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Pondering the deer harvest decline

November 30, 2008 at 08:44 AM

The general concensus around central Illinois, and the rest of the state for that matter, is that deer hunters were just not seeing the deer during the first segment of this year’s shotgun deer season which was completed last weekend.

Statewide, hunters killed a preliminary total of 71,894 during the opening weekend. Those numbers are well below the totals of last year when 85,490 deer were killed during the opening weekend.

Fulton County was again in the top five with a total harvest of 1,878 deer, That number, however, is well below last year’s total of 2003. Pike County led the state with 2,194 deer, followed by Adams with 1,900. Fulton County was third. Randolph was fourth with 1,770 and Jefferson county finished off the top five with 1,650.

There has been a plethora of reasons why the harvest numbers were down. And after cutting deer all weekend, I would have to say that I heard them all. But why were the hunters not seeing the deer?

Here were some of those responses.

  • The bucks were all rutted and sitting tight with no reason to keep moving looking for does.
  • Deer numbers are not as high as the state keeps telling us.
  • We’re seeing a lot of does, but not any bucks.
  • Opening day was cold and the wind was tough. We didn’t see any deer.
  • We’re killing too many bucks every year. That’s why we’re not seeing the bucks like we used to.

I’ll just stop there as the statements could go on forever. But it was easy to see that most hunters were just not seeing deer. But are there other reasons?

Are there too many hunters in the field? How many hunters are hunting public areas? Could the idea of more hunters bowhunting put a hindrance on the shotgun season? Are there too many horn hunters out there? Were the deer just worn out from the rutting frenzy?

I could keep going with these ideas as well. But one will never really know what the reasons are. Next weekend is the final four days of the shotgun season. What will we see then? Will numbers be up after the deer have a short time to rest? We will just have to wait and see, I guess.

I did hear one great comment over the weekend, and it was the best I had heard in some time. A hunter brought in a nice buck with a very good rack. I asked the hunter if he wanted me to cape it out for him so that he could get it mounted. He said no, so I ask if he just wanted to have the rack cut off and he said, “No, I don’t want the rack,”

“You don’t,” I said, and then he said, “You can’t eat the antlers.” Classic!

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

if ‘you can’t eat the antlers’, then why not shoot a doe?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/30 at 09:30 AM

Don’t but th blame on the bowhunters! I didn’t see squat all bow season either compared to years past.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/30 at 09:56 AM

I would say the biggest reason is too many people shooting big bucks and not shooting does.  Outfitters also cause this problem. After being able to sustain the heavy pressure for 5 years or so, I think the herd is finally getting thrown out of whack and there aren’t as many deer out there.

Think about it….. if more and more people are shooting bigger and bigger bucks, then those bucks aren’t getting a chance to breed as much as they once did.  Its common sense.  This big buck hunting thing is a fad and will go away I hope. We need to get back to shooting does and 4 points and 6 points and being HAPPY about it! smile I know I am.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/30 at 10:08 AM

I seen plenty of deer in bow season….seen 9 this morning….cold temp’s is what kept the numbers low ..hoping for the same this second season…

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/30 at 10:47 AM

There was still a lot of standing corn 1st season too.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/30 at 10:51 AM

Lungbuster think what your saying. If the does are not getting shot, then there would be more does having fawns the next year. You are correct on your second point, the bucks that get shot won’t get much chance to breed. I would aggree on the shooting more does. I shot 3 this year, but let the little bucks walk. If you shoot them not only will they not get to be big bucks but the won’t be able to breed either!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/30 at 05:11 PM

Dawg, I didn’t say I didn’t see any during bow season, but the number I did see was down about 35% of what I saw last year hunting mainly the same ground. Glad you saw plenty send em my way.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/30 at 05:18 PM

have seen hardly any deer this whole season, was out today from 5a.m. to 5p.m. in the blowing snow, and saw not a single deer. was hoping this winter storm front would get them moving. but it did not, and the wierd thing is my trail cameras on 4 different properties are not showing anything either, even at night. (and i know they work because a raccoon has set them off).still have aprox 5 weeks to put venison in freezer, not giving up yet!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/30 at 06:42 PM

wi. made rifles legal in shotgun counties,i guess they figure a rifle isn’t any worse than a long barreled 308 single shot pistol! duh! illinois wake up,less of a deer kill doesn’t mean less deer. how many deer car accidents so far this year? at least wi. is trying to do something ! a continous season,a bonus tag for regestering a doe,maybe then we won’t have to hire “sharpshooters” in places like rockcut park ! don’t the dnr have a clue, or don’t they CARE???

