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Heartland Outdoors

Illinois deer harvest at 144,150

Tue, January 24, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, IL.  Hunters in Illinois harvested a preliminary total of 144,150 deer during all 2016-17 seasons, which concluded Jan. 15. The total preliminary deer harvest for all seasons compares with a total harvest for all seasons of 155,229 in 2015-16.

During this year’s deer seasons, hunters took 44 percent does and 56 percent males. 

A breakdown of Illinois deer hunting seasons is as follows:

Archery:  Archery deer hunters in Illinois took a preliminary total of 53,479 deer during the season which began on Oct. 1, 2016 and concluded on Jan. 15, 2017.  That compares with the harvest of 56,767 during the 2015-16 archery season.

Youth:  Young deer hunters harvested 3,259 deer during the 2016 Illinois Youth Deer Season conducted on Oct. 8-10, 2016, compared with 2,850 deer harvested during the 2015 youth hunt. 

Traditional Firearm Season:  Hunters took a preliminary total of 79,429 deer during the 2016 Illinois Firearm Deer Season on Nov. 18-20 and Dec. 1-4, 2016, compared with 86,847 deer taken during the 2015 firearm season.

Muzzleloader:  Hunters using muzzleloading rifles harvested 3,297 deer during the 2016 Muzzleloader-Only Deer Season on Dec. 9-11, 2016, compared with 2,403 in 2015.

Late-Winter Seasons:  The 2016-17 Late-Winter Antlerless Only and Special CWD deer seasons concluded on Jan. 15, with a combined preliminary harvest total for both seasons of 4,686 deer, compared with a harvest of 6,362 deer taken during those seasons in 2015-16.  Season dates for the Late-Winter and CWD seasons were Dec. 29, 2016-Jan. 1, 2017 and Jan. 13-15, 2017. 
There were 14 northern Illinois counties open to the Special CWD Season in 2016-17, the same counties that were open for the 2015-16 seasons.  The Special CWD season is used to assist in slowing the spread of chronic wasting disease in the Illinois deer herd.
There were 24 counties open for the Late-Winter Antlerless Season in 2016-17.  Four counties open previously for the late-winter season were closed for 2016-17 because they had reached deer population goals, while one county was added to the late-winter hunt.  Counties that are at or below their individual goal for two consecutive years may be removed from the late-winter season.

The tables below provide a county-by-county summary of preliminary deer harvest results for 2016-17 and harvest results for 2015-16.


It is not rocket science. 

People are not hunting as much, in return harvest numbers are lower.

Posted by Gobble Gobble on January 24

Gobble, you beat me to it. And some people showed “restraint”. I did. I stopped hunting here the day after first gun season. Watched my properties for trespassers and watched the rest survive season. A few of my landowners were not pleased.

Posted by chrismaring on January 24

For Archery season, it was probably the most bucks (mature and young) that I have seen in a long time.  The two biggest bucks I’ve ever passed were this year.  I hunt mainly from October 28th to gun season and there were days where I was seeing 15 different bucks, I was pretty happy with that.  Funny thing was that I saw very few does during this time.  Gun season rolls around and it was the exact opposite.  i was seeing does everywhere and only two bucks (a spike and a giant 10 with no shot).  Finally filled a antlerless tag on Sunday AM when I had 9 does make it in to 10 yards before I had a shot.  I think gun season was really effected this year by the wind.  Friday AM when it picked up it was tough to be in a tree.  Friday night and Saturday were brutal but Sunday saw some good movement.  The last two opening weekends of gun season has some pretty adverse conditions that I think kept a lot of hunters inside.  I’m hoping though more hunters have restraint but not always the case.

Posted by Bigb on January 24

Oh, and I agree with the posts somewhat.  I believe that some of it is that hunters are losing interest while equally people are losing places to hunt.  Trophy hunters lease up land and only have one person hunting 150 acres when 10 years ago there would be 4 people on that land.  We had a gentleman on the land where I hunt give up hunting because he was getting too old.  He would shoot 6 to 8 deer a year and only find 3 or 4.  It was’t our choice to have him there or not but thats 6 to 8 more deer that will make it a year and 3 to 4 deer less on the harvest list.

