Better weather expected for upcoming deer season

Iowa is gearing up for its first firearms season of the year this weekend.

Meanwhile Illinois hunters are expecting a more successful second firearms season beginning tomorrow and through the weekend after a disappointing first round last month.

Illinois hunters shot six thousand fewer deer on opening weekend compared to last year. 72,000 in 2008 compared to 66,000 in 2009.

The department of Natural Resources blames the late harvest on low kill numbers.

Although many folks took home a trophy buck this year, deer harvest numbers were down and for good reason. That's the word from Gary Harpole, owner of Heartland Lodge. First and foremost, this year's 60 degree temperatures meant most deer weren't moving.

Harpole said, "The deer are building up their fat reserves at this time of year so they move after it's a little colder."

That warm weather combined with the overpopulation of does, meant bucks weren't going far as they waited to mate.

Harpole said, "What we call buck lockdown was a big factor. While the bucks were with the does wanting to breed, the does were bedded down during the day they were staying with them and not roaming around."

The wet, late harvest not only hurt farmers, but hunters too.

Although the late harvest provided a food source for deer for an extended time this year, it also offered them a larger habitat...and for hunters that means more places to hide.

Harpole said, "Sometimes deer don't leave the cornfields."

Normally the second firearms season yields far fewer numbers of deer harvested, but this weekend that trend could change as more fields are cleared.

Harpole said, "Could see an increase in the numbers because of the weather forecast that's coming. Sometimes bad weather is good for late deer season hunting."

There is a big change to Illinois deer season this year. Department of Natural Resources have added and extended the late winter antlerless only deer season this year. This year there will be a four day season beginning December 31 and a three day season beginning January 15.

But perhaps even bigger news is how folks can acquire their tags for this season. In the past antlerless tags were only available by lottery. This year, they can be purchased over-the-counter.

Harpole says this will be a huge tool to manage the overpopulated deer herd.

Harpole said, "One of the advantages of shooting does is that bucks have to roam and find does to breed. So by shooting does you have deer moving, bucks moving around and if you're in the stand there's a better chance to see them. So its a real advantage for hunters to shoot does."

By the way, muzzleloader season is ahead for Missourians...beginning December 19 through the 29th.