Hunters Harvest 72,137 Deer During Opening Weekend

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Illinois hunters harvested a preliminary total of 72,137 deer during the opening weekend of the firearm deer season, Nov. 19-21, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Joel Brunsvold announced. The second portion of the season is this weekend, Dec. 2-5.

The preliminary total for the first three days of the 2004 firearm season represents a 12 percent increase compared with the first weekend harvest of 64,181 in 2003. The preliminary first-season deer harvest includes only those deer taken in countywide hunts and does not include special hunt areas for which harvest figures are still being compiled.

"We heard a lot of positive comments from hunters about the deer they saw and the deer they brought into check stations in all parts of the state," said Brunsvold. "Illinois seven-day firearm deer season is the state's most popular hunting season, and we're hopeful for another successful weekend when hunters take to the field to conclude the firearm season this Thursday through Sunday."

"Hunters shook off some marginal weather conditions on opening day and appear to have had a successful first three days of the season," said IDNR Forest Wildlife Program Manager Paul Shelton. "The rain and drizzle in much of the state weren't major factors. Hunters were afield and deer were moving."

Check stations in 31 counties offered hunters free testing for chronic wasting disease. More samples will be collected at check stations in select northern Illinois counties during the final four days of the firearm deer season.

"We appreciate the support of hunters and cooperating meat processors who have assisted us in our surveillance and monitoring effort regarding CWD," Shelton said. "The sampling takes only a few minutes and the data is very valuable in the battle against chronic wasting disease in the Illinois deer herd."

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease that can affect deer and elk. CWD is not known to be contagious to other wildlife, livestock or humans. Since the first case of CWD was confirmed in Illinois in November 2002, 67 positive cases have been reported in the state, all in Boone, DeKalb, McHenry and Winnebago counties. Two of those cases were confirmed recently involving deer taken this fall by archery hunters in Boone County.

Illinois issued more than 280,000 deer hunting permits for the 2004 firearm season, including free landowner and paid landowner permits.