on state sites where special permits are issued.

“More than 308,000 firearm season permits were issued to deer hunters in Illinois this year,” Brunsvold said. “The 2004 firearm deer season was not only successful for hunters and our deer herd management effort but it also proved to be a safe season as well with very few tree stand and other hunting-related accidents reported.”

Preliminary check station harvest reports for the 2004 firearm season show that Pike County led the state with a total harvest of 4,251, while Adams County was second with 3,281.

“Weather and other hunting conditions were good throughout Illinois for the second portion of the firearm season, helping put the harvest right in line with our expectations,” said Paul Shelton, manager of the IDNR Forest Wildlife Program. “The numbers and the quality of deer that hunters brought into the check stations are good indicators of the overall health of our deer herd in Illinois. We are also grateful to those hunters who voluntarily participated in our chronic wasting disease surveillance effort at check stations throughout the state during the first weekend of the firearm season and in northern Illinois during the second season.”

As part of the check station process in 31 counties during the firearm deer season, more than 4,000 tissue samples were collected from hunter-harvested deer to be tested for the presence of chronic wasting disease. CWD is a fatal neurological disease that can affect deer and elk but is not contagious to humans or livestock. Since the first case of CWD was detected in wild deer in Illinois in November 2002, 67 cases have been confirmed in deer taken in Boone, Winnebago, McHenry and DeKalb counties. Results of the CWD testing are still pending on deer sampled during this year’s firearm season.

The muzzleloader-only deer hunt in Illinois was conducted Dec. 10-12, while the Late Winter Firearm Antlerless-only deer hunt in 43 Illinois counties is Jan. 14-16, 2005. Resident landowners with unfilled “Property-only Hunting” landowner/tenant permits for the firearm season may use those permits to take antlerless deer on their property during the Late Winter Firearm Antlerless-only Deer Season if the property is located in one of the 43 counties open for the late winter season. All other unfilled firearm season permits will not be valid.

The statewide archery deer hunting season resumed Dec. 6 and continues through Jan. 13.