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Oh, deer!

There’s more than 1,000 fewer deer roaming the hills and fields of Bureau County, thanks to a productive first half of the 2012 Illinois Firearm Deer Season.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources reported that hunters in Illinois harvested a preliminary total of 72,111 deer during the opening weekend of the 2012 Illinois Firearm Deer Season, which was held Nov. 16-18. The second half of the firearm season will be today, Thursday, through Sunday.

The preliminary harvest total of 72,111 for the first three days of the 2012 firearm season compares with the first weekend harvest of 66,501 deer during the 2011 deer season. In Bureau County, hunters harvested 1,014 deer, compared to 905 in 2011.

“Hunters enjoyed near perfect conditions during our first firearm weekend,” said Paul Shelton, IDNR Forest Wildlife program manager. “Temperatures were cool; winds were calm; crops were out of the fields; and rutting activity was ongoing. We hope hunters enjoyed their time in the field.”

That perfect weather resulted in a lot of extra business for the Wyanet Locker. Owner Scott Sabin said the number of deer they processed were up considerably from last year, and he said it was probably his second busiest year ever.

The Wyanet Locker processed more than 500 deer during this year’s first shotgun weekend. Sabin said the weather was bad last year, and they probably processed only about 350 to 400 deer.

Normally they see about half as many deer during the second weekend as during the first weekend, but Sabin is expecting the numbers to be up again, probably in the 400 range.

“We’re supposed to have great weather again,” he said.

About 60 percent of the deer taken during the first weekend of firearm hunting were bucks, compared with 61 percent bucks taken during the first weekend of the firearm season in 2011.

Hunters in Illinois harvested 98,820 deer during the seven-day firearm deer hunting season in 2011. The total harvest for all of the hunting seasons in 2011-12 was 181,451 deer, with a total of 2,356 in Bureau County. The record harvest was in 2005, when 201,209 deer were harvested.

The IDNR has issued more than 334,000 firearm deer hunting permits so far for the 2012 season. For information on remaining permits, check the IDNR website at www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/deer. In Bureau County, there are no permits available for either sex hunting, but there are still permits available for antlerless hunting.

Other firearm deer hunting opportunities in Illinois include the three-day Muzzleloader-only Deer Season on Dec. 7-9, and the seven-day split Late-Winter Firearm Antlerless-only Deer Season and Special CWD Deer Season on Dec. 27-30 and Jan. 18-20, 2013. The archery season continues through Jan. 20, 2013.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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