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Will Illinois allow bows in gun season?

February 10, 2008 at 09:26 PM
House Bill 4631 Amends the Wildlife Code. Authorizes taking deer during the open season with a bow and arrow or a crossbow device for handicapped persons and persons age 62 or older. Click here for a link to check the bill's status.

Things have finally started happening on the legislative front in Springfield. Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) has introduced House Bill 4631, which would allow the use of archery equipment during the gun season. On the surface, it seems like a pretty harmless bill. But taking a look at how it might be implemented makes even die-hard bowhunters think twice about a bill that would directly benefit them.

It’s no secret that I’ve spent the better part of the last six years being involved with the Illinois Bowhunters Society.You would think this bill would be a slam-dunk for both statewide bowhunting organizations. More opportunity for bowhunters, what more could an organization ask for? But it seems that a lot of bowhunters aren’t in favor of it.

Does an organization that fights for bowhunters rights, need to push for a law that would add another seven days to an existing 107-day season? In addition to our liberal season, bowhunters already have 107 days of hunting, they buy unlimited tags over the counter, they can shoot as many does as they want to, they already get the peak of the rut, they get six to seven weeks afield before gun hunters hit the woods, and we’re already making the argument that we don’t want to share OUR season with the likes of the crossbow. So how does it look to ask to intrude on a season where we’ve never been?

The Illinois Natural History Survey from 2004-05 asked this very question to bowhunters. Of the 900+ respondents, 57% opposed the idea, while only 37% supported it. The survey stopped short of asking gun hunters how they felt about the idea, but they were overwhelmingly against letting crossbows into the gun season.

My first question to Rep. Phelps was, “Why?” I asked Rep. Phelps where the idea came from. He told me that “the bowhunters” asked for it. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard lawmakers say that “bowhunters” were the source of an idea. The last time was when Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton) told me that “bowhunters” had nixed the idea for an either-sex youth season. That turned out to be a few selfish bowhunters from one area of the state who didn’t want to share their woods with kids.

Now we have Rep. Phelps (pictured at right), who hails from the same district as Sen. Forby, touting that “the bowhunters” want Illinois Outdoorsthe gun hunters to share their season with them. After explaining to Rep. Phelps that I was representing one state bowhunting organization, and that I’d just talked to the other state bowhunting organization who also hadn’t been asked their opinion, he quickly changed his tune and told me that a couple of vocal bowhunters had approached him with the idea in a recent meeting he attended.

I started bowhunting about 10 years before I ever picked up a muzzleloader and hunted during the gun season. At one time I would have been thrilled to be able to take part during those 6-7 days. I always felt a little left out, but I never thought about going to a state lawmaker and asking him to let me take part in the season. Would I bowhunt during the gun season now if this passes? I’m not sure. The thought of trailing a bow-shot deer around the woods during the crowded gun season isn’t an idea that sounds too appealing anymore. I hunt my fair share of the 107-day archery seasons, and I have no problem picking up a gun to be able to hunt in the gun season.

The last real statistic I saw was from 1999, where there were 40,000 bowhunters who didn’t gun hunt, and 130,000 gun hunters who didn’t bowhunt. At the time, 50,000 hunters did both. While there may be more bowhunters now than in 1999, I’ll guess that the 40,000 figure is still right. That’s about one-third of the 120,000 bowhunters we have in Illinois today. I guess if we had better statistics from the DNR, we’d have a better idea on the exact numbers.

So, let’s take a look at the possibilities of implementing the idea. It sounds simple at first, but you quickly realize that there are many opinions about how to even make it happen. Of course, lawmakers don’t have to sweat the details. That’s what our understaffed DNR is for, right? We basically have to look at the idea in three different ways:

Option 1) Bowhunters would get to use their tags already purchased over the counter that are good statewide. This is probably the least intrusive, yet the most unfair. Letting bowhunters continue to take multiple deer when some gun hunters are hunting the same season under a one-and-done rule, hardly seems like the best idea.

This idea also puts an extra 40,000 hunters in the woods during an already crowded season. One idea that the DNR has always talked about was safety. When they add more gun permits, a lot of times that only puts more permits in the same hunter’s hands. This objective would put more butts in the tree stands. Do we have room?

And what happens when the other 80,000 bowhunters who used to buy gun tags, don’t buy them anymore? That’s $1.5 million dollars out of a state deer program budget of about $16 million, that comes when our governor is already sweeping money out of an underfunded DNR. Who takes the leftover 80,000 gun tags that are no longer bought? And how does the DNR figure out county-by-county quotas for gun season now, since they would no longer have any idea how many hunters are afield in a given county?

Option 2) Bowhunters would have to buy a gun-season tag. This seems to be the most popular option that I’ve heard people talk about. But there’s two ways this could go.

Option 2A) The DNR keeps the county-quota system in place. That means that bowhunters would compete with gun hunters for the same permits. Bowhunters, the same guys already getting 107 days in the woods, could now be taking permits away from some of the 130,000 gun hunters who choose not to bowhunt. Is this fair? Do we need to let bowhunters have those extra seven days, at the expense of fellow hunters who may be left out in the cold for the entire Illinois deer season? Again, we have to ask ourselves why we’re wanting this.

