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Illinois hunting and fishing

Deer management a balancing act

January 17, 2009 at 11:43 AM


Task force facts

The task force was created by joint resolution of the Illinois General Assembly. There are 15 members, including representatives of the General Assembly, Illinois Department of Natural Resources officials and constituent groups.

The panel met four times between April and October 2008 and conducted six public meetings around Illinois seeking comment about potential changes to deer-herd management.

Final recommendations include extending some portions of the deer-hunting season, expanding educational outreach and making hunting permits easier to obtain.

Core recommendations include:

1. Permits for the antlerless-only late-winter season should be made available over the counter.

2. Counties open for the late-winter hunt would be categorized into two groups depending on population status.

3. Lengthening the late-winter season from three to nine days.

4. Permits for the regular firearm season that remain allocated after two lottery drawings would be sold over the counter.

5. An extra day would be added to the first segment of the firearm season.

6. Educational outreach efforts would include a new Web site: Living with Illinois Deer. Programs such as the Illinois Sportsmen Against Hunger program would be better promoted, and access to private lands would be sought to increase hunter participation.

7. A task force would review programs designed to reduce damage to crops caused by deer.

Despite a relatively short time frame, recommendations of the Joint Task Force on Deer Herd Management are in the pipeline for implementation by next year’s hunting season.

The recommendations were announced Jan. 7. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is working to move the rules through a complex process that includes two 45-day public comment periods in order to be ready by the time permit applications go out to hunters.

But swift action doesn’t mean the proposed changes lack controversy.

Paul Shelton, forest wildlife program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, says the task force faced the formidable challenge of retaining top-notch recreational opportunities for hunters while balancing concerns about deer-vehicle accidents and damage to agricultural crops.

Illinois has about 800,000 deer living among its more than 12 million residents.

The state is well-known for its trophy deer hunting, and hunters who pursue Illinois’ white-tailed deer are especially protective of the resource. Deer hunters are quick to voice concerns about issues ranging from hunter access to the timing and length of seasons.

In recent years, changes to the Illinois deer-hunting landscape have been controversial — especially the multi-year debate over the increase in the number of non-resident hunters allowed to pursue trophy deer.

Collision reduction

Shelton says a primary concern of task-force members is reducing the number of accidents between vehicles and deer.

There were 25,006 deer-vehicle crashes reported in 2007, down from 25,490 in 2006. Five fatalities were recorded in 2007, compared to one in 2006.

Cook County had the most accidents with 995. Cook also is the one county where firearm hunting is not allowed — a figure not lost on deer hunters.

“If you were to take the (counties with large urban and high-traffic areas) out of the equations, your deer-vehicle collisions would drop significantly,” says Tim Walmsley of Fowler. Walmsley is a longtime hunter, deer scorer and founder of the Deer and Turkey Classic.

“This (proposed) nine-day gun season — is it going to address that?” he asks. One task-force recommendation seeks to extend the first weekend of the traditional firearm season by an extra day.

The task force used a formula that considered the rate of accidents per miles driven, instead of just taking the number of accidents into account.

“You see that Sangamon County has a high number of deer-vehicle collisions,” says Jerry Beverlin, a member of the task force representing United Bowhunters of Illinois. “But Sangamon County falls off the map when you go by the rate of accidents per billion miles driven. That’s an interesting take.

“Then you’re comparing volume to volume instead,” he says. “That was a really eye-opening chart that showed that kind of information.”
Shelton says standardization of the numbers is more accurate than simply counting the number of cars and deer. Deer population numbers are estimates, and someone always challenges the figure anyway, he says.

“It’s a lot easier to take out the middleman,” Shelton says. “And the number of deer doesn’t necessarily relate to a problem.”

The task force set a goal of reducing accidents to a rate of 207 per billion miles traveled. That compares to a rate of 233 accidents in 2007. The peak year for deer-vehicle accidents was 2003, with 241 accidents per billion miles traveled.

Walmsley sent a detailed e-mail around the state to deer-hunting groups, natural resources officials and the media questioning whether the recommendations actually would reduce the number of accidents and improve the quality of the Illinois deer herd.

