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OUTDOORS: Some prospects for firearm deer season

When first firearm seasfor deer opens Friday stuff dreams will be buck like this 20-point non-typical taken last fall by

When the first firearm season for deer opens Friday, the stuff of dreams will be a buck like this 20-point non-typical, taken last fall by Mason Paul in Morgan County. It was artfully mounted on antlers and displayed in March at the Illinois Deer and Turk

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Updated: December 15, 2012 6:22AM

As always, there are questions about the biggest weekend in Illinois outdoors, when more than 200,000 hunters go afield for the first firearm deer season Friday through Sunday.

Here’s an email interview with forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton about the prospects for 2012.

Sun-Times: Will the relatively good harvest so far by bowhunters have any effect on the firearm season?

PS: I’d have to describe the pace so far as average or typical; it’s by no means a record pace. It compares very favorably with all harvests during the period 2007 through 2011, but all of those years (and this one) tended to lag slightly behind the pace of the 2005 and 2006 harvests, which were the No. 1 and No. 2 years (respectively) to date.

S-T: Will the very early start to the first firearm season mean the possibility of a bigger firearm kill? Will it at least mean there will be more overlap with the major part of the rut?

PS: Given the harvest patterns we’ve seen during the last decade, I’m not sure that will translate into larger harvest. It’s more likely to result in harvest sex ratios during the first season that are a little more skewed toward bucks than we might like (from a population-management standpoint).

S-T: How many overall firearm deer hunters are there in Illinois?

PS: [These] numbers are for individuals that have some sort of ‘‘gun’’ permit, whether it be for youth, firearm, muzzleloader, late-winter or special CWD seasons. However, it would be close for the number of participants in the firearm season, as there is so much overlap. In 2011, there were 225,728 ‘‘gun hunters,’’ of which 211,685 were residents and 14,043 were non-residents.

S-T: What total firearm harvest are you anticipating?

PS: It has become increasingly difficult to predict for firearm season alone in more recent years because the late-winter season has essentially become an extension of the firearm season (becausemost late-winter harvest results from tags ‘‘left over’’ from the firearm season). However, I’d expect our overall deer harvest this year to be comparable to last year’s (or slightly below) when all is said and done. I don’t expect any dramatic changes.

Since many firearm deer hunters have become more selective during the firearm season and often opt to wait till the late-winter season to harvest antlerless deer, they need to check the status of their hunt county with respect to participation in the late-winter season, as a number of counties have been closed this year. A map of counties for the late-winter deer season is posted at

S-T: Any regulation changes of note?

PS: The most important change is with respect to counties open to late-winter season (see above). The take-home message is, ‘‘Don’t leave your antlerless harvest till late-winter season if your county isn’t going to be open then.’’

Stray cast

The discussion about football and concussions reminds me of arguments about catch-and-release fishing.

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