JOHNSON COUNTY (WSIL) — Firearm Deer season opened Friday morning with hunters throughout southern Illinois heading to the woods.
Marion native Matt Odum said he has been hunting for most of his life. He moved to northern Illinois years back, but returns to the woods of his youth each season.
"We’re not down here so much to harvest animals as we are to spend time together and stuff," said Odum. "We come down in the summer and stuff to fish, stuff like that, southern Illinois is just a wonderful place to relax."
Odum’s not alone as southern Illinois attracts thousands of hunters each year. Mike Johnson, from Mahomet, Illinois is in town with his wife, two sons and his father. He said with five tags to fill, they will be here all weekend, adding that they will be back again the next season.
"I mean it’s beautiful down here, and we like coming so that’s why we continue to come," said Johnson.
A review of data from IDNR shows more than 20,000 deer were harvest in southern Illinois last year during fire-arm seasons, which is more than 26-percent of the entire state’s total.
That’s a lot of deer to dress, something TALK Deer looks forward to each season.
"We usually run between 14-and-16,000 deer on an average," said Timothy Klein. "We did 2,050 one year and I’ll never do it again."
Timothy Andrew Klein is the T-A in TALK Deer and his wife Tamie Lee Klein is the L-K — they’ve owned the Goreville business for the past 24 years and Tamie says their sausage and slim jims are best sellers.
"Our two biggest sellers are the jalapenos and cheddar summer sausage and our slim jims – those are our biggest sellers and we sell a ton of that," said Tamie Klein. "We do approximately 28-to-30,000 pounds of sausage a year."
Hunters were already lining up in the parking lot by noon Friday and Tamie said business continues to increase each year. She stressed the importance of safe hunting.
"The main thing is, find your deer, get it field dressed as soon as possible and then — bring it in," she said.
As for Odum, he and his nephew still had a few tags to fill.
"We’re going to go back to camp and have some soup and get back out there," he said.
With some concerns of Chronic Wasting Disease in deer, TALK Deer submits 300 samples to the IDNR each season for testing and for the past ten years all samples have come back clean.