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Illinois hunting and fishing

Advocates concerned about impact of hunting scandals

February 12, 2011 at 08:58 PM

The State Journal-Register

Those at the top of their game may be willing to do anything to stay there. Even cheat.

But when baseball players use steroids or a hunting video star appears to flout the law, fans can feel hurt or betrayed.

At the moment, Exhibit A in that category is Jeff Foiles, a Pike County waterfowl guide and producer of the “Fallin’ Skies” video series, who faces multiple-count indictments in both the United States and Canada for routinely exceeding bag limits. Footage of the hunts in question ended up in his waterfowl hunting videos.

Foiles faces 23 counts in the U.S. indictment. He could be sentenced to jail and to pay fines of thousands of dollars if convicted.

But Foiles isn’t the only prominent hunter who’s faced allegations of breaking the law.

Five hunters, including television personality and self-described “whitetail addict” Andrae D’Acquisto, 49, recently reached a plea agreement with state and federal authorities relating to baiting of deer in Menard County.

D’Acquisto ended up paying more than $2,000 for not having a valid license or habitat stamp.

Even famous rock star and hunting advocate Ted Nugent recently ran afoul of the law in California. He pleaded no contest to a charge of baiting deer and not having a properly signed hunting tag in 2009, violations that cost him $1,750.

Baiting deer is legal in some places, but not in California or Illinois.

Advocates for Illinois’ 316,000 hunters say the actions of a few could hurt the sport’s future.

“Any bad publicity about our industry is bad,” said Stan Potts of Clinton.

Potts is the host of “Dominant Bucks” on the Outdoor Channel and co-host of “North American Whitetail Television” on the Sportsman Channel. He and his wife Brenda both work in the hunting industry.

Potts declined to comment on specific cases, but was willing to speak generally about the responsibility shouldered by all outdoorsmen who are in the public eye.

“Anyone who has been fortunate to make a name for themselves or do the things Brenda and I do has to realize it is a blessing and a privilege,” Potts said. “It is our responsibility to project a positive image over the entire outdoors industry. It is everybody’s responsibility to do that.”

Bo Arnold, president of the Illinois Federation for Outdoor Resources, a sportsmen’s advocacy group, said it just takes one person to damage the credibility of all hunters.

“It doesn’t matter who it is,” he said. “What that one person does can really hurt the whole sport because the people (who oppose hunting) can take that one event and transfer it to thousands of legal hunters.”

Dollars and cents

Hunting already is slowly losing popularity.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are 12.5 million hunters in the United States, nearly equal to the population of Illinois. However, statistics show the United States has lost 1.5 million hunters since 1991.

Participation rates, as a percentage of population, dropped more sharply. Hunters made up 7.4 percent of the population in 1991 but just 5.5 percent in 2006.

These figures concern resources managers, who rely on revenues from the sales of licenses, stamps, permits and other fees to manage wildlife habitat and provide recreational opportunities.

In recent years, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has tried to address some of the reasons for the decline.

*DNR has focused on getting more youths involved in outdoors recreation to replace hunters and anglers who are aging.

*The agency also is seeking solutions to the problem of lack of access to hunting grounds. Only a small fraction of Illinois land area is publicly owned.

*Funding always is an issue as DNR’s share of general tax revenue shrinks and the agency becomes more reliant on license revenue.

Introducing children to outdoors recreation is one of the DNR’s stated priorities.

“We’re trying to teach the kids the right way, but when you have adults running around doing this sort of thing, it’s not good for the sport,” Arnold said. “When you’ve got one wild card out there, it hurts everybody.”

Brenda Potts says there is more at stake than the immediate consequences of one person’s actions.

“When people break the law, it sets a terrible example for our kids and shows disrespect for the wildlife and their habitat,” she said. “The future of our natural resources, game species and hunting lies in the hands of the next generation of conservation stewards.

“It’s our responsibility to mentor them correctly.”

