Illinois Outdoors at PrairiestateOutdoors.com
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Jeff Lampe
Jeff Lampe

Jeff Lampe has been outdoor writer at the Journal Star in Peoria for 12 duck seasons. He lives in Elmwood with his wife Monica, sons Henry, Victor and Walter, and Llewellin setter Hawkeye. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he is an avid fan of the Bills and still has mental scars from four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Outside of hunting and fishing, Lampe's main passion in Illinois was Class A boys basketball (which sadly no longer exists). Former publisher of the Class A Weekly newsletter, Lampe is a co-author of "100 Years of Madness" and "Classical Madness," both books focusing on prep basketball in Illinois.

Illinois Outdoors
 

Scattershooting

A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Open Blog Thursday

March 26, 2009 at 06:09 AM

People say to me in the spring, “Jeff, why are you always so grouchy on Thursdays.” Fishing reports will do that to a man. Help.

FROM Tim Totten of Chillicothe:

The other day a co-worker, and fellow deer hunter, commented to me that the deer herd in the State of Illinois was down. As I questioned their logic, the statement was made - the numbers of harvestable big bucks are down. Your “Vanishing Monsters?” article on March 8 would appear to support the idea of the deer herd getting smaller. In all fairness, your article did not specifically say that, however for those not reading closely could interpret the deer herd is down, as measured by the number of trophy bucks. These are far from one-in-the-same.

From my perspective, the herd is not down. It actually grows every year, except in the northern counties where CWD is present and in some southern counties that have seen blue tongue in the past few years. We need to keep in mind that CWD, blue tongue, and other diseases are Mother Nature’s way of controlling the deer herd because hunters are not doing so. Many hunters and non-hunters don’t realize how inhumane Mother Nature can be as compared to a responsible, ethical hunter.

Hunting shows on TV and videos, print media, including your column, and availability of outfitters have created the phenomenon of most deer hunters only being out for a trophy buck. When only trophy bucks are harvested, then we reduce the desired gene pool and allow the less desirable bucks to breed more does. Trophy hunters are becoming a victim of their own decisions, and I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I like to see pictures of big bucks in your column and watch the deer hunting shows/videos as well. We as hunters need to keep things in perspective.

The landowners my group hunts on expect us to control the deer herd to reduce crop damage. To the point, a few years ago we lost over 600 acres of prime deer hunting land after one in our group had their picture with a harvested trophy buck appeared in your column. This is not your fault, nor did you know this would happen. To this day, this land is not hunted and we no longer are able to obtain permission.

This past season, my trail camera captured a picture of a trophy buck. On opening morning we informed all in our hunting group this buck was to be left alone as herd management and bolster the local gene pool. I had two opportunities during the bow season to harvest him, and let him walk. Unfortunately, one in our group did not honor our request and took great pride in their accomplishment. At the end of the season, they were informed their invitation has expired.

So what do we do about the problem? I’d recommend Illinois DNR implement a harvest tax on trophy bucks. Any buck delivered to a state taxidermist measuring over 150 inches is assessed $5.00 per inch tax for those hunting without the aid of an outfitter. This tax would be collected by the taxidermist upon delivery. Additionally, outfitters would be required to be trained on how to measure antlers as part of their license. Outfitters would collect the $5.00 per inch tax from their customers and be required to keep records of such, available for audit by the DNR. Failure to keep accurate records would result in the suspension of their license for 5 years. A portion of the harvest tax funds would go for the enforcement of this policy. The remainder would be used in conjunction with and under the guidelines of the Pittman-Robertson federal funds.

It’s unfortunate that many deer hunters move quickly to and not leave being a trophy hunter. We as sport hunters in Illinois have a responsibility to society and the entire wildlife population to control the deer herd, to retain our privilege to hunt. Including harvesting does, those are real source of the growing deer herd in this state.

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