First firearm deer season opens this weekend, butcher shops donate unwanted meat to those in need

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS– Illinois deer hunters hit their blinds and stands this weekend as the first firearm season opens Friday.

SEASON DATES
• 1st Firearm Season: Nov. 22 – 24, 2019
• 2nd Firearm Season: Dec. 5 – 8, 2019
• Muzzleloader-Only Season: Dec. 13 – 15, 2019 (Hunters
may also use a muzzleloader permit with a muzzleloading
rifle during 2nd Firearm Season Dec. 5 – 8, 2019)

Even though bow season has been underway since October 1, area butcher shops and retailers say now the region will feel an uptick.

“It’s a big deal,” said Dustin Hinds, Hunting & Fishing Manager for East Peoria’s Bass Pro Shops. “It’s a tradition here in Illinois. It’s what we do.”

Illinois hunters in their blaze orange will head to hunting lands this weekend.

“400 solid sq. in of blaze orange as well as a blaze orange hat has to be worn,” said Hinds. “It’s something to keep every body safe since there’s a lot of people in the woods.”

Numbers from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources show total deer harvested in the state for 2018 was 151,709. That’s up more than 4,000 from the year before.

“In Illinois we’re known for our larger deer so we get a lot of people that come in from out of state,” said Hinds. “They’re staying in motels, they’re filling up their gas. It definitely has wide ranging economic impact.”

That impact extends beyond just the life of the animal. The wheel of economic development continues to turn once an animal gets turned in for processing.

“We’re expecting to probably tip close to 700 before shotgun [season] starts this weekend, so that’s up substantially from what we’ve seen in years past,” said Brian Alwan, butcher for Alwan & Sons in Peoria.

Some Central Illinoisans will pay for processing. A couple hunters do it for sport. So businesses, like Alwan & Sons, donate the unwanted meats.

“We donate it out to a food pantry or Hunters for Hungry,” said Alwan. “There’s different charities. So we’ll grind that meat up make it stretch through burgers and donate it on their behalf.”

Illinois hunting licenses and permits are still available. Muzzle loader only season for deer runs December 13-15.

Conservation police officers issued 181 citations and 219 written warnings for deer hunting violations during the 2018 season in the Central Illinois area.

Firearm Deer season is Friday-Sunday (Nov 22-24) and Thursday-Sunday (Dec 5-8).  Hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. People hunting deer must have gun unloaded during hours when deer hunting is unlawful.

Successful deer hunters must register (report) their harvest by 10 p.m. on the same calendar day the deer was taken by calling the toll-free telephone check-in system at 1-866-452-4325 (1-866-IL-CHECK) or by accessing the online check-in system.

Any person taking or attempting to take deer by use of a firearm shall wear, when in the field, a cap and upper outer garment of solid blaze orange or solid blaze pink color, displaying a minimum of 400 square inches of blaze orange or blaze pink material.

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