Option 2B) The DNR scraps the county-quota system, and raises the number of available tags to accommodate the other 40,000 bowhunters. This seems to be the most selfish idea of the three, and the one that totally disrupts the existing management program. Why should our DNR be forced to abandon their management policies just to satisfy the wants of a few bowhunters who apparently don’t get enough chances in 107 days?

So, what’s your opinion? Many see this as one of the biggest issues to face deer hunting in Illinois in several years. What is best for Illinois? Is there a way to make it happen, without losing so much of what Illinois has gained in the last 50 years of deer hunting? Is there a way to stick together as hunters, without being too greedy and taking a tag away from someone else who chooses to hunt differently than we do?

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

Well here we go again on another debate on how to control the deer herd.  Besides a few bowhunters wanting to extend their season it is just another way to put more hunters in the field for the war.  We as hunters in this great state to hunt in (now that deer herd is the best we have ever witnessed) need to address the issue of managing the doe population before mother nature takes over.  This year was a reality check on what is to come if we don’t address this issue soon with the outbreak of EHD.  The DNR and are legislators need to think about implenting strategies to keeping the deer herd stable and at the same time trying to balance the sex ratio.  I personally would like to see them issue less out of state permits, and at the same time raise the fees they will still make their money with no problem.  Iowa and Kansas issue a third of the out of state permits that we do and look at their deer population. There are plenty of hunters in this state to control things.  Look back 15 years ago and we were not talking about needing to reduce the doe population.  In the central part of the state you could not shoot a doe in October for a few years.  They said that to many does were being harvested then now look u can buy as many doe tags over the counter kinda funny. I wonder how many out of state hunters were hunting that area prior to the restrictions.  I would bet very few unlike west central Illinois.  Without having check stations none of the out of state hunters are spending any additional revenue in the counties they are hunting in since there is no reason to visit the local restaraunt,gas station,tavern,hotel,etc since they are staying at the lodge the outfitter is providing.  Having more bowhunters in the field would do nothing more than make more deer nocturnal, additional accidents, and most likely fewer gun hunters.  The experts say we are loosing hunters well I don’t see any signs out there saying my land is available to hunt.  Some guys that bowhunt a farm may also share the land they hunt with someone who gun hunts.  There are so many pros and cons on this issue that we can talk about it for hours, days, and years.  If it is not broke don’t fix it just try to make it better!  Can’t we all just get along!!!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/10 at 11:59 PM

Great, just one more way to have out of state poachers like Allen Blevins of Hadley creek outfitters in our woods during deer season. Why dont we just issue a spotlight high power rifle season as well.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 12:56 AM

Another reason to go with an earn a buck program.  The bowhunters are the ones doing the most doe population reductions while the gun hunters are just after the racks.  Seven more days with a bow will give us seven more days to take out some of the does while the gun hunters will be forced to shoot a doe before being allowed to apply for a buck tag.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 02:21 AM

We don’t need an extra 7 days! lets not complicate the two seasons.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 09:03 AM

Does HB4631 only effect 62yrs and older or am
I reading this wrong?????

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 09:04 AM

“Another reason to go with an earn a buck program.  The bowhunters are the ones doing the most doe population reductions while the gun hunters are just after the racks.  Seven more days with a bow will give us seven more days to take out some of the does while the gun hunters will be forced to shoot a doe before being allowed to apply for a buck tag.”

Could you post your source numbers on doe archery kill vs shotgun doe kills.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 11:22 AM

Leave gun season alone and implement a earlier bow season for doe only starting September 15th

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 11:22 AM

I dont see a need to add to the bow seaeson, if you cant tag a deer in 107 days are 7 more really going to help? We really need to pull together to get the state to do something with the outfitters, earn a buck woukld be fine by me.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 01:03 PM

I enjoy archery far more than gun season. But that being said, adding archery hunters to the mix is just going to wreak havoc, and potentially fatalities in IL, but then again maybe that is the intention. Fine if you want to archery hunt, then put in for a county allocation of tags and use your bow, because if you just allowed to use your general archery tag, how does the thought of 22,000 or whatever the allocation is for NR tags, piling into you little shrinking slice of deer heaven sound. And with no check stations, over the counter NR doe tags, undermanned, parks, and CPO, IL has become a Missouri poachers dream. I dont you will find any accurate figures for IL deer harvest since check stations are no longer a requirement. But as I was looking on the IL DNR website for anything other than delusional phone in data, I noticed there is a link to outfitters, all 33 pages of them in IL, many of them not residing in IL. Now I wonder how many does those 33 pages of outfitters are harvesting?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 03:52 PM

I don’t gun hunt, and I hunt private property that only I have access to. I have always wanted to bowhunt my property during gun season. So I would definitely take advantage of the extra days. Not being greedy about the number of days I hunt, but the amount of deer movement from the guns going off and the deer drives during gun season, I think I would see a lot more deer.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 04:36 PM

Leave bow season alone change the gun season.5 day before thanksgiving 4 day’s after .you can use weapon of choice .shotgun, muzzleloader,pistol.issue the tag’s over the counter.This would save the state million’s of dollar’s .no mail in applacation’s fee’s for the state, no dead lines to meet.10 day’s of gun season in a row then it’s over.no late season doe only either useing all the tag’s you have left.Look at Indiana’and Ohio’s season and see how successful they are.I can’t belive state’s don’t share imformation on thing’s that work..