At issue is the extension of the first weekend of the firearm deer season and the effectiveness of the late-winter antlerless-only firearm season.

Walmsley says it is unlikely either will help reduce the number of does — key to controlling deer population.

“Bucks don’t have fawns,” Walmsley says.

More access

Beverlin says he thinks the task force took the easiest route by extending seasons again and issuing more permits.

“We didn’t agree with the premise of the committee that there was a rampant overpopulation of deer, but we agreed there were areas of concern with problems due to lack of access or limitations on access,” he says.

Beverlin says the United Bowhunters prefers to work to educate landowners about how providing access for hunters can help control deer populations. He says the state could even leverage funds from the federal Farm Bill to operate a hunting-access program.

“If you’re not encouraging new hunters, (simply issuing more permits) is not going to work,” he says. “I like to put one deer in the freezer — or maybe two — to eat, but I don’t really need any more.

The task force’s final report includes a page on a “potential” hunter-access program, and notes that rules governing federal funds and a state’s eligibility are not yet known.

The task force also recommended increased promotion of the state’s Sportsmen Against Hunger program, which works with hunters and meat processors to provide ground venison to food pantries.

To manage the Illinois deer herd, Walmsley says, he prefers that hunters “earn a buck” by killing a doe first.

“That was the biggest thing they could have done,” he says. “It’s the ultimate scenario.”

Kevin Chapman, legislative liaison for the Illinois Bowhunters Society, says the elimination of check stations has made enforcement of the earn-a-buck concept difficult. Hunters now have to call in information about the deer they kill.

“Since they did away with check stations, there’s no way to do it,” he says. “The first thing people will do is call in a doe. The physical check station was just so important. It’s just an enforcement nightmare.

“Besides, we’re just so diverse from one end of the state to the other, ‘earn a buck’ in some areas would make no sense.”

Chapman says he prefers an early — rather than a late — antlerless deer season to avoid conflicts with bow hunters in October.
“You don’t lose anything, but you gain a lot of hunter support by going to a September doe season,” he said.

Walmsley also prefers a mid- to late-September season to reduce the numbers of does to the late-winter season. The former would attract more young hunters who might not be willing to tolerate mid-January weather.

He says deer hunters are concerned they are killing too many young “button” bucks, or bucks that already have shed their antlers during the late-winter season.

He says an October gun season to kill does would anger bowhunters stalking bucks just as rutting, or breeding, activity starts to ramp up.

People and deer

Walmsley says both deer-harvest and accident numbers have been fairly steady in recent years. Hunters in all seasons kill about 200,000 deer each year.

“Why now?” he asks of the changes.

“Nobody’s for it,” he says of the task-force recommendations. “They’re doing something the general public is against.”

Shelton says the goals for deer-herd management differ depending on the situation in various parts of the state, especially as development pushes into rural areas that are prime white-tailed deer habitat.

The recommendations set up different targets for the late-winter hunt, depending on the deer.

Wildlife managers often struggle to find solutions when deer populations grow in suburban and formerly rural areas, where the proximity of roads and houses makes hunting less practical.

Big predators such as wolves and cougars were driven from Illinois more than 150 years ago, leaving hunters and cars as the limiting factors for white-tailed deer populations, with the exception of diseases like chronic wasting disease or epizootic hemorrhagic disease. The latter is spread by biting gnats, but is spotty and local in its effects.

Some deer with chronic wasting disease were found in areas on the outskirts of Rockford, creating a challenge for wildlife managers who wanted to thin the herd to help slow the spread of the disease.

The task force recommends that controlled hunting programs be used whenever possible to control deer numbers in urban areas, but admits that gaining the upper hand is difficult in environments where large numbers of people and deer come together.

“However, controlled hunting programs implemented throughout the country in urban situations have demonstrated that hunting can be used as a safe, effective, and economical approach to urban deer control,” the report says.

What happens next

Shelton says the recommendations of the task force are being considered together instead of a la carte.

“We had to ask, ‘Is it really a positive step for us or not?’ and I think most of them are,” he says.

Getting new rules on the books is “doable” Shelton says, but will require a serious effort.

