Deer hunting a tradition that helps provide food, control animal population

Before this weekend’s firearm season for deer hunters, about 40 gutted deer carcasses hung from the cooler inside of Jones Deer Processing in Woodstock.

As the first firearm season of the fall took place, about 500 deer were expected to be hanging by the end of the weekend, waiting to be made into steaks, burgers, jerky or sausages.

“It’s very lean,” said Lora Scholer, owner of Jones Deer Processing. “It’s a little bit healthier.”

Hunting deer is an excellent way to feed a family, Scholer said. A deer can yield 30 to 60 pounds of meat, which could be good for more than 30 meals, depending on the size of the family.

She added that hunters who have full freezers may even donate their kills to food pantries.

Hunting does and bucks has been a tradition in Illinois and the county for a long time, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources said it is a way to help control the deer population.

Tim Schweizer, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources said deer hunting with modern firearms has been taking place in the state since the late 1950s.

“Hunters like venison,” Schweizer said. “It’s good eats, they put some deer meat in the freezer, and they’re in good shape for the winter.”

Last year about 180,000 deer in the state were harvested, Schweizer said.

The hunting season takes place as does and bucks are mating and on the move.

Controlling the deer population helps limits the spread of disease, and damage to crops and gardens from deer. Controlling the population also helps limit the number of motor vehicle accidents involving deer, Schweizer said.

However, to hunt deer, people need to obtain permits through the McHenry County Conservation District or the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and carry them when hunting. Firearm hunting must take place during daylight hours, according to IDNR.

For three to four hours at a time, four times a week, Tim Knowles is sitting in a tree stand about 15 to 18 feet up, waiting for deer to come by.

Knowles, 47, of Crystal Lake has been deer hunting for 20 years. He presently goes archery hunting on private land in McHenry.

“It’s more challenging,” Knowles said. “You have to get closer to the animal. There’s a lot more preparation that has to be done.”

He usually aims for the heart and lungs of deer from about 12 to 15 yards away, which can be difficult as deer have good noses and eyes and can be scared away.

“My heart starts to pound and race and I get really adrenaline filled,” Knowles said.

He also has to check the weather before going out to know which direction the wind is going and where to position himself.

For Knowles, being in the woods for four hours at a time provides him with time to be away from the world’s technological distractions.

“I love being out in the woods,” Knowles said.

A recent kill was of a 114-pound deer that yielded 40 pounds of meat. The processing cost was $120.

Knowles said when killing deer, his intention is to bring it back for food.

“I’ve never shot an animal and let it lay,” he said. “The only reason I would shoot an animal would be to harvest it.”

For more information about deer hunting permits, go to www.dnr.illinois.gov. The McHenry County Conservation District is no longer accepting permits this year.

Deer hunting seasons

• Archery season runs through Jan. 19

• Second firearm season runs from Dec. 5 though Dec. 8

• First muzzleloader season runs from Dec. 5 through Dec. 8

• Second muzzleloader season runs from Dec. 13 through Dec. 15

• First late-winter antlerless season runs from Dec. 26 through Dec. 29

• First late-winter chronic wasting disease season runs from Dec. 26 through Dec. 29

• Second late-winter chronic wasting disease season runs from Jan. 17 through Jan. 19

• Second late-winter antlerless season runs from Jan. 17 through Jan. 19

Source: Illinois Department of Natural Resources

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