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Illinois Hunting Report: Deer opener & ducks

Deer stand prepped and ready; obviously, deer hunting leads this Illinois Hunting Report with the first firearm season opening Friday; oh, and the ducks are flying.

During the hunting seasons, the extended online version of the IHR, which appears most weeks during the hunting season in the outdoors page of the Sun-Times on Wednesdays, is usually posted here on Tuesdays.

If you have suggestions, e-mail me at or post in the comments.

Checked the deer stand (above) Friday with the kids. Drove a couple spikes to shore up weak spots. Swept out the raccoon scat. The kids helped clip branches, brambles and weeds on the path in. I like doing that beforehand. I am never as quiet as I want to be on opening morning, so I want to be ready as much as possible beforehand.

Hunting clothing is already airing. Necessary plastic jars and a hunting chair already in the stand. Scent ribbons wrapped at four spots. Now if I can remember them in the dark Friday morning.

Like more than 200,000 other deer hunters, I am ready for the opener on Friday. The first firearm season runs through Sunday. The second is Dec. 1-4.

The first firearm season, the great event in Illinois outdoors, should be just on the downside of the peark of the rut.

Dave Olzeski, an avid deer hunter and realtor from Park Ridge, texted Tuesday afternoon while bowhunting in northwest Illinois, “Bucks are chasing throughout the day.”

That certainly showed with the bowhunters. Through Sunday, Illinois bowhunters had harvested 45,069 deer, near the 45,268 taken in the same period last year. Of note, the percentage of male whitetails taken in the previous week by bowhunters shot up to 65 percent.

By Friday, the rut will be tapering, but, as forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton said, “I agree, but deer activity should still be very good.”

Other than a bitter cold at the start Friday, the forecast looks good. “Temperatures should stay at or below the mid-sixties for highs everywhere in the state all weekend, which will be good,” Shelton said. “As long as winds don’t pick up too much on Saturday, and the rains are mostly restricted to Saturday night, we should be good to go.”

Good to go, but probably nowhere near a record.

Illinois’ firearm record was set in 2005 with 123,792 deer, which was part of the combined record deer harvest of 201,301 in the 2005-06 seasons. In 2010, firearms hunters harvested 98,944 deer.

Shelton said:

“Harvests (from all seasons combined) during the past several years seem to have been getting the job done for us, so as long as we’re in the range of 100,000 or so [for both firearms seasons], we should be in good shape. No, I don’t see any chance for a firearm record–ever since we changed the rules to allow for the use of unfilled firearm tags during the late winter deer season (in counties open to that season), it’s clear that there are a number of hunters that put off harvesting does until the later season, whereas they previously took them during the regular firearm season. As a result, that 2005 record harvest should be quite safe.”

The winter may have had an impact on prospects, at least in northern Illinois. Olzeski texted, “Property owners indicated the heavy snows thinned the herd [in northwest Illinois]. They would see 50-plus deer in the wintering herd in prior years. This year only handful at winter’s end.”

For hunters in northeast Illinois, the best last-minute chance is standby at Heidecke Lake for hunting Heidecke, Morris Wetlands and Goose Lake Prairie. There will be at least 12 slots for standby. Hunters fill in all day–it’s a $5 permit–as hunters leave. Be at Heidecke by 4:30 a.m. to register for standby.

Shooting hours remain half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset.

Firearm deer hunters in Boone, DeKalb, Grundy, JoDaviess, Kane, LaSalle, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson and Winnebago counties must bring their deer to mandatory check stations by 8 p.m. on the day harvested. Others must register their deer by 10 p.m. online or by calling (866)IL-CHECK.

Here’s the official word from the IDNR:

Hunters Heading to the Field for Illinois Firearm Deer Season

Seven-Day Season is Nov. 18-20 and Dec. 1-4

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois’ most popular hunting season begins this Friday, November 18 through Sunday, November 20 as hunters head to the field for the opening weekend of the Illinois Firearm Deer Season. The seven-day firearm hunt will conclude on December 1-4.

“Firearm deer season in Illinois is an anxiously awaited time of year for thousands of hunters,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Director Marc Miller. “We encourage hunters to enjoy their outdoor heritage and time afield, but to always make ethics and safety top priorities, for the good of the sport.”

“Conservation Police Officers will be out in full force during the firearm deer season,” said IDNR Conservation Police Chief Rafael Gutierrez. “We will be conducting airplane details in addition to our regular checks to prevent poaching and protect hunting opportunities for the thousands of legal sportsmen and women in the field.”