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/30 at 06:50 PM

Deer numbers are very localized. If you aren’t seeing many deer its probably because there aren’t many there. If you are fortunate to be hunting in an area where you can shoot does at will by all means shoot more does. I see lots of deer every time I hunt and have shot 3 mature does so far this season. I hope to shoot several more. I have however in years past hunted in areas where deer sightings are more rare and shots at deer are even less common.  If I had sat for many days without a sighting, let alone a shot, and a small buck walked by guess what…that deer ended up in the freezer.  For those guys out there that don’t see that many deer I don’t blame you for shooting small bucks. If you can, by all means shoot does for meat, and hold on small bucks but some guys just don’t have that luxury.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/30 at 07:54 PM

Let’s face it.the population is down,or not EVERY county except one would be down in numbers.Part of the problem is some bowhunters are out to impress someone by killing 10 or 15 doe’s a year,take the time to get a rough idea what that takes out.cold weather? lets get real everyday of gun season we went by the water company property and deer were moving.all private no hunting and fenced in of course.blame who ya want but we are our own worst enemies,

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/30 at 08:24 PM

.I have seen more deer this year than I have in
the past 15 yrs that I have hunted. There are to
many outfitters and land owners leasing there property, if I had to pay to hunt I would be done
hunting. Outfitters are getting 600.00 for a 3 day
late season doe only hunt, 600.00 will buy you a
whole beef.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/30 at 08:46 PM

Our hunting crew killed more than normal since it was cold so we didnt have to worry about meat spoiling.  We seen about the same number of deer also.

Could be a couple factors.
1. Recent deer hunters are big woosies - it was cold so they didnt hunt as long.
2. This gotta kill a monster buck let the small ones go is a joke - Milo Hansen has the record - let him keep it.
3. Illinois deer is bringing too many hunters from out of town to kill a monster - ya want a monster go to africa with your million bucks - deer are meat.  If its not good enough for you to eat then why donate it to a pantry for someone else.  Yeah their hungry but start donating the delicious younger bucks and does.
4. Deer hunting is turning into a rich mans sport.  Along with teaching firearm safety they should make the hunter field dress, skin and debone a deer.  This aint McDonalds were you take your deer to the local meat market whole and let them do the work cause your too good for it.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/30 at 09:35 PM

It must be regional.  I have seen more deer this year in any other in the past while bow hunting.  I saw more deer opening day firearm then I ever have.  I went coyote hunting this morning and saw tons of deer all over our tri county area.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/30 at 10:44 PM

Hunted in Shelby County for Firearms and didn’t see any deer during the weekend.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/30 at 10:45 PM

I have not seen as many deer as I have last year. I cannot figure it out and is very frustrating. I really contribute the lower numbers in deer sightings due to the rougher winter we had last year. From what I am reading from other hunters - it seems as though numbers are down. Is it possible last years winter killed off more numbers of deer than the state thinks? What are your thoughts?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/30 at 10:49 PM

I don’t think its the number of deer dropping.  I counted 11 deer in one morning while I was bow hunting, 3 bucks and 8 does.  In fact I was shocked by the news that the numbers declined, our entire hunting party of 9 killed out on Friday.  I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the problem is people waiting on a big buck and passing on does.  Many people don’t understand that to grow big bucks the doe to buck ratio needs to be controlled and by shooting that yearling buck or two year old 6 point instead of a doe they are hurting their chances at a big buck next year.

Posted by Jason I on 11/30 at 11:43 PM

Here’s an idea that could help.  How about an “Earn a Bonus Buck” program where a hunter could earn a 3rd buck tag only after tagging 5 does.
Sounds like a win-win solution.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/01 at 06:58 AM

Deer herd/populations are very localized.  If you are noticing a decline in deer numbers in your area, there is probably a direct correlation with a loss or degradation in habitat.  Deer need certain elements to thrive.  You don’t like the trend; better the habitat in hunting ground.  Crop prices spiked in the last year and many folks cleared and planted alot more ground than usual.  Because of the increased harvest, many folks don’t have enough storage and have to sell straight out of the field.  Most elevators won’t take corn at greater than 16.5% moisture, so farmers have to leave it in the field longer or pay to dry it.  Standing corn hides the deer that are present, when pressure is high (ie. gun season).  Summary- Less Available Habitat + Later Harvest = Fewer Sightings.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/01 at 09:11 AM

