Opening day for Illinois’ firearm deer season as viewed from the Kendall County check station

YORKVILLE, Ill.–A thick nine-point buck with a broken tine and a drop time started my morning Friday at Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area.

“Best deer I ever shot,” said Brady Feece, of Elburn. “I always wanted a drop-tine.”

Drop tines, a rarity, grow downward.

Shortly after, Jake Popp of Yorkville, came in with a Kendall County 10-point with busted tines.

“That’s another gnarly one,” Mike Wefer said.

“The one I saw the day before could have been it’s father,” Popp said.

The first portion of Illinois’ firearm deer season opened Friday and ends Sunday. As of Wednesday, 163,433 hunters had obtained permits, emailed Dan Skinner, forest wildlife program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The opener was colder than usual. Dave Roper emailed from Hamilton County, “27 degrees, calm winds. 6 a.m., almost time.”

In northern areas, it was colder and windier as the day wore on with scattered snow showers and snow cover in some areas.

From Ogle County, where snow flurries were flying, Bob Coine emailed early morning, “Out of the box this morning, from first light, bucks are on their feet actively seeking does. We are seeing few does and fawns, but all of us are seeing bucks of all ages. A friend has a buck on the ground already.”

Numerous hunters checking in their deer mentioned that bucks were still chasing does.

Illinois discontinued check stations more than 20 years ago, but restarted them in counties with chronic wasting disease so samples could be collected and CWD hot spots marked.

Most years, I visit a check station on opening day. This year, it was my first time for Kendall County.

Brady Feece (left) checks in his nine-point drop-tine buck Friday at the Kendall County check station with Roy Domazlicky and Mike Wefer.

Dale Bowman

Roy Domazlicky, northern regional wildlife biologist, was the cutter for the day. He checked the teeth to age the deer and asked permission to take samples. With permission, he cut out the lymph nodes in the neck and a piece of tongue.

In the last couple years, the procedure changed slightly. Now, the nodes now are simply taken out and frozen before before being sent to a Wisconsin lab to check for CWD. The tongue samples go to Dr. Nohra Mateus-Pinilla, who has ongoing studies on white-tailed deer, at the University of Illinois.

When a deer came in, Wefer, wildlife division chief, checked in the hunter, asked whether taken with a shotgun or a muzzleloader and whether any wild turkeys, feral hogs or bobcats were sighted. Then he asked them to show on a map where the deer was killed.

This fall, Jim Dooley was the first reader to send me a photo of an armadillo spotted from a deer stand. It was under him for an hour.

An armadillo under a deer stand in southern Illinois spotted by Jim Dooley.

Jim Dooley

Considering armadillos are inching north in Illinois, I asked Skinner if a question on armadillo sightings was coming.

“We already have a nice reporting tool on [] for anyone who would like to provide information on armadillo sightings in the northern half of the state,” he emailed.

Skinner also dug a historical nugget.

“Kendall County was opened to shotgun hunting in 1966,” he emailed. “A deer permit back then cost five dollars and allowed you to hunt between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. The permit quota in 1966 for Kendall County was 200, and the shotgun season that year was Nov. 18-20 and Dec. 9-11. When you swing through the check station on Friday, that would be 56 years to the day since the Illinois Department of Conservation opened Kendall County up to shotgun deer hunting.”

Hunters see many things while at their stands, such as Bob Coine spotting a buck (which he named Watermelon for its girth) many times so far this fall in Ogle County.

Bob Coine

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