Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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State deer task force debating five options

Sparta, Ill. – Deer hunters turned out by the dozens to hear and
be heard. What they found instead was a well-organized presentation
and a chance to quietly chat with state wildlife officials about
the deer herd.

Public meetings held around the state this month drew varied
crowds, from just 24 in Peru on Sept. 2, to 72 in Rushville on
Sept. 4, to 181 in Olney on Sept. 9.

“Most everyone has been relieved with the format we chose,” John
Buhnerkempe, wildlife program manager for DNR, said during the
Sept. 10 Sparta meeting – the second to last meeting in the series.
“It allows people to come in, mingle and take in the information we
put together.”

The state’s Joint Task Force on Deer Population Control – a
group of politicians, hunters, insurance agents and other residents
charged with finding a way to manage the state’s deer herd –
scheduled the gatherings to offer proposals on how to manage deer.
The proposals – five in all – were explained on posters set up
around the meeting room.

Among the DNR wildlife staff on hand to answer questions were
Buhnerkempe, Paul Shelton, forest program manager; Tom Micetech,
deer program manager; and Mike Conlin, director of the Office of
Resource Conservation.

The five proposals are:

1.) Make permits for the late winter antlerless-only firearm
season available over-the-counter at license vendors;

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;

4.) Implement a firearm antlerless-only season about the third
weekend in October; and

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.

Hunters who attended the meetings were invited to fill out
comment sheets. Those comments, along with comments made online,
are being collected and will be reviewed by the task force when it
meets again on Oct. 6 in Springfield.

Task force members then have until Jan. 1, 2009, to make
recommendations to the state Legislature.

Hunters who attended the meetings seemed curious about the
absence of a so-called “earn-a-buck” option, which would require
hunters to shoot a doe before they can shoot a buck. But the state
has said such a system would be unenforceable without deer check
stations. The current deer check system does not include check
stations, except in counties where chronic wasting disease has been
confirmed.

The task force and DNR are putting more of a focus on how to
manage the herd on a county-by-county basis, because of the
distribution variance of the state’s deer herd.

Included in the task force presentation were maps that rank
counties rates of deer-vehicle accidents.

Nancy Erickson, Illinois Farm Bureau director of natural and
environmental resources, pointed out that under one of the task
force options, counties with the highest number of accidents per
billion of miles driven could receive more special antlerless-only
permits than those with a lower ratio.

DNR officials said insurance companies have no say in how the
state’s deer are managed.

Some hunters at the Sparta meeting blamed outfitters for the
unbalanced deer herd – along with the notion that a large
percentage of hunters are passing on does to wait for trophy bucks.
Other hunters were more concerned about access.

“You have growing hunters and shrinking amount of public land,”
task force member and bowhunter Jerry Beverlin said.

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