Illinois Hunter Harvests First Legal Deer Within Chicago City Limits in More Than 150 Years

by Blake Ells
(Photo by THIBAUD MORITZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Jose Guzman went deer hunting at William Powers State Recreation Area on Chicago’s Southeast Side before dawn on Sunday. At 7 a.m., he took down the first deer legally in the Chicago city limits in the last 150 years. He used a crossbow.

“I was sitting on the edge of the woods and it came up behind me,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “She came out with other does and within a minute I had taken my shot.”

The last deer killed within the city limits of Chicago was in 1865. That was by first ward alderman William Cox. The location is described as “where a forest of cottonwoods and oaks contested with a reluctant prairie, land that was to become the great stockyards, in the book A Natural History of the Chicago Region,

This is the first deer hunting season at William Powers State Recreation Area. Thirty-seven hunters applied. Eight got a 14-day hunting period. Guzman’s came first. It was on opening day or archery season from October 1 to October 14.

Why Did Illinois Open Hunting Season on Deer in the City?

In an email to the Sun-Times, Nicky Strahl from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources offered more of an explanation as to why the hunting season was opened.

“Chronic wasting disease is now found in Cook County, poaching is already an ongoing nuisance, trespassing and other undesirable activities, opening up this opportunity puts more eyes on the ground by people who wish to help and care for the land (after all without healthy terrestrial environment, wildlife will not thrive as well) and increases the desirable activities that goes on within the park (hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, and many other desirable recreational activities), while simultaneously reducing the undesirable activities because there are simply more people out there at all times of the day (from before sunup to after sundown,” Strahl said.

The opportunity was an honor for Guzman.

“It is a great honor, but also a great responsibility,” he said. “I have to take that animal ethically with minimal amount of impact to the community.”

He was picky with his shots.

“I will only take the shot when it is apparent I have a good shot,” he said before the hunt.

He uses a climbing tree stand that he backpacked in. It only takes about three minutes to set up.

“It is a great privilege to be allowed in the area,” he said. “I get to set the tone. We’re helping to manage the deer population. It’s not like we don’t need the management program. Deer and wildlife management as a whole is really important.”

He spent a lot of time scouting the area. He had several good spots picked out ahead of time.