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Illinois Outdoors

Matt “Spiderman” Noll of Bartonville shot this young buck at Jubilee College State Park Monday morning to open the Illinois archery deer season.

Archery season opens to wind

October 01, 2007 at 04:57 PM
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By 5:30 a.m. Monday the sign-up sheets at Jubilee College State Park listed 86 names.

The first bowhunter to register, Jared Jones of Bartonville, signed in at 2:22 a.m. — more than fours before legal shooting time.

Opening day of archery deer season is a major event all over Illinois, with more than 130,000 bowhunters expected to spend time in the timber this fall. At Jubilee the first day of the season borders on crazy. Matt “Spiderman” Noll of Bartonville thinks he knows why.

“If a guy with one eye can shoot a deer out here, anybody can,” Noll said Monday morning, using a finger to roll the glass eye in his left socket for emphasis.

Sure enough, Noll shot a small buck early on the windy opener while hunting part of the park that prior to last year was closed to hunters. This is the second straight year Noll bagged a deer on opening day at Jubilee. But this is his first with a crossbow, a piece of equipment he picked up after losing an eye last March.

“I wasn’t sure I’d be able to shoot another deer,” Noll said. “And I never thought I’d see a deer in this wind. But at Jubilee you never know what you’re going to see.”

What you’re sure to see during bow season is plenty of pickups in parking lots and camo-covered hunters in treestands. You’ll also see a fair number of out-of-state license plates.

“There’s been guys calling from Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, a lot of guys from down south,” site superintendent Tom Hintz said. “And there’s a group of guys from Connecticut and New York. And Michigan.”

That said, most Jubilee hunters are from central Illinois — locals with few other options for hunting. At times there are too many locals. Jubilee regulars tell horror stories of sitting in a stand for hours, only to see another hunter arrive at the same spot moments before shooting time.

That’s the price of hunting public land. Noll is one who doesn’t mind the crowds. Since 1993 he’s shot more than 43 deer with his bow. Most have been at Jubilee.

“I’m hungry,” he said. “If you’re hungry, this is the place to go.”

Maybe there’s a motto in there. At the very least park staff wish they could find more hunters like Noll. Thinning the herd is a high priority in the wake of surveys showing whitetails were literally eating themselves out of Jubilee. Dramatic browse lines have developed due to overcrowding at the park.

To alleviate damage, the state opened 1,600 additional acres to bowhunters last year and allowed gun hunters into the park for the first time. Despite a snow-filled second gun season, deer harvest soared from 112 to 339 — 94 by shotgun hunters and 245 by bowhunters (including 89 bucks).

It’s too early to say whether the increase is making a major difference in terms of vegetation. Studies show the browse rate has dropped but remains very high. Anecdotal accounts are more promising.

“There were a lot of wildflowers here this spring where I hadn’t seen them before,” Hintz said. “Maybe that was due to a wet spring. But I think part of that is due to there being less deer in the area.”

“Even so, we need to keep taking deer.”

Noll is certainly doing his part. Though archery season runs through Jan. 15, he planned to return to the woods Monday evening with his 8-year-old son, Ryan.

“He wanted to come this morning but I told him school was too important,” the elder Noll said. “He cried and cried. But I promised I’d take him out in the evening. We’re going to sit in a ground blind to see what we can see.”

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Time for jerky lol.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/01 at 08:14 PM

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