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It’s important for bucks, does to be harvested equally

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Updated: January 12, 2012 8:15AM



Some trends are hard to buck.

The percentage of male deer (bucks) taken during the first firearm season was 61 percent, up slightly from the percentage for the first season in 2010.

When I didn’t see the male/female breakdown mentioned when figures for total harvest during both firearm seasons — Nov. 18-20 and Dec. 1-4 — were released Wednesday by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, I worried the numbers had remained skewed heavily toward buck harvest. That could lead to an unbalanced herd.

Not to worry, said Paul Shelton, the forest wildlife program manager for the IDNR. While the percentage was 61-39 male-female in the first season, it flip-flopped to 46-54 male-female in the second season for an overall percentage of 56-44 male-female.

‘‘This is about what it has been in the previous three years,’’ Shelton said. ‘‘Based on past experience, when we’ve completed all seasons in January, that will put us at about 50-50 ratios overall, which is fine.’’

Bowhunting runs through
Jan. 15. The muzzleloader season ends Sunday. The split seven-day late-winter firearm antlerless-only deer and special CWD deer seasons — Dec. 29-Jan. 1 and
Jan. 13-15 — will balance the numbers back toward that acceptable 50-50 range.

The harvest numbers for the firearm seasons were about where they were expected to be. Considering the windy weather the first two days of the first season and the rain on the weekend of the second season, the overall harvest was stable. The preliminary harvest figure for both firearm seasons was 97,760 deer, just slightly off the 98,944 in 2010.

The figure for total harvest came close to that of last year because of a relatively strong second season. The second-season harvest of 31,259 was up slightly from the 30,907 in the second season last year.

To put some meat on those figures, I would suggest driving inbound (toward Chicago) on Interstates 55 and 57 in the late afternoon and evening of the Sunday of either firearm season. Count the number of deer you see on the backs of cars and pickups or on luggage carriers. The same holds true, to a lesser extent, on Interstates 80, 88 and 90.

It is a Neanderthal scene as hunters, primarily men, return from out there — the top counties, as always, are from Downstate — back to civilization with meat, trophies or both.

The top five counties from the preliminary harvest reports during both firearm seasons this year were Pike (2,958), Fulton (2,581), Adams (2,393), Jefferson (2,314), and Jo Daviess (2,267).

Even if we aren’t in the vicinity of the record harvest years of 2005 and 2006, deer hunting continues to chug along as the great economic engine of Illinois outdoors. More than 330,000 permits were issued during the firearm seasons.

And I find the juggling act among the needs of farmers, insurance companies, drivers, managers of public and private landscapes, meat hunters and trophy hunters fascinating. It’s a story that just keeps evolving as an ongoing tug-of-war.

Permits for the late-winter and CWD deer seasons go on sale over the counter Tuesday. It has become a popular season for hunters hoping to fill the freezer. For information on the ins and outs of those seasons, go to dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/deer/Pages/ResidentHunting.aspx.



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