I hunt Mercer County and saw WAY less deer this year.  Bow season, up until the 15th and 16th proved to be rough going, hardly seeing anything.  That Monday & Tuesday I saw a bunch, then Wednesday they simply “shut off”.  I saw a total of 8 opening day of shotgun and I shot 2 does.  Saturday was worse—only saw 2 does.  This has been about the weirdest year I’ve seen, but hopefully this weekend will change for the better.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/01 at 09:35 AM

LungBuster :  Big bucks wont get a chance to breed, so shoot them before they get big is what youre saying??  Passing on say, a 3yr old buck to try and kill him next year a 4yrs old gives him a chance to pass mature genes on.  If you shoot him as a 4pt 1.5yr old, he will never have any chance of passing on mature genes.

Let small bucks walk and shoot more does!!! They taste better anyways!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/01 at 09:57 AM

Land leases and outfitters are the problem. Didn’t have these concerns before the on slaught of tv hunters.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/01 at 10:47 AM

I have to agree with JC, I hunt Henry and Knox county’s and have had a poor year also. I’ve hunted the same areas for almost 20 years and this year there’s noticeably less deer in the areas than the previous years. And most notably is the lack of mature does, We would see on average 6-10 with as manny as 18 adault does on a morning stand in one area, where as this year the most I’ve seen is 3 at one time, I’ve also noticed fawns alone as early as mid Oct, my trail cameras have also had less hits this year.Not sure what the deal is but I’ve had way less opportunities this saesaon bow and gun hunting then in years past!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/01 at 11:00 AM

I seen alot of deer when i was bowhunting and then i went out Friday for shotgun season and didnt see a thing till Sunday afternoon. The population isnt down ive seen more deer this year along the road and in the field than ive ever seen before. Yes alot of hunters like to kill big bucks which is why they need to make it where you have too kill 2 does before you can shoot a buck. Outfitters are starting to become a big problem with trying to find a good place to hunt which is almost impossible anymore. I think the deer are getting wise and coming out more at night than in the daytime thats why deer numbers are down.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/01 at 11:05 AM

I’ve seen plenty of deer in my part of east central IL. Bunches of doe’s and I mean bunches. I also coonhunt,and we’ll see fields full of doe’s out at night.Don’t see all that many bucks out.A lot of the land in my county is leased up by outfitters and that cuts down on the number of local hunters able to hunt.The outfitters client’s ain’t here to shoot doe’s, so we get out of whack on our doe population.The bucks don’t have to get out and chase doe’s as hard cause there’s doe’s everywhere.I’m not trying to lay total blame on the outfitters either.I hear lots of local hunters say their only after the big bucks too and their not a “man” if they stoop so low as to shoot a doe.
  I don’t know what the answer is,but the way our DNR is being run now,I doubt if they care about finding out whats going on with the deer herd.Just keep paying for our permits and license’s,and habitat stamps and BLAGO will find a way to waste it on something.Maybe gas for his airplane.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/01 at 12:37 PM

Bobba Downon- Jeff2020 and myself are right on this. There is no such thing as mature genes.

Think of a college campus where it is 75% women and 25% men.  Odds are each and every one of those guys are getting the chance to breed at some point.  If there weren’t so many females, men would have to work harder! The same dang thing is happening right here in Illinois to our deer population.

We would be better off if we went out there and smacked does and fawns and small bucks and big bucks too.  It isn’t natural to have only big bucks getting shot.  We need a more balanced harvest of bucks young and old.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/01 at 05:36 PM

The buck to doe ratio I witnessed this year was about 4 bucks for every doe. I harvested a small spike buck and have let 5 “average” bucks walk this year with the hope that they will be big bucks next year and with the intention of shooting a doe if I had the opportunity. Total numbers are down and doe numbers are way down where I hunt (So IL).

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/01 at 06:51 PM

Cody I couldnt agree with you more on both statments. I also think you should have to shhot a doe or two before taking a buck. I think that the state needs to recognize that as well and force people (especially non-residents)to shoot more does.

