One of the sweetest sounds of the year returned this weekend. As the sun rose over the thick woods to the south of my home, the unmistakable sound of shotgun blasts echoed through the trees. Ah yes — the beautiful sound of deer hunters blasting away at whitetail deer — the first firearm deer hunting season of the year.
Now, I understand there are a lot of folks out there that totally disagree with me about necessity of deer hunting, and that’s just fine. But in my neck of the woods, those cute little critters are breeding quicker than rabbits. Every morning — and I mean every morning I drive to work — I see no less than a dozen deer along my measly four-mile commute to work.
Thursday morning, I had to stop to allow a half dozen deer cross the road. The leader of the pack stopped in the middle of the road and stared at me. I know what he was thinking. “Hey bub — this is my road as much as it’s yours. Bug off!”
Friday morning; the first day of Illinois’ firearm deer season, four deer jumped in front of my truck. I managed to slow down enough that I barely bumped the last deer in the pack as he jumped a ditch into a soybean field. This time, I didn’t have to call the cops for an accident report or file an insurance claim.
According to officials with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, hunters “harvested” over 95,000 whitetail deer last year during the two fall firearm hunting seasons. That doesn’t count how many deer were taken during the archery season, muzzleloader season or the chronic wasting antlerless only season and a host of other special hunting dates. Nor does it take into account the 17,000 or more deer killed each year in car-deer collisions.
With the number of whitetail deer being killed every year in Illinois soaring well north of 100,000 you’d think there wouldn’t be enough left at the end of the year to fill a good sized horse trailer? You would be wrong.
Deer hunting has become an enormous business in Southern Illinois. Outfitters have sprung up light mushrooms in the past decade. Out-of-state hunters pay big bucks just to bag a big buck from Southern Illinois. Deer processing plants, taxidermy businesses, gun stores, gunsmiths and sporting goods stores all seem to be doing very well — thanks to the whitetail deer.
This may come as a surprise to you. I am not a hunter. It’s not that I am against the sport of hunting. Unlike fishing, it’s just something I never got into. The only deer I’ve shot was with a camera. On the other hand, I have killed no less than six deer in my lifetime. Each one succumbed to the front bumper of my vehicle.
To all you hunters out there — good luck and please be careful. For all you non-hunters out there, enjoy watching these beautiful creatures, and know there will be plenty left after the hunters return home.