Hunters in Illinois harvested 98,944 deer during the seven-day firearm deer hunting season in 2010. So far this season, more than 327,000 permits have been issued. For information on remaining permits, check the IDNR website at this link:

The legal hunting hours for the firearm deer season are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

Hunters successful in taking a deer during the firearm season in most counties must register the deer they harvest online through the IDNR website at or by phoning 1-866-IL-CHECK (1-866-452-4325). Hunters using the online or phone-in system must register their harvest by 10 p.m. on the day they take the deer. It is recommended that hunters using cellular phones to register their harvest wait until they are out of the field and have a clear cell phone signal before attempting to make the harvest report phone call.

Firearm deer hunters in Boone, DeKalb, Grundy, JoDaviess, Kane, LaSalle, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago counties are reminded to bring their deer to mandatory check stations by 8 p.m. on the day they harvest a deer. Biologists will be sampling adult deer for chronic wasting disease (CWD) to determine areas of infection and prevalence

rates. The check station locations are listed below (Note: the check station locations are the same as last year, except for the addition of the JoDaviess County check station at Elizabeth):

Boone: Boone Co. Fairgrounds, located one-half mile north of Rt. 76 and Business Rt. 20, Belvidere

DeKalb: Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area, 4201 Shabbona Grove Rd., Shabbona

Grundy: Gebhard Woods State Park; 401 Ottawa St., Morris

JoDaviess: Elizabeth Community Center, 111 E. Myrtle St., Elizabeth; mile west of business district on Hwy 20, next to Highland Community College, Elizabeth campus.

Kane: Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area, 4201 Shabbona Grove Rd., Shabbona

LaSalle: Buffalo Rock State Park, three miles west of Ottawa on Dee Bennett Rd.

McHenry: Moraine Hills State Park, McHenry Dam day use area, east of McHenry on River Road, 2.2 miles south of Rt. 120

Ogle: Castle Rock State Park, Rt. 2, three miles south of Oregon

Stephenson: Stephenson Co. Fairgrounds, one mile east of Rt. 26 and Fairgrounds Road, Freeport

Winnebago: Rock Cut State Park (hunters should utilize the Hwy 173 entrance and follow the signs)

Hunters who participate in the CWD sampling can check the status of their deer (listed by phone number) through the IDNR web site at Hunters who provide samples from deer that test positive are notified by the IDNR.

While not believed to be contagious to humans or livestock, chronic wasting disease is known to spread from animal to animal among deer and elk. The disease affects the brain of infected animals, causing them to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose coordination and eventually die. Illinois expanded its CWD surveillance effort in 2002 following the discovery of the disease in neighboring Wisconsin.

For more information on Illinois deer hunting regulations, check the IDNR web site at this link:

Hunting Safety Facts:

Illinois law requires that anyone born on or after January 1, 1980, must successfully complete a hunter safety course before a regular Illinois hunting license is issued

The number one cause of hunting accidents in Illinois is falling from a tree stand

Last year in Illinois, there were 22 reported hunting accidents, 11 involving tree stands (two fatalities)

When using a tree stand, remember the following:

Check ladder stands before climbing to make sure they are secure.

Wear a Fall Arrest System/Full Body Safety Harness when leaving the ground until returning to the ground from the tree stand

Use a haul line to raise and lower your equipment and unloaded firearm or bow into a tree stand

When hunting with a firearm, sportsmen should remember three primary rules of firearm safety:

Know your target and what is beyond your target

Point the muzzle in a safe direction

Treat every firearm as if it were loaded


Over the counter sales of remaining firearm permits for deer is underway through Dec. 11.

Late-Winter Firearm Antlerless-only Deer county permits will be available over the counter (OTC) through DNR Direct license and permit vendors beginning on Tues., Dec. 13. County permits for the CWD Deer Season will also be available OTC beginning on Dec. 13. The dates for the seven-day Late-Winter and CWD deer seasons are Dec. 29, 2011-Jan. 1, 2012 and Jan. 13-15, 2012. Click here for information on the resident late winter antlerless deer hunting, including information for the special hunt areas. Applications for the special hunt areas late winter run through Nov. 28.

Good photos coming in for Buck of the Week, the celebration of big bucks bagged by hunters.

