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Rockford editorial: Sharpshooters best solution for deer control in forest preserves

November 20, 2011 at 07:22 AM

Rockford Register-Star

Editorial from the Rockford Register-Star:

Oh deer. There are some issues that just keep coming back to Winnebago County — casinos, leaf burning, whether to hunt deer in the forest preserves.

And — just like we said in 2002, 2003, 2004 (need we keep going?) — we think opening the county’s preserves to hunters is a bad idea.

Nothing against hunting. It’s a legitimate recreation, and there are not enough public lands in Illinois for sportsmen and sportswomen to practice their hobby.

However, this isn’t about hunting, regardless of how Forest Preserve Board Chairman Randy Olson frames the issue.

It’s about the purpose of the forest preserves, as established by state statute in 1913.

The preserves were created to protect the flora and fauna and to preserve nature’s beauty. They were meant to be places of rest and reflection, not playgrounds for people whose definition of sport on a sunny day involves shotguns.

The Forest Preserve District began a sharpshooting program to control the deer herd eight years ago. Then, there were more than 10 times as many deer per square mile than the Illinois Department of Natural Resources recommends. The population has come down significantly since then.

Still, there’s a need for deer control. At the DNR’s last count, there were 41 deer per square mile compared with the state guideline of 25 for a healthy herd. The best, most efficient and safest method of dealing with the deer is employing county sharpshooters.

Olson, the forest preserve chairman, is recommending a one-year break from the sharpshooting program. He says he’s heard from people at the Plug & Pellet Sportsman’s Club. The upshot is that deer are not plentiful enough for hunting and the herd needs time to rebound.

Griping at the shooting range shouldn’t trump statistics and good sense. The Forest Preserve District has applied for and been granted a permit from the state to kill 50 deer in the preserves this winter.

The final say, though, belongs to the seven-member Forest Preserve Board, which has governed the preserves since December. Olson wants the board to take up the one-year hiatus and to listen to hunters as part of the strategic planning process.

Tom Kalousek, forest preserve director, cautions people to separate efforts to control the deer population from whether hunters are getting a fair shot. “There is a difference between wildlife management and recreational hunting,” Kalousek said.

True, there’s a science of wildlife management that figures recreational hunting into how to reach targets for animal population. But the science is beyond the pay grade of people like Olson and his fellow Forest Preserve Board members (actually, the board is all volunteer and doesn’t get paid).

That’s why localities and state agencies employ experts: so they can make decisions like how many Bambis live and how many die.

This weekend was the first of the seven-day firearm deer hunting season in Illinois. Hunters are where they belong, on hunting grounds, not in the forest preserves. Let’s keep it that way.

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

The hunters rub is why do you have to pay for state sponsored shooters, when the hunting public will pay to do it (through licenses).  But then you have to control access for safety.  In the end its an issue of threat of liability vs a fixed cost.  No park administration wants to allow hunting and have some one get hurt.  And be subject to the powerful court of public uninformed opinion on respecting flora and fauna.

Some city folks think a park is like a natural zoo. They do not see the forest from the trees.  If you live in the city and stroll through the park, you think its a pristine little place.  Too many plant eating deer and you have no park, you have an overcrowded uncontrolled petting zoo. 

The populations have to be controlled.  Who gets to set those goals? Each side has experts.

How to get to those population levels, is another problem.  Cold calculating sharpshooters if you boil it down involve the least risks in my opinion.  Having hunters doing it presents a whole host of variables to manage.

Which exterminator should the park administration choose?  If you are anti hunting, the decision is easy.  Liability issues may make this an easy decision too.  I bet though, allowing hunters to overrun the place takes some of the ‘pristine’ out of the park.

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

yeah real cute editorial,what happened the editors fancy foriegn car get bent by bambi?what a crock !let guys who respect deer get em, and who will use the meat and will pay for a tag to kill em !instead of paying thousands for the services of so called sharp shooters[gun nerds]with high powered rifles!if the general public type hunters arent qualified then why make us take hunter safety courses?just more politically correct crap makes theese editors feel like they done the right thing !

Posted by trolloni on 11/24 at 08:43 PM

It all comes down to who was elected to the preserve board. If folks want hunting in the preserves then elect the people who are in favor of hunting in the preserves. We the people of Illinois should not expect any political entity or newspaper editorial staff to follow common sense when it comes to hunting, obviously from the words used above the author or authors did not even consider bow hunting as an alternative to “Shotguns”. McHenry Count Conservation District (MCCD) Runs a great hunting program. I would venture a guess it even brings in revenue for the district… MCCD would be a good example if the hunters in Winnebago need one to show the board how it can be done. As far as liability is concerned, I would also venture to guess that a lot more folks get hurt riding bikes in these preserves than would ever get hurt hunting.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/08 at 02:28 PM

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