Normally, rules go through an internal review process before they are put out for public comment. Finally, comments are reviewed and any changes made before the second review period.

Then the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules must agree.

“It’s a long way to the season, but …”

Shelton says a lot of things have to happen well before hunting season arrives. Information has to get out to hunters, permits have to be printed, and computer programs and databases must be updated.

Shelton says that with the exception of chronic wasting disease making inroads in northern Illinois, the health of the state’s deer herd is excellent.

Illinois also is a rich agricultural state with an abundance of habitat for white-tailed deer.

That means Illinois can easily support even greater numbers of deer.

“We’re nowhere near carrying capacity,” Shelton says. “Carrying capacity in Illinois is extremely high. Nobody in their right mind wants to manage for carrying capacity.

“The fact is the health of the Illinois deer herd is great — exceptional, except for the occurrences of chronic wasting disease (in northern Illinois). You can still have great trophy hunting (while managing to reduce accidents and crop damage).”

Beverlin says he hopes DNR officials take the recommendations of the task force, but make final decisions based on science.

“Farmers, bowhunters and legislators have no business setting absolute restrictions in a biological setting,” Beverlin says.

The task force should be able to make recommendations, including setting parameters and goals to be achieved.

“But it’s up to DNR to decide biologically how to get within the parameters.”

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

The State should have a one, two week season. Like some northern states. We have plenty of deer sometimes too many.Also give less out of state tags.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/17 at 01:43 PM

I agree with Jerry. It’s not like there aren’t enough for a longer season.

Posted by TylerM on 01/17 at 01:49 PM

my thinking is IF IT AIN"T BROKE DON"T FIX IT….

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/17 at 05:33 PM

We have one of the best deer heard in the US. Just watch any deer program on the Outdoor channel, they all mention Illinois right with Iowa, Kansas & Wisconsin as the best states to hunt. Why do we want to change anything? I am a avid bowhunter and the sighting’s that I have seen over the last 10 years ahve steadily went down. I ahve been asked to fill out a stat sheet every year on my sighting. That should be used in determining what needs to be done, not the Insurance companies. I aggree with you coondawg on IF IT AINT BROKE DON’T FIX IT!!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/17 at 09:09 PM

Yes lets have a season based on what you two think. The only thing to make more sense than that would be to ask Granburg what the season should be.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/17 at 09:15 PM

Could someone please explain to me what Shelton was quoted saying here: “Deer population numbers are estimates, and someone always challenges the figure anyway. It’s a lot easier to take out the middleman,” Shelton says. “And the number of deer doesn’t necessarily relate to a problem.”  I thought that the whole idea of the task force was to study how to decrease the number of deer in Illinois to cut down the number of deer/vehicle collisions.  That was the premise for having the task force…......was it not?  The reason that hunters dispute the figures is that they know what’s really happening out in the woods and don’t have to use insurance company figures, crystal balls, and computer modeling programs to determine the health of the deer herd in Illinois.  I want Paul Shelton to come out and state the truth for once…......why doesn’t he really tell us why none of the hunter’s opinions given at the public meetings were even considered before giving the task force’s recommendations.  This whole deer task force thing has been just one big smoke screen perpetrated by the politicians and the Illinois Farm Bureau lobbyists. And it’s really starting to stink!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/17 at 09:20 PM

whats your idea then greg

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/18 at 06:36 AM

Big D, those words you quoted do speak Volumns!
Doesn’t make any Dam sense compared to where they’re headed does it!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/18 at 11:03 AM

