Sahara Woods Property Open for Archery Deer Hunting

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Sahara Woods State Fish and Wildlife Area, a 4,000 acre site in Southern Illinois, will be open to archery deer hunting via permit beginning Oct. 10, Department of Natural Resources Director Joel Brunsvold announced today.

"The people of Southern Illinois have been anxious to access this park. Opening this site to provide additional hunting opportunity is the right thing to do," said Director Brunsvold. "Though it was acquired by the state in 1999, the site required extensive mine reclamation work and has never been open to the public."

About 3,500 acres of Sahara Woods will be open to archery deer hunters during the entire archery season. Hunters who have a statewide archery permit can obtain a permit to hunt the Sahara Woods site at IDNR’s Benton office, 11731 Route 37 North, Benton, IL 62812, from Oct. 10-31 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (The office will be closed on Monday, Oct. 13 for the Columbus Day holiday). Hunters have the option of obtaining a permit in person, sending a written request, or calling at 618/435-8138. There is no additional fee for this site permit. No permits will be available at the park and requests for permits received after Oct. 31 will not be honored.

Archery deer season in Saline County is Oct. 1-Nov.20, Nov. 24-Dec. 3 and Dec. 8-Jan. 15. The site will be closed to all other visitors during this time and will return to closed status following archery deer season.

"Opening this site for deer hunting this fall will bring a big boost to Southern Illinois’ economy as hunters from all over will come to this park,"said Rep. Brandon Phelps, who represents the area and worked with the Department to open the site. "I’m pleased we were able to lead the way to make this happen."

Mine reclamation hazards limit public access on some portions of the site during the archery deer hunting season. Vehicles must remain on two primary access roads. Users must adhere to signs and postings for access to huntable areas. Abandoned, vacant buildings, reclamation area construction, hazardous and private roads are restricted areas and are closed to public access.

The former strip mine site, donated to the state by the Sahara Coal Company of Harrisburg, includes a 100-acre lake, several smaller ponds, wetland and wooded areas that will be developed for fishing, hunting, hiking, horseback riding and other outdoor recreation.

The multi-phase land reclamation plan for Sahara Woods includes grading, covering and planting vegetation on eroded mine refuse piles located throughout the site; reclaiming mine roads; removal of dilapidated mine buildings and other structures; tree planting to control erosion and enhance wildlife habitat; and, treatment of ponds damaged by mine refuse runoff. All reclamation work is expected to be completed by 2005.

The park is located in Saline County, 5 miles west of Harrisburg and south of Illinois Route 13.