Hunters put deer on stage

Rockford, Ill. — Calm and clear  with a few storm clouds. As forecasted, DNR’s public deer meetings held around the state earlier this month informed, engaged and – in a few cases enraged – hunters and residents who attended.

But in general, DNR was lauded for the information it provided on the state’s deer. And hunters, even those who admitted being upset about the state’s deer management, seemed to appreciate the dialogue.

“I thought it was similar to the tour they did back when the Task Force was around, in that the DNR guys stood there and answered questions,” said Roy Allen, who attended opening night of the meetings June 3 in Rockford.

“There were answers I didn’t necessarily like, but I got answers.”

DNR biologists and staff set up a large room with placards on easels that provided facts and figures about the state’s deer herd, including statistics relating to deer-vehicle accidents, one reference tool used to monitor the size of the deer herd. Information and updates on chronic wasting disease was also posted.

‘‘As much as anything, we are here to listen to hunters and other constituents,’’ John Buhnerkempe, chief of the DNR wildlife division, said. Paul Shelton and Tom Micetich, DNR’s top two point men on the deer herd, were also on hand and, as expected, grilled on the numbers and on the herd.

Because of ongoing consternation over sharpshooting programs aimed at monitoring and controlling CWD in northern Illinois, the Rockford meeting had the most potential for fireworks. Only a couple of outbursts were reported.

Dave Wiehle, who has publicly challenged DNR on is sharpshooting efforts in Ogle County, said the meeting was well-organized but left unsatisfied with lack of clarity on the sharpshooting issue.

“I don’t expect hunters from other parts of the state to understand my frustration, and the frustration of others I know, but if sharpshooters ever show up downstate, then hunters there will no exactly why we are upset,” Wiehle said.

The public came and went over the three-hour open houses, so putting an exact number on attendance during the five-city series of meetings was difficult, DNR officials said. However, people who showed up were asked to fill out surveys that will be entered into a database. Once the surveys are tabulated, an attendance figure will be more clear.

At the St. Charles open house the following night, the crowd was described as calm and polite. Similar meetings were scheduled for June 5 in Champaign, June 6 in Carterville and June 11 in Pike County. For those who couldn’t attend one of the meetings, DNR has placed the deer survey online. And the agency will post materials presented at the meetings on the website.

DNR Director Marc Miller commissioned the series of public deer meetings earlier this year, citing the need for hunters, landowners and anyone with an interest in the state’s deer to “have their say” about the future of the state’s deer herd.

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