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Dealing with the Illinois deer herd

September 07, 2008 at 01:57 AM

More meetings

Thursday’s meeting in Rushville was the third of six open meetings being held across Illinois.  Three more meetings are scheduled next week, each from 4-7 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Tuesday at Olney City Park Community Building,
  • Wednesday at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta,
  • Thursday at the Bethany Fire Station.

Don’t feel compelled to make a long drive, though. You can also comment online by clicking here. Through Thursday the DNR has received more than 300 comments online.


Chris Klitz arrived at Scripps Park Community Building Thursday with a story that’s becoming common in parts of Illinois.

“I had a friend on our ground who was hunting on opening day of muzzleloader season last fall and he counted 44 does walk past his stand and just one buck,” said Krick, one of 72 people in attendance at a public meeting on deer management put on by the Department of Natural Resources.

Seeing so many does is a problem on many levels, including ground level where Rushville farmer Klitz said he lost 32 rows of corn to deer damage.

Similar stories are being told across west-central Illinois and southern Illinois, where deer overpopulation is viewed as a problem by some. Actually, the count on Klitz’s farm falls short of the herds of 150 does that crowd some fields in Pike County.

Then again, not every hunter agrees there are too many deer. Some say the Farm Bureau and insurance industry are overstepping their bounds.

“I don’t see where farmers and insurance agents should be managing the deer herd,” said Jim Deppe of Ashland. “And I’m a farmer and a Farm Bureau member.”

Reconciling those views is the difficult goal of the Joint Task Force on Deer Population Control. The group of politicians, hunters, insurance agents and others met several times this year to come up with five proposals displayed during Thursday’s meeting.

  • 1. Make permits for the late winter antlerless-only firearm season available over-the-counter at license vendors. Currently permits are available only through a lottery drawing.
  • 2. Designate two categories of counties for the late-winter season: one in which hunters may purchase one permit, and another in which hunters may purchase multiple permits.
  • 3. Increase length of late-winter season from three days to seven or nine days. The current season begins the first Friday after Jan. 11. The new scenario proposes starting the first Monday after Jan. 7 or the first Saturday after Jan. 5.
  • 4. Implement a firearm antlerless-only season about the third weekend in October.
  • 5. Combine options 3 and 4. The longer January season could be adopted with the caveat that if a county did not make progress toward a goal after a few years, the October firearm season could be implemented.

Those who attended the meeting — a better crowd than the 24 who showed in Peru or the 34 who attended a meeting in Rockford — were encouraged to ask questions and fill out comment sheets.

Comments will be compiled before the task force meets again Oct. 6 at the DNR building in Springfield. Between that meeting and Jan. 1, 2009 the task force will make recommendations to the legislature.

I suspect they will call for implementing the first three options, or maybe options 1, 2 and 5. And that will help reduce doe numbers in some places.

But there’s a larger issue the task force has not effectively addressed. How can you reduce deer herds on land controlled by outfitters, landowners or hunters who won’t shoot does?

At present, the late-winter season is largely ineffective in those situations. The property Klitz talked about near Rushville is surrounded by ground controlled by an outfitter. And according to wildlife program manager John Buhnerkempe, outfitters average one-half of a doe each in the late season.

That’s no great surprise. What hunter will pay $2,000 for a few days of doe hunting (as they will for buck hunts)?

And outfitters are not the only folks to finger for deer population increases. More people are moving into the country, closing their land to hunters and then complaining when deer devour their hostas.

There are also more hunters who target mature bucks only under the misnomer of “quality deer management.” As deer biologist Paul Shelton said, “Simply going out and telling people they can’t shoot a buck unless it is such and such is not deer management.”

Many have wondered why the state doesn’t require hunters to shoot a doe before they can shoot a buck. But biologists say an earn-a-buck system can’t be enforced without check stations — an institution Illinois did away with years ago.

Reestablishing check stations is obviously not going to happen given the DNR’s dire budget woes. So basically, earn-a-buck hunting is not an option right now in Illinois.

Given that, I’m betting the real equalizer is a sixth management option the task force never mentioned.


Talk to landowners in Adams County and they’ll tell you their deer overpopulation problems have largely disappeared following a widespread outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease last summer.

Sadly, it will likely take a similar outbreak of EHD or some other disease to reduce deer herds in those areas where hunters won’t or are not allowed to do the job.

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

I like the earn-a-buck idea. I would also like to see the check stations come back anyway. Our group sure misses taking our deer to town to show them off! A few college kids making extra money checking deer in doesn’t seem so bad.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/07 at 09:50 PM

I’m all for the check station’s ..since they don’t have check station’s here anymore .they are not getting a accurate harvest count.some guy’s don’t know what the honor system is…[buy one tag and kill all the deer they want and never buy the second tag]...............