Coondawg, I was referring to the first two comments, just because other states have a 2 week season does not mean we need to follow. But my ideas would be as follows.
1) Get a biologist in charge of the DNR or deer herd
2) Check stations must be brought back same as before. The mom and pops will be helped with archery.
3)Doubtful this will ever happen, but limit NR tags to 12,0000, what they weer before the additional guaranteed 7,5000 allotment to outfitters. And no guaranteed outfitter tags.
4) Regulate outfitters and charge them more, especially if they are guaranteed tags for their clients. Their are so many fly by night outfitters, that they give the good ones bad names. I went on an outfitted gun hunt in Pike county 1 year. My one friend got a ticket for hunting over bait (which he had no idea was there) 5 minutes after he was in his stand, another friend of the outfitter, had the wrong season gun tag, another hunter almost got his buck taken because he was actually on the neighboring county instead of Pike, and another hunter was told he was tresspassing. The IL DNR had numerous complaints about this outfitter (who has 3 initials) and assured me that he would be out of business soon. Well that was 6 years ago and he is still ripping people off left and right.
5) Open up protected areas, (ie forest preserves), especially northern ones to a special permit archery hunt. I am talking Cook county and surrounding areas. Have a $50-$100 permit fee, and set the rules like they are at Clinton Lake, ie doe checked first.
6) If doe harvest needs to be emphasized than have a early 3 day gun Friday to Sunday in mid September. Does are fairly easy to shoot then eating in fields, and then bucks won’t waste energy on does that end up being shot later.
7)Go to a 1 buck limit, or perhaps earn a buck for your second tag. Or make it that the 2nd buck has to have 4 points a side. I believe Arkansas even went to having button bucks count towards your antlered harvest, in an effort to protect young bucks. Not sure how feasible that would really be. Definitely not with no LEO or check stations.
8) Increase the public areas that have QDM of does or bucks with 4 points a side. Until I was lucky enough to get access to private land this year, all of my hunting has been on public land. Their were more good bucks on sites with minimum point restrictions as opposed to areas with no requirements. I know the meat hunters hate this, but if you want meat shoot a doe.
9) Management objectives need to be region specific, and not staewise numbers. The amount of deer that can be shot in counties such as Pope, Williamson, Clay, DeKalb, Pike, Know, and Cook are not even close. You can wipe out practically all the deer in a SNF county with Chicago hunters, and will do nothing with the deer collisions in Cook county due to all the sanctuaries. A blind bat could see this, but not our DNR.
10) I am sure there is alot more that could be done than this, but this I feel would be a good start.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/18 at 12:00 PM

The problem with auto accidents and deer could be resolved without alot of fuss.The state claims ownership of the deer, just make them liable for the accidents.If my cattle get out on the highway and are involved in a accident I am responsible, why should the state be any different?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/18 at 05:48 PM

We don’t have too many deer! The Task Force is a joke and anyone that buys into it needs to look at the whole picture. Deer/Vehicle Accidents are normal….start giving tickets out to those that do hit a deer for failure to avoid a accident. I know many people who ‘drive’ and never ‘watch’! Most of Illinois does not have a deer over-population problem. The areas that do…..don’t get hunted much (probably)....and you have to hunt to control the herd! DNR has too many ‘people’ inside their ‘business’....let DNR do it’s job and we all keep our nose out…..give them ALL the funding and quit robbing them to pay ‘Paul’ (Rob or whoever)....
DNR needs their funding to accomplish their job for “ALL” of us and the wildlife!.....jmho

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/18 at 06:02 PM

“Deer/Vehicle Accidents are normal….start giving tickets out to those that do hit a deer for failure to avoid an accident.”  Herman 1/18 @ 6:02pm

Not trying to be picky, BUT a couple of years ago I was involved in a Deer/Vehicle accident.  Driving west on 150 just outside of Congerville.  I saw the buck in the ditch next to the road at the end of the guard rail about 60yds away.  I started slowing down from 50 mph and was able to get down to less than 40mph. By the time I got up to where the buck was standing, like a flash this buck jumps out right in front of me.  I had zero seconds to make any more changes to my speed.  I T-boned the buck and it bounced off and slid down the road into the other ditch… Dead!

So I do not agree with the above statement. 

I have also heard of deer running into the sides of vehicles.  How does a person avoid that?

I’m not trying to bust your balls, but that whole ticket thing to people who have accidents involving deer is leaning more towards “If it’s going to happen it will happen”.  People shouldn’t be punished for that.

