CENTRAL ILLINOIS -- Friday was like Christmas morning for many Illinois hunters. One half-hour before sunrise marked the start of firearm deer season.
However, there was no deer hunting for Jack McCord Friday morning. Upon arriving at one of his favorite sites in Mackinaw he found signs posted there prohibiting stand-by hunting this season. That's a big change in Mackinaw and Jack didn't apply for a permit in advance.
"You used to be able to come out here and put your name on a list," said McCord. "If a hunter killed then they had an opening and if your name was at the top of the list you got to pay your money and go out and go hunting."
Jamie Young and his sons didn't see the usual number of hunters Friday morning nor as many deer.
"Two or three years ago we saw deer every time we were in the tree stand but this year." said Young. "I don't know what it is. The deer aren't there."
One hunter suggested summer temperatures may have taken a toll on the area's deer population.
"I think the heat had a lot to do with it," said Richard Lowe. "We did find a carcass this morning that could have been heat related. You're just not seeing the number of deer that you typically see here."
A year ago Illinois sportsmen bagged almost 100,000 deer but there are also bucks to be had outside of the woods. Butcher shops like Alwan and Sons do additional business processing deer meat this time of year.
"Its been pretty steady," said Pat Alwan. "They've been coming in strong for the past couple of hours. They're just showing off for the first two hours before that."
"Came right down the path I was expecting it to and got a lucky shot. First shot first kill," said Hunter Michael Schoupp.
Pat Alwan anticipates his crew will process as many as 500 deer and that translates to a lot of dough.
The first weekend of firearm deer season runs through Sunday and resumes November 29th through December 2nd.