Bad Year for Big Bucks?

Most of the post-season deer shows in the Midwest have wrapped up by now, and from reports I'm getting, overall entries into the big buck contests were down significantly. According to a scorer friend at the Illinois Deer Classic, hunters brought in 307 bucks to the Prairie State show, a drop of 192 deer from last year. Over the last seven years, the Illinois Classic has averaged 517 entries in the big buck contests, and in two years (2005 and 2008) measurers scored over 600 bucks in each show.

Illinois isn't alone, however. Deer shows in Ohio and Missouri also saw a drop in big buck entries this year, with the Buckeye numbers down some 30% and Show Me entries dropping some 40%. Wisconsin seemed the only bright spot, with no noticeable change from last season. I'm curious why these numbers have fallen so dramatically, and on a rather broad scale. Were hunting conditions just not conducive to killing monster deer last fall? Are Midwest deer numbers down that much? Or are hunters suddenly reluctant to enter trophies for fear of exposing a general area or specific spot? And then there's this; is the economy just bad enough that driving to a show and paying an entry fee is just too much for a financially-strapped hunter?

Theories?