So far this year, Illinois bow hunters are bringing home fewer deer than they did in October and November 2020.

Bob Mayo, vice president of United Bowhunters of Illinois, said that he is not concerned that 2021 harvest numbers are lagging behind 2020 numbers by about 4,000 deer. As a longtime hunter, the count fluctuates, he said.

In 2020, when so many businesses were shut down because of the pandemic, people had more time to go hunting.

The number of deer harvested thus far in 2021 remains higher than the numbers of deer that were reported during the same time frames in 2018 and 2019.

“The count goes up and down from year to year. There could be any number of causes,” Mayo said.

Mayo has one theory about this year's count drop.

“My experience tells me that it looks like the deer population is down a little this year,” he said.

In October, in the Shawnee National Forest, there were plenty of hunters.

“I saw more deer hunters than we usually see there, but I didn’t see any trophies hanging out. It seems like we are seeing fewer deer,” Mayo said.

Mayo is in the sport as much for the quest as for the harvest. Traditional bow hunting with a longbow or a recurve is an art that is challenging to master, he said.

“It is much more difficult to hunt with a bow. You can very well go a long season and not get a deer,” he said.

Mayo practices traditional bow hunting because he appreciates the heritage and tradition that he is a part of, he noted.

The United Bowhunters of Illinois was founded in 1995 “to promote the wise and safe use of our natural resources, the conservation of wild game, and the preservation of its natural habitat.”

“You are out there enjoying nature. You see things that you don’t see anywhere else. And that’s what makes it fun,” he said. “A couple years ago, I was out in the woods in my camouflage and I used the call to call a deer. A bobcat heard it and it walked right up to me because it couldn’t figure out what I was. I could have reached right down and pet it. It was that close.”

Mayo manufactures and sells longbows, recurves and archery products through his company Ace Broadheads of Fairbury, Illinois.

“This past year we have been busier than ever,” Mayo said. “We can hardly keep up with orders.”

He credits the movies “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hunger Games” with getting a new generation interested in traditional bow hunting.