A destination state long appreciated as a big buck heaven for deer hunters looking for a brute is undergoing changes in its hunting season structure and antlerless opportunities.
Officials plan to remove a large chunk of the state from a late winter season, reduce gun hunting permits and are using deer-vehicle accidents as part of their reasoning for the shift.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller has announced changes to the 2014-15 deer hunting seasons, including the removal of 20 additional counties from the late-winter season and a reduction in the number of firearm permits available in some counties. IDNR biologists made recommendations for the coming season following a review of deer hunting harvest numbers, deer-vehicle accident data, a survey of Illinois deer hunters, hemorrhagic disease reports and other factors.
“Solid science is the basis of our deer program,” Miller said. “These changes reflect our commitment to professional management of the state’s deer population to provide recreational opportunity while being mindful of public safety and the rights of property owners.”
In 2008, the IDNR began using trends in the rate of deer-vehicle accidents (DVA) as an index of deer population status in each county and adopted a specific objective for each county based on accident rates. Those initial objectives for each county were set at the point halfway between the lowest and highest rates occurring in that county between 1994 and 2007. IDNR’s statewide target called for a 14 percent reduction in accident rate from the peak observed in 2003, but individual goals and the changes needed to reach them varied widely by county. That statewide goal was first reached in 2012, but some counties still remain above goal.
The most recent goal changes, which adjusted the deer goals higher in 41 counties, were announced in February of this year: click here to see them
“In order to be effective, Illinois’ deer management program adapts as new information is learned, as problems arise, or as public perception and tolerance changes,” said Paul Shelton, IDNR Forest Wildlife Program Manager.
Late-Winter Antlerless Only Season
The Late-Winter Antlerless-Only Deer Hunting Season will be closed in 20 additional counties this year. These include Adams, Bond, Bureau, Calhoun, Clinton, Cumberland, Fayette, Hancock, Jefferson, Jersey, Logan, Menard, Perry, Randolph, Richland, Sangamon, Scott, St. Clair, Whiteside, and Woodford.
Thirty-two counties already are closed to the late-winter season.
Thirty-five counties remain open for the late-winter season, while an additional 12 counties are open for the special chronic wasting disease season held concurrently. Three counties in northeast Illinois are not open for firearm hunting. See this map for county status.
Firearm hunting permits
The number of firearm permits has been reduced in some counties. Statewide, the number of either-sex permits is being reduced by 4,925. Antlerless-only permits are being reduced by 6,375. The 11,300 permits amount to a reduction of about 4.1 percent.
Last year, 277,585 firearm permits were available, compared with 266,285 for the upcoming season. Quota reductions begin immediately and will affect the second firearm lottery. See this spreadsheet detailing permit changes for each county.
Deer vehicle accidents
Deer-vehicle accidents are an accurate barometer of Illinois deer population trends. The deer-vehicle accident (DVA) rate in 2013 was similar to 2012, even though deer harvest numbers declined from 180,811 in 2012 to 148,614 in 2013. Poor weather conditions during the firearm seasons probably affected both hunter participation and success rates, and recent hemorrhagic disease outbreaks likely had at least localized effects, as well.
In 2013, the DVA rate of 145.3 accidents per billion miles driven was down slightly from 148.3 in 2012. With a few exceptions, counties that stay below their DVA goal for two consecutive years are removed from the late-winter season. Click here to see the list.
Prepare for the upcoming hunting seasons by taking a hunter safety course. For more information, visit the IDNR website at www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/deer
Don’t miss another tasty recipe of the month where you’ll find ideas on smoked meat, venison jerky, and so much more. Subscribe to Deer & Deer Hunting for monthly venison recipes, the best big buck stories, complete gear reviews, and exclusive whitetail deer hunting tips. Click here to subscribe.