Unused Gun Deer Permits to be Rolled Over

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Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed a new law giving hunters more flexibility in using their seasonal deer hunting permits. Senate Bill 2810, introduced by Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton), allows unused gun deer permits left over from the firearm or muzzleloader-only deer hunting seasons to be rolled over and used during the Late-Winter Firearm Deer Season at no additional charge.

"Hunters for the first time ever will be able to use their leftover permits during the Late-Winter Firearm Season - saving them money and giving them additional hunting opportunities," said Gov. Blagojevich.

The Late-Winter Firearm Deer Season is an antlerless-only season designed to help increase the harvest of female deer, thus helping to control the state's deer population.

Previously, the only leftover permits that could be used during the Late-Winter Deer Season were "firearm property-only" permits that allowed Illinois landowners to hunt only on their own property.

"In certain counties, overpopulation is rampant, causing accidents on our highways and making it easier for disease and starvation to afflict our deer populations. We can reduce accidents on our roads as well as reduce the overpopulation of deer. This bill will help thin out the herds while making it safer to travel on our roads and highways, as well as helping to keep our deer herds healthy for the future," Sen. Forby said.

"This law is beneficial to the safety of our region as well as hunters' wallets," Rep. Brandon Phelps said. "Allowing gun permits that are unused during the regular deer season to roll over and be used later helps ensure that permits purchased by local hunters won't go to waste, and it helps areas overpopulated with deer to thin the herds, which should help reduce deer-vehicle accidents."

"The Late-Winter Deer Season was initiated fifteen years ago to provide biologists with more options for managing Illinois' deer herd, but has never quite lived up to our expectations. With this change, the season should be much more productive, while providing many deer hunters with additional recreation time," said Sam Flood, Acting Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

Hunters wishing to take advantage of the new changes during the upcoming hunting season are reminded of the following:

In order to be legally used, leftover permits must have been valid for the previous firearm or muzzleloader deer season, and must be valid for one of the counties open for the Late-Winter Deer Season. Not all counties are open to this season. During the January 2006 Late-Winter Season, 51 counties were open, but IDNR anticipates opening more for the upcoming year.

When the changes are implemented during the upcoming hunting season, all permits will be valid only for the county for which they were originally issued, except for unfilled landowner property-only hunting firearm deer permits, which will be valid only for the farmlands the person to whom the permit was issued owns, leases, or rents within the open counties/portions of counties. The change will apply to both resident and non-resident permits.

Unfilled firearm or muzzleloader deer permits that were originally issued for Special Hunt Areas (public land sites for which permits are specifically issued during the firearm and/or muzzleloader season) are not valid during the Late-Winter Deer Season. These sites often have multiple hunts, and allowing the use of unfilled permits on them could lead to overcrowding.

During the Late-Winter Season, hunters using unfilled muzzleloader deer permits may only hunt with muzzleloading rifles. Hunters using unfilled firearm deer permits, or Late-Winter Season permits, may use all firearms allowed during the Late-Winter Season (shotguns, muzzleloaders, handguns).

Under the law, the only deer legal to harvest during the Late-Winter Season are antlerless deer (i.e., no antlers, or antlers less than 3 inches in length), so persons using an unfilled firearm or muzzleloader deer permit valid for the previous firearm or muzzleloader deer season (including landowner permits) may only harvest antlerless deer even when using an either-sex permit.

SB 2810 is effective immediately.

Last year, hunters in Illinois harvested 114,209 deer during the seven-day firearm deer-hunting season held November 18-20 and December 1-4, 2005. The preliminary harvest total compares with the record-setting harvest total of 116,675 deer taken during the 2004 firearm season. Pike County led the state for the 2005 firearm season with a total harvest of 3,737.

The 2006 Illinois firearm deer-hunting season is November 17-19 and November 30-December 3.

Illinois residents who didn't receive a deer hunting permit during the 1st lottery, and non-residents, have until the August 14th deadline to submit applications for the 2nd lottery. All hunters interested in obtaining additional permits may later apply during the random daily drawings held September 15 - November 8.

The Late-Winter Firearm Deer season is January 12 -14, 2007.