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 05:27 PM

anyone opposed to bow hunters during CHEATER SEASON (aka- gun season) is overthinking hunting and is stupid.  Let bowhunters wear orange and welcome them into the woods. We have too many deer as it is and I gaurantee some does would be harvested out of the deal!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 05:32 PM

If bows are allowed during gun season what are the chances of outfitters using thier leases for only out of state bow hunters during these 7 days?  So this means we give up more of the states bucks to out of state hunters.  Earn a buck should go for everyone, residents and nonresidents alike!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 06:22 PM

bowhunting is by far the most enjoyable way to deer hunt!  But I think our season set up works just fine, I go to the woods with the muzzleloader for gun season. The one thing I would like to see changed is the return of check stations. The call in system leaves no means to monitor the health and well being of our deer population.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 06:44 PM

One other point I don’t think was mentioned is the fact that gun hunters would be able to shoot a deer and then call it in as a bow kill! That would degrade our Big Buck, Boone & Crockett, and Pope & Young system as the data would now be compromised. It’s already a nightmare without a check station! Futher more, the safety issue with gun and archery hunters in the woods at the same time, well lets just say injuries will skyrocket. I don’t shotgun hunt much and am an avid bowhunter but in all fairness, it just isn’t fair to the hunters who don’t bowhunt and only get 7 days to hunt only to find bowhunters trailing deer, interupting their gun hunts, etc.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 07:04 PM

Maybe Rep. Phelps & Sen. Forby can first help solve the problem of DNR CPOs not having enough funds to keep their gas tanks filled while performing their official duties. 

Better yet, let’s just get the politicians completely out of this.  They mess up enough things as it is.

That would be a no for me on bowhunting during gun season.  Bowhunters, me included, already have the most liberal season of all the IL deer hunting seasons.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/11 at 10:19 PM

Bowhunting dates needs to be pushed back to atleast Oct 15th,by then the deer are already starting to pattern the hunter,and close the season by the end of Dec,And put a two week shot gun hunt in there starting Oct 30th.And they should not be able to bow hunt during shot gun hunting season.It’s time for a little change with Our hunting seasons.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/12 at 12:53 PM

You should be able to use whatever weapon you want during gun season.  Just get in the lottery and if you get your tag, have at it.  Maybe they can bring back the check stations with the extra dough(no pun intended).

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/12 at 03:02 PM

I bow hunt and gun hunt.  I agree with pretty much everyone’s points.  I propose leave bow season the way it is.  Make gun season a solid time frame.  Not a couple days here and there.  Get rid of the late season because too many early shed bucks are getting shot.  ALL resident permits should be over the counter and ALL non-res should be mail in.  Bring back check-in stations because A LOT (A LOT) of deer don’t get checked in with the phone/internet system.  I am still up in the air on the Earn-A-Buck policy.  I would have to hear more about that.  It does sound good though. 

Like someone else mentioned above.  If we have hunters with bow permits and gun permits out hunting and a deer gets shot during gun season.  We all know what permit is going to be used for that deer.  It will be the bow tag they can run to the store and grab another real easy.  I am not saying that everyone is dishonest, but we again all know how the real hunting world is.  Its not TV, its the TRUTH.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/13 at 07:59 AM

How is adding 7 days to an already 3.5 month season going to reduce the doe population by much?  Try changing the 1st 3 day season to run the whole week before Thanksgiving.  In order to tag a buck, a doe must be checked in the old way, not by calling it in.  Anyone can call anything (or nothing) in.  ESPECIALLY the guys who butcher their own deer.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/13 at 12:51 PM

I didn’t mean any offense to the guys who take care of their own meat.  But it is a lot easier to “tweak” things when you don’t have to have a tag on a deer that goes to the meat locker.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/13 at 02:56 PM

Get the Earn a Buck program as far out of your head as you can.I have friends in Wisconsin that hate it. people shooting four pointers and spikes then kicking there horns off and saying he ran by them like that?? and not to mention the button bucks that will get killed as antlerless.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/14 at 03:49 PM

The counties that have the highest amount of outfitters such as Pike, Adams, and Brown counties are also the counties with severely high populations of does. Earn a Buck programs should target outfitters and non resident hunters.  Resident hunters who wish to take a second buck should then take a doe first.  Youth hunters should be exempt from the earn a buck program,

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/15 at 11:08 PM

Be careful what you wish for. I am a former resident of Indiana and still own land there with my family. Many hunters there hate the long two solid weeks of gun season. You think our split system is bad? Try finding a deer to hunt when they have been hunted for two weeks straight! I bowhunt as well, but don’t wish to be in the woods with the firearm hunters and taking a deer that might have been taken by someone else. Its a shame that Illinois deer management is being governed by politicians instead of wildlife biologists as it once was.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/17 at 02:07 AM

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