Springfield – Rachel Miller got a child-support check for
several thousands of dollars last fall.
The check suddenly appeared because the father of her two sons
likes to hunt deer.
Illinois had refused to renew his hunting license as part of a
new program that gives deadbeat dads an ultimatum: pay up now or
give up your right to hunt and fish.
Under the new state program, people who apply for a hunting or
fishing license through a sporting goods store or other designated
vendor will be denied if they are flagged as delinquent in child
support. Their names pop up if they match on a cross-reference of
lists maintained by DNR and the Department of Healthcare and Family
In the six months the program has been in effect, the state has
collected nearly $130,000 from 90 parents who each owed at least
$1,000 in child support and needed to make good to be allowed to
fish or hunt. Another 88 parents decided to forego the licenses
rather than pay their child support tabs. Collections are expected
to grow even more rapidly after Illinois residents swarm to renew
licenses as the state’s fishing season starts to pick up.
Illinois is trying to duplicate the success of other states,
where people have shelled out enormous sums to preserve their right
to hunt. In Maine, one hunter paid $30,000 in back child support
after being selected in an annual lottery for one of only 3,000
coveted licenses to hunt that state’s majestic moose.
For Michael DeBrito, Miller’s ex-boyfriend, the incentive was
deer, not moose. He hadn’t made a child-support payment for his
teenage sons, Anthony and Michael, since 2005, according to court
documents and state officials.
Miller had about given up hope.
Then DeBrito sought to renew his hunting license last year.
For the first time in the 22 years he has been hunting
white-tail deer, DeBrito said, he was denied.
Instead, he was given a phone number.
“It showed an error, and when I called the number, they said
(the license) was not being issued because of back child support,”
The experience has led Miller to believe holding licenses in
limbo until delinquent parents pay up is good practice. DeBrito,
who lives in Geneva, feels otherwise.
“I don’t agree with a lot of things they did with fishing and
hunting licenses,” DeBrito said.
Not everyone – including several statewide hunting organizations
– sees it the same way.
“We think the program is good if the intent is to collect child
support due to dependent minors,” said Jered Shofner, president of
United Bowhunters of Illinois. “If that’s what they have to do to
track them down, it’s a good thing.”