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Big bucks for bowhunters

August 01, 2007 at 08:33 PM

Ken Schaffnit of Peoria shot this 14-point buck in Marshall County.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story first appeared in the Peoria Journal Star on Jan. 21, 2007


For most of his life, Ken Schaffnit filled his free time in the fall and winter by hunting ducks.

Suddenly, though, there’s competition for Schaffnit’s spare moments. Like many Illinois hunters before him over the past decade, the Peoria resident found it hard to put down the bow once he picked it up.

“This is the first year I really took up bowhunting seriously, and I loved it,” Schaffnit said. “My first love is still duck hunting, but bowhunting is getting real, real close.”

The interest of Schaffnit and others like him is reflected in preliminary harvest totals for the 2006 archery season. According to deer biologist Paul Shelton, the estimated 125,000 bowhunters in Illinois combined for 65,170 whitetails last year.

That’s the second-highest total on record, behind only the 66,581 killed in 2005. The count is even more impressive when you consider the harvest in 2002 was just 51,660.

But after years of steady increases in the archery kill, Shelton said this year’s small decrease may signal a levelling-off in hunter numbers.

“We’re not seeing the increases in participation we saw (in the 1990s),” Shelton said. “We’ve come so far with the archery season that the expectation of seeing a big change in either direction ... it’s kind of like steering a battleship to make a change rapidly.

“For the next few years we’ll look at some counties up (in archery harvest) and some counties down.”

This year’s top five counties were: 1. Pike, 4,248 deer; 2. Fulton 1,556; 3. Jefferson 1,513; 4. Adams 1,481; 5. Peoria 1,391. Of those, Peoria County showed the largest gain of 159 deer. Most of that can be attributed to increased hunting at Jubilee College State Park, where archers shot 245 of 339 deer taken.

Closer to home, Tazewell County also enjoyed an increase of 38 deer up to 784. Most other local counties showed declines compared to 2005: Fulton (down one), Woodford 613 (down 62), Knox 870 (down 11), Mason 470 (down 18) and Marshall 340 (down 28).

And while there’s no talk yet of a record-setting buck out of this bow season, archers did seem to bag more trophies than their shotgun peers. Among this area’s best bowkills is a 25-pointer shot by Mike Rutledge in Knox County, Bob Quinn of Chillicothe’s 15-pointer, Lowpoint hunter Rodney Fandel’s 13-pointer from Woodford County and Schaffnit’s 14-pointer from Marshall County.

Schaffnit was familiar with his deer, having found a shed antler last spring.

“I’d been hunting him for two years but never got to see him during the shotgun season,” Schaffnit said of the buck who has a 10-point main frame with three sticker points and one 13-inch drop tine. “We’d see him during bow season, but never where we could get a shot.”

This year was an about-face, as the buck laid low during gun season but wandered right under Schaffnit’s stand Nov. 20, the first day bowhunting resumed after the opening firearm hunt. That made Schaffnit happy he’d let 38 deer walk up until that point, including several “nice 130- to 140-class bucks.”

Then again, letting bucks walk is a key to success according to most trophy hunters. And it’s a luxury bowhunters enjoy because their season lasts from Oct. 1 to the second week of January.

Consider Parrish Brown of Goodfield. imageHunting in Fulton County on Nov. 12, Brown was set to shoot a big 8-pointer when a loud grunt made him change his mind. The grunt came from a beautiful 20-point buck that Brown spun towards, shot on the run and called “the buck of my lifetime.” The buck is pictured at right.

Another hunter very familiar with “bucks of a lifetime” is Andrae D’Acquisto, a Wisconsin native who is now a part-time resident of Chandlerville. The founder of Lone Wolf Treestands said he has killed with his bow six deer that should qualify for the Boone and Crockett Club record books.

Three of those Booners hail from Illinois, including a main-frame 10-pointer D’Acquisto shot Oct. 14 in Menard County.

“I had a lot of success hunting in Wisconsin, but I ended up coming to Illinois and seeing the caliber of animals here. There’s a lot bigger bucks and a lot more,” D’Acquisto said. “I still think of all the states - even Iowa, which has a higher top end, and Ohio, which is another real sleeper state - I still think for good volume Illinois is a real cherry among all the states when it comes to hunting for whitetails.”

















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