My belief is “The more deer I shoot, the less deer there are to be involved in traffic accidents”.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/18 at 09:58 PM

Well said Herm.  There’s always gonna be a few Rod supporters.  Did you hear about the new Southern Illinois golf course?  The deer will love the fresh tender grass.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/19 at 09:05 AM

Next thing if you get struck by lightning in Illinois you can sue the Gov. Come on Herman giving a ticket for hitting a deer is assanine. The state taking ownership for the deer is also James. your cattle are not wildlife, if your fence is brioke fix it!!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/19 at 10:02 AM

Shouldn’t the state and or the insurance companies spend more time and effort to educate non-hunters to be more aware of deer during the rut via public service announcements? If they are concern like they claim to be then why would they not try this aapproach? I’m pretty sure that most people are oblivious to what is happening in the woods. If they really want to reduce collisions they need to keep in mind that deer are only a part of the problem.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/19 at 12:20 PM

A lot of people think that the deer are running from us hunters, which in turn caus the accidents. Your right Dan the insurance companies need to put out more messages to inform the people. The rut causes way more running then hunters do.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/19 at 01:02 PM

Take this into consideration.  Several years ago in the central part of the state u could not shoot a doe the whole month of october.  Now u can shoot as many as u want!  Why cause they are raping are natural resource.  It is all about more revenue and the state is not putting any dollars into this renewable resource.  They need to think about the day when that renewable resource is GONE, but by then it may be to late.  Spread the word that some other resource such as fishing, camping, or some other outdoor tradition is effected and u have more avid outdoorsmen getting involved in what is taking place.  As outdoorsmen and outdoorwomen we need to hold ourselves responsible for what is taking place in our neck of the woods.  I know for example that we did not harvest any does in the late season hunt do to a decrease in the number of deer and we control 1100 acres!  The ehd hit the state hard with overharvesting the past few years that we thought it would’nt hurt to let this season end.  Deer sightings even this time of the year with them all grouped up feeding is way down.  Lets face it we do not need the late season hunt if u can’t shoot a deer with 3 months of bow season included then take a break!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/19 at 01:37 PM

If decreasing DVA’s is truly the goal then Greg is on the right track with number 6 above.  Any sort of September season that reduces doe population and brings the herd to a closer biological balance before the rut takes place would go a long ways toward reducing DVA’s.  If all other influences hold this would lead to a shorter more intense rut and should show a reduction in fall/early winter DVA’s.  It would also lead to better health of the buck population that remains if they don’t expend energy to breed does that will be removed from the herd in January.

Another focus for DNR should be on further increasing youth opportunities in Illinois.  I don’t think anyone will ever argue that they are the future caretakers of our natural resources.  Allowing multiple permits for youths in the October season would lead to increased doe harvest.  I know many parents whose kids passed up does in hopes of getting their “1st buck” because they are only allowed 1 permit for the youth season.  They would have been more than happy to harvest a doe if they could have kept hunting.  This is not intended to start a debate on who is shooting what (does vs. bucks) and how they are teaching their kids.  It is based on the comments of many parents in my area with children that hunt as I do not have any of my own that hunt. 

In addition, does anyone know where I can find DVA breakdowns for Illinois by county and month of year?  I would like to study the numbers more as to how they relate to the rut, crop removal, spring green-up, etc. 

It would be interesting as well to see if anyone has tracked DVA’s closely around areas recently opened to hunting.  For example, Starved Rock State Park’s recent opening to gun hunting:  has it led to decreases in DVA’s on roads around the park by reducing the population?  This area would pertain heavily to opening other parks/ preserves to hunter access, especially in heavily populated areas.  Maybe Farm Bureau and other insurance lobbyists would make more headway in reducing DVA’s by focusing their battles on a local level.  They could be facilitating hunter access to reduce populations in the true problems areas rather than making blanket statewide recommendations.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/19 at 04:01 PM


Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/19 at 06:48 PM

Keep asking for a sept season and your going to end up with Both a sept and a late season.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/20 at 08:51 AM

... and if you say nothing, we’ll end up with a 9 day (or more) January season (we almost had it with no bows allowed), a 3 day gun season in October, an extra gun day in November, and anything else the DNR, JTF, or legislators can dream up.

Posted by KC-IBS on 01/20 at 09:02 PM

I think we should send the jtf to ny. city. And change there name to the goose task force.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/22 at 10:06 PM

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