Posted by Bigb on January 24

Is there a link with this article, I can find archery harvest numbers on DNR site, but can never seem to find gun totals.  It also may because a lot less deer in some areas, at least by me thats the case and because of that a lot more restraint.

Posted by BIGPOND on January 24

Maybe someone can get total of tags sold ,every tag bow ,gun, nonresident , youth etc. and that should show hunter participation rates somewhat . Trying to simply imply the numbers are down because of hunters numbers is silly . there are several factors involved and all must be accounted for to reach a reasonable conclusion . Trust me here in pike there is no shortage of hunters . Just a shortage of deer .

Posted by Mattg on January 25

Absolutely agree with above posts.  I know that in my small circle of hunters, there was only one really decent shooter buck this year and he was taken by a family member in early November. Most of us stopped hunting after the first shotgun season because there just wasn’t much to shoot (call it “restraint” if you want). Lots of does and young bucks, though, which should make things interesting next year. I thank trail cameras. Now that they are becoming more affordable I think a lot more people (myself included) use these cameras as a hunting tool to decide whether to hunt. This factored into our decisions to sit out most of 2nd half of the season.

Posted by Walston on January 25

I couldn’t find on the IDNR website the total number of permits sold however I did find license sales by year.  If you assume there is a correlation between deer permits sold and hunting licenses sold (which I believe there would be) then perhaps these numbers make a case.  There is also evidence that deer is the number one hunted animal in the stat I added all hunting license types together for each year which include (nonresident, nonresident 5 day, resident, apprentice, lifetime, senior, senior sportsmen, and sportsmen).  **looks like I forgot to include lifetime sportsman combo license, however they make up a very small portion of licenses sold

Totals per Year
2016 - 276907
2015 - 286769
2014 - 304914
2013 - 320055
2012 - 322050

So, there certainly is an established trend of less hunters in the woods of Illinois.  Of course, license trends do not tell the whole story.  IDNR permit quotas, average # of permits per person sold, effects of disease like EHD, land access, etc.. all play a part in the number of permits sold and ultimately the number of deer.

Posted by buckbull on January 25

Also, while all the license types I mentioned above have had declining sales, the largest declines are from the resident and apprentice hunting license sales, 20% and 30% declines respectively since 2012.

Posted by buckbull on January 25

The part that I agree with the most out of the posts so far, is that hunters are losing interest.  But those of you saying it sound like you are having great hunts and seeing plenty of deer.

So why do you think hunters are losing interest?

Posted by bw on January 25

Thank you buckbull , for the info I figured the state would have total deer tag sales listed somewhere and they probably do burried in their site . I agree that losing land has been a huge problem , hell ya can’t even find a place to rabbit or squirrel hunt anymore with hearing sorry I have my ground leased .

Posted by Mattg on January 25

Yes there was a DNR site. The site have numerous yrs. The last time I checked was about 3 yrs ago. The site had total permits and broken down by season,the kill by does and bucks by points. It was set up nice. I want to say I got site address here. Not sure.

Posted by deer1 on January 25

I found it. Go to the DNR site. go to deer, then harvest report, and hit annual deer report. Example 10-11 season 630000…15-16 season 577000 total permits. 16-17 season not posted./

Posted by deer1 on January 25

The following information was pulled from IDNR’s website. The total of all permits sold and yearly harvest totals and success rate are as follows:

Year Permits Sold Total Harvest   Success Rate
2015   577,244     155,229       26.8%
2014   592,457     145,720       24.5%
2013   618,575     148,614       24.0%
2012   634,166     180,811       28.5%
2011   628,896     181,451       28.8%
2010   631,830     182,270       28.8%
2009   650,459     189,634       29.1%
2008   621,014     188,901       30.4%
2007   611,545     199,611       32.6%
2006   589,379     196,241       33.2%
2005   570,811     201,209       35.2%
2004   329,581     116,675       35.4%
2003   304,917     105,873       34.7%

Appears to me after looking at the data that the success rate has declined significantly since the peak around 2005. I would guess this would be due to the decrease in numbers of deer which provides less opportunity to harvest one. As for the decrease in permit sales a lot of that would be due to Late Winter Seasons being removed from counties,out of state permit sales decreased once they couldn’t by a doe tag only and if hunters couldn’t fill there first tag they wouldn’t be buying any additional tags.

