Confession: I covet our neighbor’s deer management process

Last week, I wrote about a Wisconsin County Deer Advisory Council meeting that I planned on attending. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the meeting agenda interested me enough that I decided to check it out, even though I don’t live or hunt in Wisconsin. By the end of the night, I was glad that I attended and was left wishing that Illinois would implement something similar.

The CDAC board is comprised of a group of constituents, none of which are politicians or high-profile business persons, who have been tasked with representing the interests of various public municipalities of Wisconsin stakeholders. There were also three representatives from the Wisconsin DNR in attendance with the purpose of providing information, mostly regarding the 2016 hunting seasons, permit data, as well as reviewing the goals from the previous year. Essentially, they acted as liaisons — a cooperation between the CDAC board representing public entities, and the WDNR.

Throughout the month of March, there is a CDAC assembly in almost every county in Wisconsin. Each county has its own CDAC panel that is responsible for making recommendations involving county-specific goals for the upcoming hunting seasons. The proposal topics included permit quotas, harvest goals, and to explore possible changes or additions for the 2017 deer season.

The March meetings are preliminary. The advocated recommendations are given to the WDNR and posted for a 10-day period for the public to view and make comments. CDAC then holds a final meeting to review and consider the input. They may vote upon possible modifications to their preliminary recommendations, if they feel that the suggestions would be beneficial.

The final quota proposal to the WDNR occurs in May. Ultimately, the WDNR has the final say, but they take the CDAC board’s recommendations very seriously, and more often than not, approve them.

What I like most about CDAC is that assessments and recommendations are determined according to each individual county’s specific deer season goals. For instance, CDAC boards, in cooperation with the DNR, have instituted a “buck only” harvest, and a limited one at that, due to the severe impact wolves, and even bears have had on the deer population.

Unlike Wisconsin, Illinois has unlimited doe permits statewide. Public input is an absolute and positive joke. Sure, surveys are sent and posted. But what changes have been implemented? Nothing major enough to have an impact, that’s for sure. Adding insult to injury, there has been a near complete lack of transparency throughout the course of several administrations.

Couldn’t Illinois benefit from something like CDAC? One that’s not comprised of big wigs speaking for the government or giant corporations? One in which the DNR makes an honest attempt to include hunters in the goal-setting and decision-making process, especially given the fact that hunters pour millions of dollars into the economy every year? One in which the DNR happily and dignifiedly accepts proposals from those who have been tasked to represent the public sectors, and actually takes them under advisement?

Frankly, I think yes, this would undoubtedly be an asset. Because in my opinion, hunters in Illinois deserve nothing less.

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