2019–2020 Illinois Deer Hunting Forecast
During the 2018-2019 Illinois deer hunting seasons, hunters harvested 151,709 deer. Total deer harvest in Illinois has remained relatively steady since the 2013-2014 hunting season, fluctuating between 144,000 and 156,000 deer. Success rates of Illinois firearm deer hunters have again increased, with the most recent success rates now meeting or exceeding their pre-2012 levels; success rates had fallen during the Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) outbreaks in 2012 and 2013. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) expects deer hunters to have another good season this fall.
The 2019-2020 Illinois deer hunting seasons will provide hunters with 111 total days of deer hunting opportunity. No major rule changes have been proposed by the IDNR for the upcoming seasons, but archery hunters in east-central Illinois should be aware that the 5-county Restricted Archery Zone remains in place in Champaign, Douglas, Macon, Moultrie and Piatt counties. To reduce doe harvest and help grow deer populations to their county goals, archery hunters in these five counties are permitted to harvest only antlered deer during the first 15 days of the season (October 1-15). IDNR implemented a similar regulation in the late 1990s and early 2000s to successfully reduce doe harvest in east-central Illinois counties.
The exceptionally wet spring weather, which included the third-wettest May on record, delayed the planting of corn and soybeans across much of the state. Crop progress, as noted in the USDA Illinois Crop Progress and Condition Reports, of both corn and soybeans is well below the 5-year average. Delayed planting, if coupled with untimely fall rains, could lead to late harvest of agricultural fields in Illinois. Hunters, especially those who hunt in October during the archery or youth seasons, should dedicate some extra time to scouting late this summer. If standing crops make a hunter’s tree stand or ground blind location unsuitable, a backup plan made in advance of opening day can save time and frustration later.
For hunters who have not yet applied for an Illinois deer permit this year, many opportunities still exist. The third Firearm/Muzzleloader Lottery is open until August 16, and remaining permits go on sale over-the-counter (OTC) beginning October 15; archery deer permits are available OTC beginning August 6; Late-Winter & CWD Season OTC county permits will be sold December 10-January 19. Archery hunters looking for a place to hunt on private land may be interested in the Illinois Recreational Access Program (IRAP), which allows limited public access to hunt and recreate on private lands. IRAP Archery Deer Hunting applications will be accepted through August 23; more information and online applications are available at https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/conservation/IRAP/Pages/Archery-Deer-Hunting.aspx
Dan Skinner is the Forest Wildlife Program Manager with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife Resources.