‘Even more rare’ than lightning strike

Tim Walmsley of Fowler is an author (“Trophy Whitetails of Illinois”) and deer scorer for the Boone and Crockett Club, which keeps big-game records in North America.

He said money changes the equation when it comes to hunting.

When a hunter is producing a television show, the natural climax of the episode is landing a big fish or an impressive animal. Do enough episodes where no one makes a big kill and the show is likely to get canceled.

“You got guys that are so-called TV celebrities that must put a tag and a photo on a big deer at any cost. Some get caught, but most never get caught,” Walmsley said.

“A 4-year-old buck is in a tiny percentage of the bucks out there,” he said. “They are so rare. You do not understand there are years where Adams County — one of the state’s top deer-producing counties — produces zero Boone and Crockett bucks. None.”

To qualify for the Boone and Crockett record book, a buck probably must live 5 ½ years.

“In 38 years of hunting, I’ve never killed a Boone and Crockett buck,” Walmsley said.

A hunter who does bag a trophy usually has no idea what he’s done.

“I tell them ‘Lightning struck you,’ only it’s even more rare than that,’” he says. “It’s hard to put into perspective for people who don’t know what they’ve done.”

Potts says TV personalities who say they’re under pressure to produce time after time are probably putting that pressure on themselves.

“From a personal standpoint, I’ve never had a sponsor or anyone in the industry say anything or do anything to pressure me,” Potts said.

“Some of the best hunts I have ever been on, I never shot anything,” Potts said. “It’s not about going out and killing all the big ones.

“Do we want to? Absolutely,” he said. “That’s why we spend 365 days a year trying to figure it out. But people who start to focus on that, they lose sight of why they started hunting in the first place.”

Ethics and responsibility

Arnold says “99.9 percent” of hunters “are trying to do it right.”

But doing it right can be confusing, especially if rules and regulations vary from state to state.

“Most violations are out of ignorance,” he said.

“It can be a little intimidating,” Potts said. “Every state is different. But it is your responsibility. If you are going to hunt there, it is your responsibility to know what can and cannot be done.”

Hunters who follow the rules also want to see justice be done if other hunters break the law.

“They say, ‘Hey, hammer them. If they are going to blatantly disregard the laws, those are shared resources and you should be punished severely,’” Arnold said. “Nobody has a problem with that.”

Potts says, “When these people get in trouble, especially a person that is in the public eye, I wish the media wouldn’t refer to them as ‘hunters,’ because they are not a hunter. I wish we would refer to them some other way.”

Brenda Potts has a suggestion.

“Poachers,” she said. “Call them poachers.”

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

It’s like with anything now, you have a few that ruin it for all.  The worst thing is they know exactly what they are doing but continue to do it.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/13 at 03:25 PM

Hunting loosing popularity? Could it possibly be related to the increase in outfitters here in Illinois taking all of the private land that used to be available for hunting from John Q Public?
It could be that a lot of John Q Public cannot or will not pay to hunt the lands that were once free to hunt with permission, or help the land owner with some work that needed to be done.

I personally find it appauling the state has issued soooo many outfitters liscenses and that our own people have taken our wildlife as a resource to make money on. If it continues I too woll stop hunting and just fish more or trap.

Sorry for the rant.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/14 at 09:18 AM

?Any bad publicity about our industry is bad,? said Stan Potts of Clinton.
Industry? Yep pretty much sums it up, the working slobs used to just call it hunting season.
KirkV no worries on the rant, the truth shouldn’t hurt anyone.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/15 at 08:02 AM

I have participated in the outdoor sports of hunting and fishing for many years and have respect for all law abiding sportsman, but anyone who breaks the law looses that respect. Remember if you keep all the game and fish laws yet exceed the speed limit on your way you have joined those who have lost respect. Lets not point fingers lets join to promote those who do abide the laws the media does a fine job of pointing out those who dissobey the laws so why give them fodder to ruminate on?
Instead do what is right and promote others who do the same.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/17 at 08:43 AM

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