Illinois Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Deer Hunting

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More than 200,000 hunters are expected to participate in the 2007 Illinois Firearm Deer Season, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is encouraging hunters to make safety a priority during the seven-day hunt Nov. 16-18 and Nov. 29-Dec. 2.

"Our firearm deer hunt is the state's most popular hunting season, and we want hunters to have a safe and enjoyable experience while in the field," said IDNR Acting Director Sam Flood. "Whether transporting and using a firearm or climbing into, out of or sitting in a tree stand, always be alert and be careful."

Hunters in Illinois harvested a preliminary total of 115,379 deer during the seven-day firearm deer hunting season last year. That compared with the harvest total of 114,209 deer taken during the 2005 firearm season.

The 2007 season marks the 50th anniversary of the resumption of deer hunting in Illinois in 1957. Deer hunting had been closed in Illinois beginning in 1901 because of a decline in the deer population during the late 1800s. Illinois' deer population began to rebound in the 1930s, allowing for the start of the modern Illinois deer seasons in 1957. Firearm hunters harvested 1,735 deer in the 33 counties that were open for deer hunting during the 1957 season.

The anniversary is commemorated in this year's deer pin available for hunters successful in harvesting a deer. Deer pins are available at IDNR offices in Springfield, Chicago, Alton, Bartlett, Benton, Clinton, and Sterling, and from hundreds of DNR Direct license and permit locations. A complete list is available on the IDNR web site at http://dnr.state.il.us.

The legal hunting hours for the firearm deer season are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. A new state law approved by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Blagojevich earlier this year extended the legal hunting hours for the firearm season, which closed at sunset previously. More than 378,000 firearm deer hunting permits have been issued for the firearm season.

Hunters successful in taking a deer during the firearm season in most counties will again register the deer they harvest by going online through the IDNR web site at http://dnr.state.il.us/vcheck or by phoning 1-866-IL-CHECK (1-866-452-4325). Hunters must register their harvest by 10 p.m. on the day they take the deer. For hunters using cellular phones to call in their harvest, the IDNR suggests waiting until they are out of the field and have a clear cell phone signal before attempting to make the harvest-reporting call.

Hunters in seven northern Illinois counties where IDNR is conducting chronic wasting disease (CWD) sampling must take deer they harvest to a deer check station by 8 p.m. on the day they take the deer (see the list of check stations below).

Because of the discovery of CWD in LaSalle County near the Grundy County line this past summer, an additional new check station will be open for the firearm season this year in Seneca for registering and sampling deer taken by hunters in LaSalle and Grundy Counties. While the LaSalle/Grundy check station is not mandatory (hunters may choose to report harvest from those counties using the automated system), hunters are encouraged to bring their LaSalle/Grundy deer to this check station to allow them to be tested for CWD. This testing will provide valuable information to biologists about the distribution and severity of the disease. In particular, samples are needed from deer taken within an approximately 15-mile radius of Seneca. Hunters using the check station will not need to also register their harvest using the automated system and will be given a special CWD Deer Harvest pin at the check station.

  • Firearm Deer Check Stations for CWD Sampling (Nov. 16-18 and Nov. 29-Dec. 2)
  • Boone County – Boone County Fairgrounds, half-mile north of Rt. 76 and Business Rt. 20, Belvidere
  • DeKalb and Kane Counties – Shabbona Lake State Park, 4201 Shabbona Grove Rd., Shabbona
  • LaSalle and Grundy Counties – IDNR District Office, 124 W. William St., Seneca (1/2 block west of Ill. Rt. 170 across from the lumber yard next to the historic Hogan Elevator)
  • McHenry County – Sportsman's Choice, Routes 14 and 47, Woodstock
  • Ogle County – Castle Rock State Park, Rt. 2, 3 miles S. of Oregon
  • Stephenson County – County Fairgrounds, Rt. 26 and Fairgrounds Rd., Freeport
  • Winnebago County – Rockford Speedway, Hwy 173 at Forest Hills Rd., Rockford

Hunters who participate in the CWD sampling can check the status of their deer through the IDNR web site at http://dnr.state.il.us/cwd/. Hunters who provide samples from deer that test positive are notified by the IDNR.

While not believed to be contagious to humans or livestock, chronic wasting disease is known to spread from animal to animal among deer and elk. The disease affects the brain of the infected animal, causing them to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose coordination and eventually die. Illinois expanded its CWD surveillance effort in 2002 following the discovery of the disease in neighboring Wisconsin. To date, 189 deer have tested positive for CWD in Illinois.