Posted by tailhunter on January 25

I’m still curious if land access has any affect on our numbers.  There are fewer hunters her with 10 miles of my house due to leases and individuals locking down property. I am guilty as anyone. The neighbors started the trend 2 or 3 years ago. And we had to do the same thing just to have a place to hunt. So between us and the neighbors, we have 3 adults and 1 youth hunting ground that had 10 or more hunting just 5 years ago. In my opinion, that situation has to take place more often than not in Illinois.

I also believe land management i.e. food plots, crp and custom bedding areas limit movement between Farms unlike the past.

But…..I’ve been wrong more than once.

Posted by chrismaring on January 25


lower deer numbers leads to lower success rate leads to lower license sales

Posted by buckbull on January 25

More coyotes than every plus more diseases than ever plus more efficient farming practices equal less deer.  Add this to being harder than ever to get permission to hunt and land prices at an all time high….this is why hunter participation is going down.  I don’t think hunters carry a lot of blame when it comes to low numbers, there are a lot of other things that contribute that most people don’t want to admit hurt the numbers.

Posted by Bigb on January 25

So looking at the numbers 2005 and 2015 were nearest in tags sold 6000 plus more in 2015 and 460000 less deer killed in 2015 it appears to me the decline in deer numbers has more to do with our over all decline than anything else . Is that correct ?

Posted by Mattg on January 25

What would explain the big jump between 2004 and 2005 in permits sold -did the DNR just go balls out in issuing more permits?

Posted by BIGPOND on January 26

I’m not totally on board with the idea that leasing and buying up ground always displaces hunters.  Although it certain has in many cases, including some circumstances for me.  But there are other instances where it has done just the opposite.

The 260ac that joins us used to be hunted by 2-3 locals. Then the owner decided to lease it.  And now 6 out of towners hunt it.

A friend of mine had 20ac come up for sale next to him. They wanted WAY more than it should have been worth, so he didn’t even try to buy it. It was rarely ever hunted by anyone.  But 8 guys from out of town went together and bought it.  They built a barn and park their campers there.  And hunt 8 guys on what’s left of the 20.

Another handful of parcels I know of who had just a couple locals hunting each one, are now controlled by an outfitter.  And he runs 5-8 NR hunters through each one of them every year.

None of these examples point to lower participation.

Posted by bw on January 26

What would explain the big jump between 2004 and 2005 in permits sold -did the DNR just go balls out in issuing more permits?

Posted by BIGPOND on January 26

Would that be around the same time the LWS campaign started?

Posted by bw on January 26

DVA’s peaked in 2003.  My guess is that the sharp number of permits issued was in response to that.  And remember, the IDNR probably didn’t get the DVA numbers in time to make the change for 2004 so they were implemented in 2005.  Just a guess though.

Posted by buckbull on January 26

Wonder if license sales also jumped that year, or if same licensed hunters just bought more permits and thus shot more deer per hunter back then.

Posted by BIGPOND on January 26

@BIGPOND - License counts on the IDNR website only go back to 2006.

Posted by buckbull on January 26

At the current rate of decline in the number of hunters (hunting licenses sold), the species will be extinct in Illinois in less than 30 years. We should try to get Endangered Species or at least Threatened Species designation, since any wildlife species on that trajectory would be headlines. But then again, this screwed up state would try to solve the problem by giving someone a couple of million dollars to import non-resident hunters to restock.

Posted by The Colonel on January 28

Hunter recruitment has been a big issue for some time now, and when I attended the US sportsmen’s caucus at Rend lake a few years back it was on the minds of many that attended. There was very good information given out as in regards to how Sportsmen/women contribute financially to our local, state economies, and how they contribute to the different wildlife programs of all types across the country. The same common question came up form almost everyone from every state, and that is how to recruit and retain.

