More Opportunities Planned for 2004 Deer Season

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The 2004 deer hunting seasons in Illinois will feature more opportunity and convenience for hunters, including allowing hunters to apply for both firearm and muzzleloader season permits during lottery drawing periods; opening a portion of Kane County to firearm hunting; easing archery hunting restrictions in five east-central Illinois counties; allowing shotguns and muzzleloading rifles during the handgun season; and increasing the number of archery permits available to out-of-state residents.

"Deer hunting is our most popular hunting program, and these changes will provide more opportunity for hunters to participate while continuing to protect the resource," said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Joel Brunsvold. "With our state’s large and healthy deer herd, these are sensible moves as we manage the herd while providing hunters with a great outdoors experience."

Brunsvold said the new regulations are planned following last season’s successful implementation of provisions allowing the use of handguns by hunters during the regular firearm deer season in November and December, and making thousands of additional permits available for the firearm season and muzzleloader-only deer seasons. These changes were well received by hunters.

Some highlights of proposed regulations and plans for the 2004 firearm deer season are outlined below.

• Firearm and Muzzleloader Permits: Hunters may apply for both firearm and muzzleloader-only season permits during the same application period. Application forms will be made available later this spring. Previous regulations allowed hunters to apply for either a firearm or muzzleloader-only permit as part of the Department’s first and second permit lottery drawings. Applications for the first lottery drawing must be received later than April 30. Applications for the second lottery drawing must be received no later than August 13. (Application forms should be available by April 1. Previous permit recipients should receive application forms by mail).

• New Firearm Hunting Opportunity in Northeastern Illinois: Firearm deer hunting will be allowed west of Illinois Route 47 in Kane County. In recent years, landowners and other residents of Kane County have asked to be able to participate in the state’s firearm deer hunting seasons in the more rural, western portion of the county. With attractive deer habitat and a growing deer population in western Kane County, it is expected that this added opportunity in northeast Illinois will be popular and will help in the Department’s deer management effort in the region. Previous regulations allowed only archery deer hunting in Kane County.

• Restricted Archery Deer Hunting Zone: Regulations changes for archery deer hunting include an easing of the October hunting restrictions in the state’s Restricted Archery Zone in Champaign, DeWitt, Macon, Moultrie and Piatt counties. Archery hunters in the five-county zone have been limited to taking two deer per season and could harvest only antlered deer from Oct. 1-31. The new regulations will remove the two-deer bag limit and will reduce the antlered-only restriction to 15 days. The archery harvest restrictions in place since 1999 in the zone have been working in terms of restoring the deer population in those counties. Department wildlife managers will continue to monitor the deer population in the five counties in hopes of removing the restrictions altogether during the next few years.

• Non-Resident Archery Deer Hunting Permits: The Department will provide up to 15,000 archery deer hunting permits to non-residents effective with the 2004 season. The non-resident permit quota has been 12,843 since the 2001 season. Demand for the permits has exceeded the number available each year. The increase in permits, combined with the state’s growing deer population, will provide added opportunity for hunters. The non-resident archery combination permits (allowing the harvest of one antlered and one antlerless deer) will continue to be issued through a toll free telephone reservation system that will open July 10. Non-residents buying a combination permit will also be able to purchase additional antlerless-only permits.

Archery permits for resident hunters will continue to be sold "over the counter" by Department license and permit vendors with no quota. While more non-resident archery permits will be available in 2004, resident hunters continue to account for the vast majority of Illinois deer hunters. Last year, Illinois issued approximately 490,000 permits for all deer hunting seasons, more than 95 percent of them to Illinois residents.

• Expanded opportunity for January surplus deer season: The Department will submit regulations later this year allowing hunters participating in the January surplus deer hunting season - traditionally known as the "handgun-only season" - to use a handgun, shotgun or muzzleloading rifle. Hunters requested the change allowing the use of the additional firearms during the season, which is conducted in mid-January each year in select counties. In 2005, the season dates will be January 14-16. The season is open to Illinois residents only and hunters are permitted to harvest antlerless deer only. Permit applications listing open counties for the season will be available this fall. For the 2004 season conducted January 16-18, more than 10,600 permits were issued. Open counties included Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Clark, Crawford, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Jasper, Jefferson, Jo Daviess, Lawrence, Macoupin, McLean, Morgan, Ogle, Perry, Pike, Randolph, Richland, Schuyler, St. Clair, Wayne, White, Whiteside and Williamson.

• Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance: The Department’s intensive surveillance effort to combat chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the Illinois deer herd will continue in 2004. Sampling of hunter harvested deer will be conducted during the archery season in select northern Illinois counties and during the firearm seasons in a number of counties throughout the state. To date, the Department has identified a total of 41 confirmed cases of CWD in four northern Illinois counties (Boone, DeKalb, McHenry and Winnebago). Samples from more than 9,000 deer have been tested during the past two years. For those hunters voluntarily participating in the Department’s CWD surveillance program, a free permit for the same county or special hunt area will be made available for the next year’s season should their deer test positive for chronic wasting disease. CWD test results for the 2003-04 season are still being evaluated.

Among site-specific deer hunting regulations at state owned and managed sites for 2004, the following locations are designated as quality deer management areas, requiring that hunters take only antlerless deer or deer with at least four points on one side. All were quality deer management areas last year: • Eagle Creek State Park (archery season)
• Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area (archery and firearm seasons)
• Jim Edgar Panther Creek SFWA West Open Unit (archery, firearm and muzzleloader seasons)
• Mazonia Braidwood State Fish and Wildlife Area (archery season)
• Pyramid State Park (firearm season)
• Pyramid state Park - Captain Unit (archery season)
• Pyramid State Park - Denmark Unit (archery season)
• Pyramid State Park - East Conant Unit (archery, firearm and muzzleloader-only seasons)
• Pyramid State Park - Galum Unit (archery and firearm seasons)
• Siloam Springs State Park (firearm season)
• Ten Mile Creek Fish and Wildlife Area - Belle Rive Unit (archery, firearm and muzzleloader-only seasons)
• Wolf Creek State Park (firearm season)
• Harry "Babe" Woodyard State Natural Area (firearm and archery seasons)

Two sites that will continue to be quality deer management areas requiring that hunters take only antlerless deer or deer with at least five points on one side are:
• Heidecke State Fish and Wildlife Area (archery and firearm seasons)
• Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (firearm and muzzleloader-only seasons)

Quality deer management area designations are no longer in place for the archery season at Jubilee College State Park; the archery and firearm seasons at Lowden Miller State Forest; the archery season at Siloam Springs State Park; and, for the archery season at Sangchris Lake State Park. The change will provide more opportunity for hunters.

Other site-specific regulations changes, as well as complete details on the Department’s proposed 2004-2005 deer hunting regulations, may be reviewed by checking the IDNR web site at dnr.state.il.us/legal/rule-status.htm

Illinois’ 2004 firearm deer hunting season is November 19-21 and December 2-5. The 2004 muzzleloader-only deer hunting season is December 10-12. The state’s 2004-2005 archery deer hunting season is October 1-January 13 (archery hunting is not permitted during the regular firearm deer hunting season in those counties or portions of counties allowing firearm hunting).