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Falling numbers and unknown affects of EHD worry hunters

December 19, 2013 at 01:56 PM

The State Journal-Register

News that the firearm deer season numbers were down 25 percent from last year lit up the hunting forums and social media last week.

From cold weather that kept some hunters at home to the unknown effects of the most recent epizootic hemorrhagic disease outbreak, everyone had a theory.

EHD is a viral disease spread by biting midges. Most deer get sick and die very quickly.

The state tracks reports of deer killed by EHD, but not all deer that succumb are found and reported.
This year’s outbreak was unusual because of back-to-back summers of drought conditions that favor the disease.

Already, deer numbers were on the way down due to efforts to meet targets set the Joint Task Force on Deer Population Control set up by the Illinois General Assembly.

The task force recommendation (made in 2008) was that deer/vehicle accidents should be reduced by 14 percent from their peak in 2003.

To achieve that goal, a number of steps were taken.

For example, permits for late-winter seasons were sold over the counter, rather than through the usual lottery system.

Long-time Stark County bowhunter Bob Burns summed up the feelings of many hunters.

“I have been bow hunting for 35-plus years,” he said. “This year bowhunting was very much like hunting deer in the late 1970’s in Illinois.

“Bowhunting is a way of life for me and I certainly hope the Illinois DNR gives this problem we have with EHD a great deal of thought and consideration.”

Burns said the EHD outbreak seems to have been more serious than the number of reports suggests.

“The DNR did a great job of managing the herd to get the number of deer we have had the last five years,” he said. “Now we will see if they have the management skills to compete with Mother Nature.”

Burns points out the financial importance of deer hunting for DNR and the state’s economy.

“ I certainly hope they come up with a plan,” he said. “Can you imagine what kind of a financial impact no deer hunting would have on so many aspects of the Illinois economy?”

EHD reports by county.

Chart courtesy of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

In the question and answer section linked below, Illinois Department of Natural Resources deer project manager Tom Micetich answers some frequently asked questions.

Related stories

Deer Q & A with DNR’s Tom Micetich

DNR's Tom Micetich answers some frequently asked questions about this year's late-winter antlerless season, the affects of EHD and the Joint Task Force on Deer Population Control mandates.

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