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/08 at 05:56 AM

I say we go with the earn a buck idea. we dont have to bring back the check stations. Not all hunters are crooks like the DNR seems to think.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/08 at 09:25 AM

I agree that check stations are great and the earn a buck is a good idea.  But I honestly don’t think that any of these options will do a thing.  Earn a buck won’t work unless there are check stations.  With the call in system all you have to do is make a phone call and the state thinks you already shot a doe, then its time for a buck.  If anything, the shut down of check stations has probably increased the number of deer harvested each year.  But obviously hasn’t increased the number of deer checked in.  Like mentioned, hunters are shooting countless number of deer during season but only a couple are getting checked in.  The lack of game wardens these days isn’t helping the cause either. Hunters aren’t as scared as they used to be.  Anyway, I think its all a waste of time and money that the dnr doesn’t have.  The only thing that may fix it would be taking a few years and not allowing bucks being harvested at all or going to a one buck a year law instead of two.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/08 at 12:49 PM

Public land in Illinois is one thing, they have people there to watch all that.  But public land in Illinois is a very small percentage of hunting in this state.  But most of these public state grounds are running thin on working due to layoffs. 

Another thought to get rid of deer is to open up farmers to thin the heard.  I was down in Tennessee for a couple years and they let farm owners shoot deer year around.  I coyote hunted a few farms down there that the land owners told me that every time I hunted I had to take out a couple deer.  We would take them to a locker and donate the meat.  But most of the farmers will shoot hundreds of deer a year and let them lay.  This isn’t the greatest choice in the world, but it does thin the heard.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/08 at 03:55 PM

One twist on earn-a-buck that might be easier for many to support would be to require a doe kill before issuing a second either sex tag.  Yeah, there are a few poachers who lie to skirt the system, but most hunters are honest and will play by the rules.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/08 at 08:17 PM

Earn a buck may work in some counties not all, we rarely see a doe, how is that fair to people like us, maybe the farmers should allow some deer hunters onto their property to kill some does, i would be willing to drive to rushville to harvest as many does as mr.klitz would like, we use the meat year me the herd is heavy in certain areas not all counties in the state.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/08 at 10:01 PM

Earn a buck for a second buck, or reduce it to one antlered deer. Once again its all a moot point unless the distribution discrepancy between places like Banner Marsh vs Trail of tears vs Sugar creek Outfitters vs Mr Smiths 2000 acres with 5 hunters vs Mr Jones 20 acres with 5 hunters vs my 120 acres is addressed. Oh yeah and don’t forget about the northern tiny wood lots and forest preserves. Exactly how big of a hammer will it take to drive home this idea through the DNR’s head?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/08 at 11:56 PM

My point wasn’t impliment earn-a-buck on public land.  What I meant was couldn’t, say, the personnel a the Matthiesen site office who are running the show for the hunt during the gun seasons on the nearby public land (I believe they cover 4 sites) also hand out either sex tags for LaSalle County whenever someone shows up with a doe?  Even if you had to add one employee to do this, it would be a lot cheaper than running a whole separate check station, and I doubt even that would be necessary.  Outside of the first hour or so of the day, I believe these employees have enough extra time to handle this task.  Actually, buck already exists on some of these sites, but is, of course, limited to the public land.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/09 at 06:29 AM

We used to have a 55 acre area to deer hunt that we leased.  We had it for 11 years.  Last year we found out they leased the property to a group that is filming outdoor videos and offered “significantly more money”.  Two big deer were found dead locked together on the property the year before.  We knew the big deer were there.  We saw them a number of times. 

We like to eat deer and would shoot any doe that walked by.  If we got a buck great, but ivory did not drive our hunting.  We have always hunted by the “if it’s brown it’s down” motto. A small buck would get a free pass before a doe.  The farmers in the area would tell us to kill as many deer as we could.  I doubt the video crews are filming hunts of 4-5 guys each shooting a doe or two. 

Wisconsin went to earn a buck in some areas.  There are plenty of people out there willing to shoot does.  In IL it is a problem with access to hunting land.  Wait till we get cwd in the golden triangle.  The dnr is baiting and night shooting deer in our area.  See if that flys with the outfitters in big buck country when the disease shows up.

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

The disease has already been around and will only get worse.  Crab Orchard National Refuge in Marion county had the best deer herd in the whole state 15 years ago and blue tongue cleaned it the whole place out.  Everyone needs to wake up and realize that the outfitters are as bad as blago and that is why are herd is out of balance.  Just think we never had this problem before this big buck craze started.  There are tons of solutions but the big one is until they start limiting out of state permits we are all screwed PERIOD!!!  So keep complaining cause another year is going to go by as are heard gets raped by another goon who is willing to waste several thousand dollars to come here and hunt.  The outfitters are going to get their money while the getting is good and laugh all the way to the bank.  For the state it is a renewable resource without having to invest anything in it.  Why would they want all the does killed??  Wake up guys before it is all to late.  Do u think they would like us all taking a year of without buying any permits and etc.  How much would they loose There!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/09 at 04:48 PM

When cwd was first discovered in this area and the “sharp shooting” started, we were not even included in the January late deer season.  They were shooting deer over bait at night with high powered rifles and we were not allowed the extra season to take antlerless deer.  That has changed now. 

Big D, I lived next to Crab for 8 years (88-96).  There was a very large deer herd on the site at that time. I hunted just south of Crab and we filled lots of tags every year.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/10 at 09:28 AM

Out of staters aren’t always part of the problem. I live in AZ and have 120 acres that I hunt with some guys I grew up with. We always take more does than bucks. My buddy’s dad brings his grandkids there. Getting outfitters to take more does sounds like a big part of the problem.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/10 at 09:39 AM

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