And I was just telling my best friend that I hunt on the very same thing about the deer being forced to move more at night they are adapting like they always have and always will. And I have also saw more deer and had more oppertunities at nice bucks this year then I ever have. Matter fact I have been tagged out on bucks since 11-17 and have shot my 2 does per buck ratio that I try to live by.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/01 at 07:28 PM

the problem is late harvest. They are hiding in the corn. My cameras are catching just as many deer as in the past and just as many bucks. Pike county has a ton of outfitters and they killed more deer than any other county. you could come up with all kinds of reasons that the numbers are down, but maybe its just a bad year

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/01 at 08:24 PM

wow all this information is interesting. the truth is mature bucks do little breeding less then 20% how do you go about counting buck to doe ratios every year we see bucks that we never seen before we shoot no does until dec 1st i couldnt tell you what our ratio is what i think is does are better eating then bucks I always shoot the doe over the little buck we are not horn hunters but we do pass up smaller bucks why because we can do we slam hunters for shooting small young bucks NO we just elect not to we have hunted along time and have killed our share of basket racks forkhorns button bucks we as hunters have never been so divided Bow hunters/ trophy hunters/ meat hunters/ Horn hunters/outfitter hunters/ lease hunters/ WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO JUST PLAIN DEER HUNTER? why didnt I go that college were75% students were female

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/01 at 10:19 PM

i agree you can’t blame bow hunters! as hunters, we have to seriously shoot more does! i live in jasper county and i did some driving around during the holiday, and i saw LOTS of standing corn still! i think its a combination on not shooting more does, LATE LATE harvest, and just a bad year. i have been hunting for 16 years and i have seen years like this! also there are idiots out there that can ruin your hunts or should i say your “hunting woods” running through at night with there dogs to shoot a stupid racoon. lets hope for all of us with good food plots we get a nice big snow before x-mas!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/02 at 08:16 AM

i just wonder how many are not checkewd in sonce we jave this call in your kill deal ??????  That could have an impact as well, we really dont know how many are really taken .I think we should go back to check stations and wardens patroling like back in my day ,i think it just helps the pochers do what they do and folks like myself who does the right thing gets hurt by it .Just my 2 cents thanks

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/02 at 04:07 PM

I have bow hunted Richland, Jasper, Clark counties much the same as past 30 years. I have have seen far fewer deer this fall, even with crops out of fields sightings did not increase. my cirlcle of fellow hunters has seen the same. Can’t explain this.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/02 at 08:32 PM

What about that “Blue-Tongue” disease that was going on last year? Could that have taken a bigger toll on the herd than they thought?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/03 at 01:39 PM

personally I think the numbers here at the Stephenson and Winnebago county line are down is because of the high priced county sharpshooters us taxpayers pay for, I just wonder how many they have taken the past 3 or so years. Iseen 3 deer the 1st shotgun season. Instead of paying them to shoot,try giving us more then 3 days here,4 days there and so on to fill our own tags. And really, where does all that meat and those horns go to? Seriously. GL all.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/03 at 03:44 PM

I Can tell you why. IL sharpshooters. I live in McHenry County and last year they did a fly over and spotted around 350 Deer. Now what they did was go to the land ownerns and ask to sharpshoot it and in total they shot around 250 of those deer. Thats Why!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/05 at 10:14 AM

It was a slow year here in Kankakee county for deer but I harvested 4 doe’s and a 150 inch buck weighing 210 lbs field dressed with my bow. During the gun season the bucks were not chasing like last year they were already grouped up I would see 3 to 4 at a time. I think the rut was earlier than expected.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/06 at 05:40 AM

Excuses excuses! Ive been making them all seaon myself. I put over 350 stand hours in each year and saw fewer deer than I have as far back as I can remember. I managed to harvest 2 mature bucks over 150 inches and several does but the activity was very slow. In the last 2 weeks over 500 acres of the last corn just came out. Im back to seeing multiple deer per hunt. My “opinion” is that my slow season was due to the standing corn. The numbers will be back next year. Next, lay off the bowhunters. We are the ones in the woods managing the herd and passing the small bucks so that the gun hunters can roll out of bed put on some cologne and sit on a bucket only to make a 90 yard shot on the 4 pointer that I passed 20 times at 5 yards. Now that deer will never be a mature whitetail. Gun hunters are in the woods a max of 7 days a year and are not qualified to speculate on population numbers. Get out of your lazyboys in Jan. and sit on a winter wheat field and take inventory of your property.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/16 at 10:25 PM

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