I know many outdoor groups have some type of public outreach program, but I think it’s time that they all amp up their efforts within this department. I will also say many of these groups are not willing to interact with local schools very much, or at least that seems to be my experience over several years. I also know there many be very good reasons lots of times for not exploring that avenue of approach, but I think we should always try to work towards an introduction to outdoor activities via our school systems at every chance we are afforded. Yes it maybe be a hard nut to crack in some schools, but others will open up that you never knew you would have a chance at, and yes this is just from my personal experience as well.

I hear all the time that lack of opportunity for those seeking a chance to experience the outdoors is the main reason behind the decline, but I don’t think that is the single biggest factor. People are changing every aspects about their very life’s each and every day, and the many factors that are affecting new recruitment are the very same ones effecting many other activities as well,(Little league baseball, Cheerleading, Band), these all compete for many others opportunities our youth now have available to them. The list is also much larger for older adults that seek new activities to be a part of, so the outdoors has many competitors now to contend with.

I know in the past recruitment has been mostly focused upon youth activities and interaction, but if you bring the adults into the mix the youth will follow I believe. I feel the youth recruitment efforts alone don’t do much for long term retention of those youth that are exposed. Very low return for the efforts made, and I feel a different direction needs to be taken. Adults have incomes, and money to put towards their new found passions, and if they have children then those kids will be the direct benefactors of that adults exposure and interaction to the outdoors.
I think the national average is a little over 2 kids per household, so for every one adult your getting two children into the mix that may be recruited via a parent. Many of us today were exposed to the outdoors via a parent, or relative, so lets bring that element back into the mix, and try recruiting a few more adults, and continue with the youth efforts as well.


Posted by Ringtailtrapper on January 28

Interesting takes on it all but when it all comes down to the nuts and bolts, the deer harvest is in a downhill spiral. People have lost interest due to the fact that the deer numbers are low. With a 25% harvest ratio I don’t think we need more hunters. Seems like to me it’s the deer numbers themselves. Until we get a healthy deer herd it might be hard to get someone interested doing something that has little payback. There is no way you can use a static generated by a single source and use that for evaluating the tags issues and how many. The current system flat out does not fit all. Has anyone wondered why their counties have no deer and are still in the LWS seasons and other are bragging about what they’re seeing and don’t have a LWS? It’s because the INDR is using a flawed system that should be just one part of many statistic when it comes to the management of the deer. Really….. 25% success rate in a state that has 90% of their hunting on private property and we need more hunters? I don’t know about everyone else but our woods are saturated with hunters and who knows how many others. I think it’s sad. What is good to hear is the number of people who have come to realize that we’re on our own and they are starting or have been practicing herd management. If our herd is to grow, that’s how it will happen. We’re on our own. Yes, we should encourage our youth but I believe we have more important issues right now.

Posted by bwadd on January 28

That cracked me up Colonel!

Do you think Shelton will retire before he hits 100????????????????

Or will he be on the Smuckers list still Killin the Illinois deer herd?

Posted by walmsley on January 28

ringtail, while its bad and good, I have been getting some buddies into hunting lately.  The problem is that they are family men and own their own businesses and work a lot.  They hunt with me for upland game at hunting preserves and enjoy it but the hunter’s safety is what really holds them back.  While they like the sport, its tough to dedicate a weekend to get the certificate.  They shoot here and there and are very safe with firearms (or they wouldn’t hunt with me 2 or 3 times a year) but taking the class is a bit tough.  I know its a necessity and helps to keep hunters safe.  The problem is, they can’t dive deeper into hunting without taking it and don’t have the time to invest for something they may not like.  It’s a double edge sword on hunter recruitment.

