Hunters in Illinois are being reminded to make safety a top priority, especially during the state’s busiest hunting seasons this fall.
“There is no better place to participate in and celebrate our hunting heritage than right here in Illinois during the fall,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Director Wayne Rosenthal. “No matter the hunting seasons, we want hunters to enjoy their time in the field, and to be safe while doing so.”
The IDNR Office of Law Enforcement, which administers the state’s Hunter Safety Education Program, has investigated 10 hunting incidents so far during 2016, eight of which involved hunters falling from elevated tree stands or falling while climbing into or out of tree stands.
In 2015, there were 25 hunting incidents reported in all hunting seasons in Illinois. Among the hunting incidents reported last year, 15 involved tree stands.
The IDNR reminds hunters using tree stands to use a Fall Arrest System (FAS) safety harness. Nationally, more than 80 percent of reported tree stand incidents involve hunters who were not using a fall restraint system.
Hunters should also check the harness, straps, ladder and other equipment before use to make sure they are in working order; be aware of weather conditions that could make stands and steps slippery; and, have within reach a mobile phone to call for help, if needed. Hunters can review tree stand safety online at www.huntercourse.com/treestandsafety/
Safety educators and IDNR Conservation Police also remind everyone hunting with a firearm to:
• Treat every firearm as if it is loaded, and never assume a firearm is unloaded;
• Always point a firearm in a safe direction;
• Be sure of the target, and make sure there are no other hunters, homes, buildings, vehicles or other animals beyond the target;
• Keep their finger out of the trigger guard and off the trigger until they are ready to shoot.
Illinois’ most popular hunting season, the seven-day firearm deer season, begins on Friday through Sunday, Nov. 18-20, and will conclude on Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 1-4.
The Illinois Firearm Deer Season legal hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
Hunters who take a deer during the firearm season in most Illinois counties must register the deer they harvest online, or through a toll-free phone check-in system. The online deer registration is available at www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/Pages/HarvestReporting.aspx
The toll-free phone deer registration line is 1-866-IL-CHECK (1-866-452-4325). Hunters registering deer through the online or phone systems must do so by 10 p.m. on the day they take the deer.
In addition to the seven-day Illinois Firearm Deer Season, other deer hunting seasons in the state include the three-day Muzzleloader-only Deer Season on Dec. 9-11, and the seven-day split Late-Winter Firearm Antlerless-only Deer Season and Special CWD Deer Season (in select counties) on Dec. 29, 2016-Jan. 1, 2017 and January 13-15, 2017. The Illinois Archery Deer Season, which opened on Oct. 1, is open through Jan. 15, 2017 (except closed in counties open to Firearm Deer Season on Nov. 18-20 and Dec. 1-4).
For more information on Illinois deer hunting regulations: www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/deer.