BOTW runs Wednesdays around the hunting seasons and BOTW: Unplugged, the weekly celebration of live big bucks around Chicago outdoors, on Sundays much of the year on the outdoors page in the Sun-Times. E-mail nominations for either one to


Duck season runs through Dec. 20. The second Canada goose season is Nov. 24-Jan. 31. Site staff reported a bust out week at Braidwood with 193 hunters taking 278 ducks. The big day was Thursday with 111 ducks. At Mazonia North, 69 hunters took 32 ducks. At Mazonia South, 62 hunters took 52 ducks. REMINDER: Hunting for white-fronted geese opens Saturday.


Duck season in the north runs through Dec. 13. Canada goose season runs through Jan. 7.

At the two main public sites with daily reports, action was fair. At Heidecke Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area near Morris, site staff said Saturday was the best with 22 hunters taking 21 mallards, two canvasbacks, three greenwings, one bluebill, one wigeon, one gadwall, two black ducks, one goldeneye, one ringneck, two buffleheads, one merganser and three redheads. That’s a day. . . . At William W. Powers State Recreation Area on Chicago’s Southeast Side, site staff reported Sunday was best with nine hunters reporting two geese, three mallards and seven other ducks.


Click here for the link to the map of change in the north and central zone lines in northeast Illinois (Grundy, Cook and Will counties) for duck and goose seasons.

Basically, the north zone goose line in northeast Illinois reverts to I-80, while the north zone duck zone remains the same, dropping south from I-80 on Route 47, then going east on Pine Bluff and roughly following that line on other roads to the Illinois/Indiana line.

Here is the complete description from the IDNR waterfowl regs for the north zone duck line in that area, from the Indiana line going west:

That portion of the state north of a line extending west from the Indiana border along Peotone-Beecher Road to Illinois Route 50, south along Illinois Route 50 to Wilmington-Peotone Road, west along Wilmington-Peotone Road to Illinois Route 53, north along Illinois Route 53 to New River Road, northwest along New River Road to Interstate Highway 55, south along I-55 to Pine Bluff-Lorenzo Road, west along Pine Bluff-Lorenzo Road to Illinois Route 47, north along Illinois Route 47 to I-80,


Duck season runs through Jan. 10. Goose season is split, first goes through Nov. 27, then Dec. 13-Jan. 31.


Phone-in period for duck and goose sites runs through Jan. 27, 2012. . . . Duck season in the south zone is Nov. 24 to Jan. 22. As usual, the south zone Canada goose season is split: Nov. 24-27 and Dec. 1-Jan. 31.


Archery season is ongoing. . . First application period for spring permits runs through Dec. 1. Click here.

Wild turkey project manager Paul Brewer sent this recap of the fall firearm season:

The nine-day fall firearm wild turkey season (October 22-30) concluded with a preliminary harvest of 638 birds, down 11% from last year’s preliminary harvest figure of 716. This continues a long term trend in both declining harvest and participation in fall turkey hunting, with many hunters choosing to concentrate on archery deer hunting during this time period. The number of permits allocated this year was approximately 14% fewer than in the previous year.

Six new counties were opened for fall firearm hunting this year, with a preliminary total of 40 wild turkeys being harvested in these 6 counties (Clay-5, Franklin-11, Hamilton-13, Menard-5, Washington-2, and White-4).

The top 5 counties for firearm wild turkey harvest were JoDaviess (53), Jefferson (44), Wayne(42), Marion (35) and Pope (32).


Remember, squirrel hunting is closed in those counties open to firearm hunting, during both firearm seasons. Most public sites are closed due to bowhunting for deer. Public lands remain open through Feb. 15.


Hunting seasons for rabbits, cock pheasants, bobwhite quail and gray partridge is open. Most interest is on deer hunting this week. Click here for the annual prospects put out by the IDNR.


Hunting for foxes (red and gray) runs through Jan. 31, except it is closed during the two firearm deer seasons.


Trapping seasons is open statewide for raccoon, opossum, skunk, weasel, mink, fox (red and gray), coyote and badger.


Hunting season runs through Feb. 10 in the north. In the south, the season runs through Feb. 15.


Season runs through Nov. 28.


Season runs through Dec. 18.


Season runs through Feb. 28, 2012.


For IDNR hunting info, click here.

For the Illinois 2011-12 Digest of Hunting & Trapping Regulations, click here.

For the 2010-11 Illinois Public Hunting Areas Report, click here.

The 2011-12 edition of the Digest of Waterfowl Hunting Regulation is now online, click here.

For Illinois crop reports (generally posted Monday afternoons, holiday weekends are the exceptions), click here. After holidays, such as Labor Day, it comes out on Tuesday.