Posted by Bigb on January 28

A few years ago I was planning an archery antelope hunt in South Dakota.  South Dakota requires an archery safety course in order to draw a tag, something I didn’t have. You can take hunting/bowhunting courses online.  Just wanted to point out that you do not need to commit to the 2 day course.  Below is the link for hunter education for Illinois.  It says something about a “field” day.  I don’t really understand this; my boys that took the hunter safety course never had any practical field experience, it was all classroom instruction.  Might be an option for some.


Posted by buckbull on January 29

BigB, I feel hunter education now days is needed especially more than ever, and the very reason it’s needed is because we don’t have that strong bases(parents, relatives) that once passed down the knowledge needed. I think if adults were targeted more in recruitment efforts then we could see some change in that area, but that would have to be seen first.

I know one weekend is hard to give up for some people, but we are only talking about a one and done deal, unless you have kids at multiple ages, then yes you will have to attend again but still not to much to ask I feel. A person ever hunting out of state is going to have to have it anyway, so just consider it part of your hunting equipment and make the investment in the class. ( By investment I mean of your time )

I would like to point out that my comments about hunter participation was geared towards hunting overall, and not just concerning whitetail deer, and their populations, or health of the herd. Maybe if we had rabbit, quail, pheasant, squirrel hunters in numbers once again, then maybe we would see less pressure and demand upon the other species. Balance plays a big part into scientific wildlife management, but sometimes the species is not the only thing that needs balanced. LOL


Posted by Ringtailtrapper on January 29

BuckBull, some instructors offer a portion of the class now to offer some hands on interaction. This is only if they have a location that allows them to actually do some shooting, and is very good for those students. For some this is the very first time they have a chance to shoot a firearm, and what a better place and time than with an actual instructor to instruct, and encourage these people. My hats off to those that offer a field day for their students, takes more work than one might think.


Posted by Ringtailtrapper on January 29

I guess I’m one of the few that doesn’t even remotely see this “decline” in hunter numbers.  I guess license sales point to it somewhat.  But in the areas I hunt, I would estimate there are EASILY 3 to 5 times the number of hunters that there were in the mid 90s.  And we are all still killing less deer, because there aren’t many to shoot.

Posted by bw on January 29

When looking at success rates, keep in mind that IDNR misrepresents this somewhat.  They count the combination archery permit as ONE permit.  To get the TRUE success rate (since the combo permit is actually TWO tags), you have to add the extra tag on the combo permits.  When you do that, you get to about a TRUE 20% success rate… not 25%+.
Another thing to consider with the decline in permits… is that NR’s are dropping like flies.  Those permits (and NR hunting licenses) are down 6,000 alone.  Nothing to blame there but low deer numbers and quality.
We can do all the recruiting we want to, but I still think access is the number one issue facing deer hunters and recruitment.  That will only get worse as deer numbers remain low.  IDNR can’t have it both ways… annihilating the deer herd… and expecting to recruit new hunters to buy licenses and permits.

Posted by Kevin C on January 29

Kevin C, I’m actually hoping that access becomes better as deer numbers remain low.  Would it seem logical that with fewer NR hunters, maybe less leasing will occur and possibly free up some of the ground that was tied up?  And hopefully people will eventually start selling properties that they bought strictly for hunting if they aren’t seeing the return on their investment like they hoped they would.  Maybe even bringing the price of land back down a little.

My one concern is that properties that were always hunted for free, but then leased during the glory days, will never be able hunted for free again.  Once a landowner gets a taste of some money for letting someone use his ground for recreation, he may never let a non-paying hunter in again.

Posted by bw on January 30

I feel we are losing two group of deer hunters at a rate more than the rest:

(1) The casual hunter who mostly hunts for meat and has no desire to own or lease land for hunting.  Their passion is not hunting, but they enjoy getting out every once in awhile with family and friends.  We are losing these type of hunters because access costs more than their desire.

(2) The buck hunter who can not afford to lease or buy ground.  A lot of these guys are good people and great hunters, but they are sick of not achieving success because they can not afford to play the game anymore.

Posted by Gobble Gobble on January 30

and now we know why the crossbow season was passed, not for the deer but for the cash

Posted by Buck-Man on February 10

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