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Illinois adds turkey, upland biologists

June 24, 2010 at 05:34 PM

Paul Brewer laughed when told he was the most qualified hire in Illinois Department of Natural Resources history.

He understood the humor.

After all, the process of hiring Brewer as turkey biologist has spanned more than eight years. That’s how long ago Jared Garver retired from the position he held for 34 years.

Unfortunately, the DNR didn’t spend eight years combing the country for the most qualified gobbler guru. Until recently, the administration didn’t care enough to hire a turkey biologist.

What’s worse is that during that same span numerous deputy directors and assistant directors came and went.

That pretty much summarizes the state of our DNR. What’s more important, biologists who manage critters? Or cushy jobs for political pals? You know the answer.

So it’s encouraging to welcome Brewer to Springfield. The same is true for Mike Wefer, a local wildlife biologist tabbed to become the state’s new grasslands biologist. He replaces John Cole, who retired in 2009.

With these hirings DNR Director Marc Miller is starting to fulfill a promise to bring natural resources professionals to his agency. If he can hire another 20 biologists and lop off a deputy director or two, that will really be something —  particularly if staff come aboard as fast as Wefer, who starts July 1 in a job posted this winter.

“For state government that’s lightspeed,” said Wefer, who spent the last decade as wildlife biologist for Marshall, Woodford, Putnam and Stark counties.

Brewer, 54, is a long-time district biologist who helped with several turkey releases in east-central Illinois. While he hasn’t turkey hunted in recent years, he “understands the thrill of the turkey hunt.”

Foremost among his chores will be reviewing permits allocated for spring hunting — a number many contend should be higher.

Interviewed on his first day in Springfield, Brewer wouldn’t commit.

“Given the last few years of bad reproduction we’ve had we may not move forward real rapidly until we see what the data is telling us,” Brewer said. “One thing I don’t want to do is shoot from the hip to seem like a miracle man.”

He said it’s too early to gauge turkey reproduction this spring. “It’s been wet, but it hasn’t been cold and wet so maybe this won’t be quite as bad as the last few years,” Brewer said.

Whatever the data says, Brewer should be able to add permits in several counties and to expand the counties offering a fall shotgun season.

Wefer faces a more daunting task: Trying to put a happy face on grim realities facing Illinois upland game hunters.

“There’s not a bunch of positive signs out there, but there are a few,” Wefer said. “One is we’re finally going to get a general sign-up for (the federal Conservation Reserve Program).”

And while pheasant numbers are expected to decline yet again, Wefer said “Quail are not in near as bad of shape as pheasants.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but at least there’s someone in Springfield keeping an eye on the uplands. Maybe someday Wefer can enjoy a moment like the one Iowa pheasant biologist Todd Bogenschutz just experienced.

After yet another wet spring washed out many pheasant nests, Iowa passed legislation prohibiting mowing and haying before July 15 in the right of way of most state highways and secondary county roads.

“From the standpoint of pheasant production, this is a significant change especially this year because of the weather conditions we experienced during prime nesting season,” Bogenschutz said.


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

Mr. Brewer, if you’re reading this, please contact me.  I need more turkeys on my land.  I’ll do everything in my power to help you out and promise I won’t hunt them for a predetermined amount of time.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/24 at 11:27 PM

I don’t know what Mr. Brewer’s area of expertise is, but at least there is someone in the position. That alone is something. At least he has 8 years worth of raw, untouched by human hands data to work with!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/25 at 08:59 AM

IF the turkey population is low in some counties, why would you have a fall hen season?? I always wondered why have a fall hen season at all for that matter? Good Luck Mr. Brewer!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/25 at 04:56 PM

If only it was that easy treehugger…Walmsley,If you look at the fall turkey hunting regs.not all counties have a fall shotgun season.Fall is also a traditional time to hunt turkey.Spring is a modern season and old-timers would see it as non-sporting to hunt gobbelers in spring.Some people think more counties should be open in fall.Now that IL. has a biologist time will tell.I heard a lot of people cry about the spring season this year,“It won’t be a good year due to poor hatches etc…“I think the spring 2010 harvest speaks for itself.As with deer,some people need to let the profesionals run the fish and game dept.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/26 at 07:15 AM

darn it. we need a squirrel biologist and a crow biologist next

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/26 at 11:36 AM

Every year I anxiously look to see if my county has been added to the fall season.  I hope the day comes when I can do the “happy dance”!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/26 at 12:42 PM

Ol Gobbler, Yes,I’m aware many counties have no fall season. It’s just that I’ve wondered why Hen’s are allowed to be taken then-“And I killed a couple years ago myself and now question doing so”-Why is it any different than Pheasants?

