Late-winter deer season extended
Firearm deer hunters will gain four additional days of hunting and archers can spend three more days in the timber as part of proposals for the 2009-2010 Illinois hunting seasons.
The Department of Natural Resources unveiled changes for the upcoming deer season that include adding four new days of antlerless-only gun hunting.
Instead of stretching the late winter season to nine days, as had been recommended by a task force on deer population control, DNR Director Marc Miller and staff countered with a split season to run Dec. 31 to Jan. 3 and Jan. 15-17.
“Some had concerns about bucks being harvested that had shed their antlers. We listened to those concerns,” Miller said. “From our perspective this accomplished a number of things. That’s why we listened to constituents and came up with a compromise.”
Miller said the extra four days will allow “more children to go out and hunt with their parents” since school will be out. Weather might also be more temperate than it would be in mid-January, Miller said.
Expectations are the extra days of gun hunting will boost overall harvest by an estimated 10,000 deer.
Bowhunters gain three more days of hunting so their season will close at the same time as the late-winter hunts.
During the late-winter antlerless-only season, hunters can use unfilled youth, firearm or muzzleloader tags in the counties for which they were issued. Permits will also be sold over the counter starting Dec. 1.
Compromise or not, many trophy hunters remain unhappy the DNR did not move the antlerless hunt to September. Others question the need for additional seasons in light of continued harvest increases over the past decade.
They note that in 1999, Illinois hunters killed 136,534 deer in all seasons. Last year’s kill total was 188,425 whitetails.
Some hunters question whether the deer herd is growing fast enough to justify the sale of more permits. Some even report seeing fewer deer in recent years.
Others point to a series of questionable deer-management decisions in the past decade — decisions even the DNR has termed “reactionary.”
For instance, if county-by-county population control is so important, why did the DNR opt to close check stations?
And if deer management has become almost impossible in counties dominated by outfitters, which it has, why was the non-resident archery permit cap raised to a level where it is irrelevant and allowed outfitting to spread? Why not institute earn-a-buck regulations in counties with too many deer?
Then too, there are legitimate questions about where additional money from deer permit sales has gone? Why wasn’t that money used to keep check stations open? Why wasn’t that money used to increase access for residents displaced by leasing and outfitting?
Valid questions, most of them.
As to the issue at hand, the late-winter season, DNR biologists say they are still trying to manage on a regional and not a statewide basis. Only 73 counties are open to the late-winter hunt and only a “handful” of those will allow hunters to purchase unlimited numbers of late-winter permits. In most counties hunters will be limited to one late-season permit.
That determination will be based on deer-vehicle collision rates according to John Buhnerkempe, head of the wildlife division. “We have a different goal for all counties and different tools will be applied in each county,” Buhnerkempe said.
Under the proposed changes, other deer hunting permits will also be easier to obtain.
Unsold firearm and muzzleloader tags will be available over the counter at shops that sell licenses. And permits for the Oct. 10-11 youth hunt will be sold over the counter.
While the above changes are “proposals,” expectation is they will be approved. Public comment will be accepted through June 22.