Pheasant hunt budget cut?

March 16, 2008 at 09:42 PM

The future of put-and-take pheasant hunting on Illinois state property is in doubt under Gov. Blagojevich’s proposed budget.

Blagojevich has halting the state pheasant propagation program as a cost-saving measure. The problem with that move, though, is that hunters who pursue pen-raised birds on state land pay for a substantial portion of the cost of raising pheasants in the form of $15 permits.

The governor’s office has said, however, that it is willing to work with the General Assembly to keep the controlled pheasant-hunting program operating. What that likely means is that we can look for an increase in the cost of permits from $15 to $25 or even $30 for the upcoming hunting season.

Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times has a column today calling the proposed cut “another half-cocked idea from the Blagojevich administration.”

Writes Bowman:

At Illinois public sites, it’s $15 for a permit that gives the hunter the privilege of shooting two birds, cocks or hens. That’s grossly undervalued. Hunt clubs in the Chicago area charge $15 to $20 per pheasant as a base figure. The IDNR is subsidizing those hunters in the put-and-take programs.

And private farms do better raising pheasants for put-and-take—the type of hunting where pen-raised pheasants are strategically planted in fields and woods before hunters and their dogs begin their pursuit—than do state farms.

There’s good reason to question the economics of the current public put-and-take pheasant hunting, known as controlled pheasant hunting, in Illinois.

However, this budget directive, as one of the state’s conservation leaders, put it, ‘‘is tantamount to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.’‘

Not everyone in the news media shares Bowman’s opinion. Kristin McQueary of the Southtown Star had a story on the same subject that started:

Would it pain you to know the state of Illinois spends more than $1 million a year to raise pheasants?

If I was a teacher dipping into my own pocket for classroom supplies, I might be offended.

If I was a health care provider waiting 90 days for the state to reimburse my Medicaid costs, I might be offended.

If I was a sick veteran waiting for a bed to open, I might be offended.

After all, in times of barrel scraping, it is difficult to justifythe state-sponsored practice of inseminating pheasants, hatching chicks, growing them to maturity and releasing them for the sole purpose of allowing hunters to shoot them down.

McQueary goes on to note that Illinois spends $1.3 million per year to raise about 75,000 pheasants. She notes the state is in a tough financial situation. Nowhere does she mention the fact hunters pay to hunt these pheasants, though she does conclude:

If the hunting community is willing to pay more for the privilege of enjoying their sport in a controlled, state-sponsored setting, it might make for a worthwhile compromise. After all, the state subsidizes many sports, including baseball and football, through stadium construction, tax breaks and such, and tax dollars subsidize honey bee production and fisheries, to name a few.

The sad reality of pheasant hunting in Illinois is that chasing pen-raised birds is the only opportunity for many bird hunters. Eliminating the controlled pheasant hunting program would deny opportunity to thousands of hunters who are already footing a substantial portion of the program.

The good news in all this is that compromise looks possible. Also, the state pheasant propagation sites are moving forward to prepare to raise birds this spring.

Just to make sure the program remains, though, here’s a list of town hall meetings set up across the state to allow citizens to provide input on budget issues.

  • Northwest Suburbs: 3/17/2008 at 6:30pm State Reps. Crespo, Froehlich (Hosts) Prairie Center for the Arts, Theatre 201 Schaumburg Ct. Schaumburg, IL
  • Tazewell County: 3/17/2008 at 6:00pm State Rep. Smith (Host) The Festival Building 2200 E. Washington East Peoria, IL
  • Champaign: 3/18/2008 at 6:00pm State Rep. Jakobsson (Host) Parkland College 2400 West Bradley Avenue Room D244 Champaign, IL
  • Aurora: 3/18/2008 at 6:00pm State Rep. Chapa LaVia (Host) Copley Theater 8 E. Galena Blvd. Aurora, IL
  • McHenry County: 3/19/2008 at 6:30pm State Rep. Franks (Host) McHenry College Conference Center 8900 US Highway 14 Crystal Lake, IL
  • Cicero: 3/19/08 at 6:00pm State Rep. Hernandez (Host) Morton College, Building A Jedlicka Performing Arts Center 3801 South Central Ave. Cicero, IL
  • Joliet: 03/20/08 at 6:00pm State Rep. McGuire (Host) Joliet Township High School West Campus 401 North Larkin Joliet, IL
  • Rock Island: 03/24/08 at 6:00pm State Reps. Boland, Verschoore (Hosts) County Building 3rd Floor, County Board Room 1504 3rd Avenue Rock Island, IL
  • North Suburbs: 03/24/08 at 3:00pm State Reps. Nekritz, May, Ryg, Hamos, Washington (Hosts) Northbrook Village Hall City Council Chambers 1225 Cedar Lane Northbrook, IL
  • Kankakee: 03/24/08 at 6:00pm State Reps. Dugan, Gordon (Hosts) Kankakee Community College-Auditorium 100 College Dr. Kankakee, IL
  • South Suburbs: 03/25/08 at 6:00pm State Reps. Miller, W. Davis, Riley, Scully (Host) South Suburban College Kindig Performing Arts Auditorium 15800 State St. South Holland, IL
  • Chicago: South: 03/25/08 at 5:30pm State Rep. Golar, Howard, M. Davis, Dunkin, Colvin, Jefferies, Flowers, Patterson, Rita (Hosts) Kennedy-King College Theatre 6301 S. Halsted St. Chicago, IL 60621
  • Rockford: 03/25/08 at 6:00pm State Rep. Jefferson (Hosts) Zeke Giorgi Building-Auditorium 200 S. Wyman Rockford, IL
  • Chicago: West: 03/26/08 at 6:00pm State Representatives Arroyo, Graham, Yarbrough, Ford, Turner, Collins, Soto, Mendoza (Hosts) Bethel New Life Auditorium 1150 N. Lamon St. Chicago, IL
  • Metro East: 03/26/08 at 6:00pm State Reps. Beiser, Hannig, Holbrook, Reitz, Younge (Hosts) Belleville West High School Commons Area 4063 Frank Scott Parkway Belleville, IL
  • Chicago: North 03/27/08 at 6:00pm State Reps. D’Amico, Lang, Lyons, Feigenholtz, Fritchey, Harris, R. Bradley (Hosts) Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center - Olson Auditorium 836 W. Wellington Ave. Chicago, IL
  • Chicago: Southwest 03/27/08 at 6:00pm State Reps. Brosnahan, Burke, Joyce, McCarthy, Molaro (Hosts) Oak View Community Center 4625 W. 110th St. Oak Lawn, IL