Not sure about fall being a “Traditional” time to hunt turkeys here-Don’t remember fall turkey hunting coming to the state of Illinois long before the spring season!

You’re right, time will tell on more counties/seasons/permits- But i do know this: The really big flocks of turkeys that were in the timber where I live in Adams county in the 80’s and early 90’s are not here now-Like anything else, the pressure from hunters continues to increase, along with many other natural factors I’m sure. Hope Mr. Brewer can stay on top of things! He’s got big shoes to fill from Jerry.

As far as the deer: Any clue as to when Illinois will get those Fish & Game profesionals you mentioned?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/26 at 12:52 PM

walmsley,Lots of things change like land use,hunting pressure ect.This will make birds change there habits.As for your thoughts on killing a fall hen. Turkeys are prolific breeders with short life span averages.Your choice to shoot or not in the fall is up to you.I’m with you in that I would pass a spring bearded hen.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/26 at 03:55 PM

I congratulate these two men and wish them luck with their promotions.  The unfortunate thing is that they were promoted-no reflection on their qualifications or abilities.  The fact that they were promoted from within, that means there are two more vacant district wildlife biologists.  Thus, the DNR field staff is STILL woefully small.  Since it took the better part of a decade to fill something as visible as the Turkey Biologist, how long will it take to replace vacant district positions?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/28 at 08:24 AM

Dead on riverrat. The programs and services that the District biologists so are invaluable for all species of wildlife. Too many vacant positions and these guys trying to cover far too much area to get anything done.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/28 at 10:49 AM

Colonel, why not extend the power of county cops?  Why not let county cops arrest people for trespassing, poaching, whatever?  More cops=more enforcement=better hunting=more safety for all of us, especially our kids.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/29 at 10:08 AM

treehugger- the county deputies already have that authority and some of them do use it. For most of them the problem is that they do not understand the wildlife and fish codes and have had no training in it. Also a factor is that for many of them, they flat out don’t have the time- they are backed up on calls most of their shift. There are exceptions though- there is an Illinois State Trooper that writes as many conservation tickets as the CPO does in Pike County. He is double motivated though, he is a hunter and understands the law, plus he has figured out that the ISP credits conservation arrests as “Criminal” arrests and lots of “Criminal” arrests gets you promoted with them smile.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/29 at 06:00 PM

Frustrating isn’t it?  All the money we pay in taxes and both the state and the fed is broke.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/30 at 11:20 AM

In case anyone is still watching this thread, I saw some really cool things this past week and have a couple questions.  First, last Thursday the 1st, I saw a hen with four of her babies while while raking an alfalfa field.  Here’s the cool thing.  One of the little ones was the normal brown color, one was brown and white, and the other two were completely white.  Were these albinos?  Are they legal to shoot if they’re males?

Part two….Friday the 2nd of July, while bush hogging some high grass and weeds, I left one very small area (about 12’ x 12’) alone because I knew there were some old fence posts and wire laying there.  My wife went into the weeds to pull out the posts and wire so that I could mow the weeds down when a hen jumped and flew out.  This little overgrown patch was in the middle of what will be a horse pasture not 40-50 yards behind a building.  When she flew away we checked for eggs, and there they were.  Seven turkey eggs in the middle of a pasture.  Two questions.  First…Is it normal for a turkey to nest in the middle of a relatively short grass field in such a tiny weed patch?  Second, isn’t this quite a bit late for her to have eggs?  I thought they were all hatched several weeks ago.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/04 at 12:22 AM

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