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

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Sportsmen Since 1967

IL: Muskrat hunt, park fees are under debate

Springfield – A lawmaker wants to allow hunters in the state to
have an open season on the lowly muskrat.

There is sizeable opposition – and it’s not coming from muskrat
rights activists.

Opposers to the idea are not fans of the water-loving, dam-busting
rodents. But they say trappers should get the opportunity to take
muskrats before counterparts using firearms.

“If we want to get rid of more muskrats, let’s expand trapping
season,” Karl “Bo” Arnold, president of the Illinois Federation of
Outdoor Resources, said. “Those guys get beat up enough. Let’s give
them an opportunity and extend the muskrat trapping season.”

All the muskrat un-love is expressed in House Bill 0006, a bill
introduced the last week of December by state Rep. John D.
Cavaletto, R-Salem. The proposed law would permit muskrats to be
hunted “at any time by gun.”

HB 0006 would, in fact, permit muskrats to be taken by trap during
an open season set by DNR. But it also “provides that it is lawful
to shoot a .22 caliber rifle into the waters of the state when
taking muskrats.”

“We just feel opening a gun season on muskrats would affect
trappers, and so we are against it, Arnold, of Greenview,
said.

IFOR, a coalition that monitors issues related to the outdoors and
sportsmen in the state, is also taking a hard look at other
legislation currently in play in Springfield. Currently the group
has 35 bills on its list of “alerts” – 20 in the House and 15 in
the Senate.

Among the topics are state park fees, dog enclosures and the
proposed fourth duck hunting zone in Illinois. Outside of those,
many of the bills and proposals involve gun ownership and gun laws,
including concealed-carry laws.

HB 0148, introduced by state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg,
“Permits the county sheriff to issue permits to carry concealed
firearms to persons at least 21 years of age who meet certain
requirements.”

Arnold said the state’s gun owners are facing challenges from top
to bottom.

“We’ve got a governor who is not going to go out of his way to help
the gun lobby,” Arnold said. “We’re also going to get a new mayor
in Chicago, and none of the candidates are known to be
gun-friendly, so we have our work cut out for us.”

On state park fees, Arnold said that hunters and fishermen have
been paying their share for years, so there is some support for a
fee that would apply to birders, hikers and anyone else who visits
a state park.

IFOR’s big question is whether hunters and anglers are going to be
charged twice.

“We’re already paying for a license. If park fees are passed, are
we then going to have to pay for a sticker on top of the license
fee?” he asked. “We would like to have everybody pay
something.”

State Rep. JoAnn Osmond, R-Antioch, introduced a bill in January
that would authorize DNR to charge an annual vehicle admission fee
and a daily access fee. HB 0181 “authorizes (DNR) to charge an
annual vehicle admission fee and daily access fee for entrance to
properties owned, managed, or both by (DNR). Provides that the
annual vehicle admission fee must not exceed $15 for each vehicle
or motorcycle and that the daily access fee may not exceed $10 for
each vehicle or $2.50 for each pedestrian, bicyclist, or
motorcyclist.”

Park users could earn exemptions by providing 500 or more volunteer
hours to state parks. Proceeds from the fees would go to the State
Parks Fund for park operation and maintenance.

Arnold said IFOR does not support HB 0181. He doesn’t expect it to
survive the Legislature.

“It’s a poorly-written bill,” he said. “It does not address a lot
of issues. We support the fee, but not this particular
proposal.”

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