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Opening day: A snapshot from opening day of Illinois’ first firearm deer season

Nice weather and faster harvest form part of the snapshot on opening day for Illinois’ first firearm deer season.

Erin Henne of Decatur bagged a 12-point buck early Friday in Edwards County on opening day of firearm deer season in Illinois. Photo provided by Gary Bloom
Erin Henne of Decatur bagged a 12-point buck early Friday in Edwards County on opening day of firearm deer season in Illinois.
Provided by Gary Bloom

By 8 a.m. Friday, I debated shucking my bibs and considered hunting the afternoon in sneakers. Opening day for Illinois’ first firearm deer season came in almost too nice. But today and Sunday will be different with rain (maybe snow spits) and cooler temperatures.

By noon Friday, hunters had reported 6,669 deer, said Dan Skinner, forest wildlife program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

“Last year through Friday noon, we were at 5,377,” he texted. “Had a lot of standing corn in Illinois last year to start firearm season.”

This year was different.

“We had pretty good conditions across the state, though some hunters might think it is too warm,” he said.

The warmth was notable.

Curt Pazdro messaged a photo of a big 11-point buck shot out of the stand of his son, All-American bass angler Wyatt, who was in class at McKendree.

Gary Bloom messaged a photo of Erin Henne with a 12-point buck shot early Friday in Edwards County. Bloom, the great all-around outdoorsman in Chicago, missed the season with a mild case of COVID.

The pandemic brought the biggest change. The IDNR closed deer-check stations in CWD counties. But biologists stressed that hunters should still have deer tested for CWD and must report their harvest before 10 p.m.

“I want to take a moment and emphasize the NEED to still collect CWD samples!” hunter heritage biologist Nicky Strahl emailed. “We still do not recommend consuming CWD positive meat, and the only way to know if it is CWD positive is to get it tested. We have our biologists able to do that, several barrels, and of course our fantastic vendors that are working with us in sample collection.”

For CWD test drop-offs, go to www2.illinois.gov/dnr/programs/CWD/Documents/CWDSamplingLocations.pdf.

The other important reminder is that hunters used to checking their deer in at a check station must now report their deer by 10 p.m. by calling (866) 452-4325 or online at https://www.il.wildlifelicense.com/harvestReport/harvestReport.php.

First light on Friday, opening day of firearm deer season in Illinois, the finest hour of the year for many of us. Credit: Dale Bowman
First light on Friday, opening day of firearm deer season in Illinois, the finest hour of the year for many of us.
Dale Bowman