CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — State officials estimate Illinois hunters will harvest about 150,000 deer this fall and winter.

Paul Shelton, state Department of Natural Resources' Forest Wildlife Program Manager, told The Southern Illinoisan that over the past four years hunters have harvested 144,000 to 155,000 deer annually.

"Our harvest got up to 200,000 several years ago. As we got the herd down to levels that were much more than keeping with our goal, we didn't have to take that many deer."

Shelton said deer populations are improving in a lot of places.

"When it comes to firearm harvest, I don't think it will translate into a lot of change," Shelton said. "The opportunities will be good, but I think the harvest won't take any big jumps."

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease, a virus that causes hemorrhaging and is similar to blue tongue disease, still plagues some areas in the east central part of the state. Shelton said there were few reports of the disease until archery hunters took the field this fall. He says overall the health of the herd looks good.

He also noted that chronic wasting disease doesn't appear to be an issue in the state, but expressed concerns that the disease seems to be affecting a wider area.

Bow season began this month, and the first firearm deer season will begin in November.

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Information from: Southern Illinoisan, http://www.southernillinoisan.com