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Great Outdoors: Numbers down again for first firearm season

Hunters, taxidermists and butchers seemed happier with Illinois’ first firearm season Friday through Sunday, but harvest was down even from the dramatic drop of last year.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources reported a preliminary harvest of 51,830 deer, compared with 55,708 during the first season in 2013.

Dan Spalla of Glen Ellyn said his butcher was getting lots of deer on opening day Friday.

Other than brutal cold for the first couple of hours, Friday was one of the better weather openers in a while. Some areas had rain Saturday and Sunday.

Spalla emailed that he had seen more than 25 deer by 11 a.m. His buck showed recent battle scars.

‘‘His ear was torn, and he had fresh battle wounds and blood on his neck and head,’’ he emailed.

‘‘Another bigger buck was with seven does. All the shooting I could hear around me sounded like I was in the way-back machine, bird hunting. It was unreal.’’

‘‘It looks better, but we are still not where we need to be,’’ said Frank Williams, the president of the Illinois Taxidermist Association. ‘‘We have a long climb.’’

Williams was expecting the usual bump in bucks brought to his shop in St. Anne beginning the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. In the 2013-14 season, he saw a 50 percent drop in whitetails brought in for mounting.

A 12-pointer was among the 15 bucks harvested at Heidecke Lake, Goose Lake Prairie and Morris Wetlands.

Justin Spada of Tinley Park, who tweeted the photo of the bale blind that ran Sunday in the Sun-Times, tweeted that he got no deer this year but ‘‘did have a turkey walk within five yards.’’

The most exciting thing I saw this year was a great horned owl flying by Saturday evening.

In Pope County, noted deer hunter and bass fisherman John Farmer, formerly of Crete, emailed that his camp had a 100 percent success rate with two final deer taken Saturday evening. That included a long-tined six-pointer he shot Friday morning.

On Saturday, he emailed: ‘‘I am getting ready to butcher deer and will head back to North Carolina Sunday or Monday.’’

Fresh venison is a great benefit of deer season, but there are others.

‘‘Outstanding to me means being in the outdoors with my 13-year-old,’’ Ron Kopec emailed. ‘‘How much more outstanding can that be? Seeing and harvesting deer is secondary. Now we get to hunt ducks together. I love this time of year!’’

The final word goes to Spalla, who put it this way: ‘‘Let’s give thanks to all the farmers or whoever gives us the privilege to do what we do on their land.’’


Braidwood Lake is averaging 65 to 70 ducks per day. . . . Heidecke was iced out last week, but site superintendent Joe Giacone said waterfowlers should be able to bust out of the bay and hunt the south side Wednesday. He said mallards are in. . . . At William W. Powers State Recreation Area, 14 hunters took seven mallards Sunday.

Wild things

Many of the thousands of sandhill cranes migrating impressively over the Chicago area last week stopped at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area, southeast of Valparaiso, Indiana. The count Friday was 24,233. That is a wonderful day trip over the Thanksgiving break, especially this year.

Stray casts

‘‘Stacking wins’’ has become to football jargon what ‘‘spot within a spot’’ is to fishing clichés.