Hunters head out for chilly opening day

November 22, 2013 at 11:10 AM

Near freezing temperatures couldn’t chill the enthusiasm of hunters as the traditional firearm deer-hunting season opened Friday.

Weather was cloudy and cold with high temperature in the mid- to upper 30s. And the weekend won’t get any warmer, as temperatures in central Illinois are not expected above freezing Saturday and Sunday.

The first half of the firearm season ends Sunday, one-half hour after sunset.

The second segment will be held Dec. 5-8.

At the Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area near Chandlerville, several hunters were taking a mid-day break at the campground.

Dan Coile of Champaign had a one-word answer for how opening morning went.

“Cold,” he said with a laugh. “That wind was bitter.”

Coile and his hunting part of three loaded up the pickup truck at about 1 p.m. and headed out to try again.

Harry Gill of Springfield planned to employ a simple strategy Friday afternoon.

“Just get back in the stand and see if something comes by,” he said. “This weather change has kind of slowed them down, but you never know.

“They have to go eat before it gets freezing cold.”

According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, 365,000 permits were issued for the seven-day firearm season.

Jim Edgar Panther Creek allows 230 firearm hunters to pursue deer within its 26 square miles.

Some of those hunters may have more than one permit, said site superintendent Mike Wickens.

Hunters could apply for one either-sex tag and a doe tag.

Steve Hardenbrook who lives east of Rockford in Boone County said his eight-point buck was not a “wall-hanger,” a hunter’s term for a trophy worthy of placement above the fireplace.

“He’s got a big body so lots of good meat for me, and my family,” he said. “It is nice to have the opportunity to get out, enjoy the outdoors and hopefully bring home a deer.”

At the campground, Mike Altenhoff was busy skinning his deer.

Altenhoff, who lives in the Chicago area, said this is his second year hunting at Jim Edgar Panther Creek.

“I saw four does come up this morning, and I was lucky enough to take the biggest one,” he said. “Of all the campers I’m only one with a deer that I know of so far.

“A lot of the hunters are looking for the bucks, but I’m just looking for meat for the freezer.”

With more than 200 hunters at Jim Edgar Panther Creek, Hardenbrook said cooperation is a must.

“It’s public land and you have to recognize you are going to have other guys out there,” he said. “Everybody tries to stay safe first and foremost, but also courteous.

“We’re all after the same thing, and everybody wants to have a good time.”

Chris Young can be reached at 341-8487 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).