Deer hunters surveyed virtually

Springfield — For hunters who favored multiple choice tests back in their school days, DNR’s ballyhooed online deer survey should be a gentle exercise.

Those hoping to froth opinions about the state’s deer herd essay-style might be disappointed.

The survey, which is available on the DNR website, follows a series of public meetings held around the state earlier this month. It is designed to solicit opinions and observations of deer hunters who were not on hand for the meetings, where similar surveys were filled out.

DNR has said it will use the input from hunters to shape its deer management program in the coming years.

In the survey, hunters are asked a number of question and are given a handful of answer options. Among the questions asked:

  • Please describe the quality of deer in the county where you hunted deer most often during 2012-13.
  • If you hunted deer last year, how does the number of deer you harvested during the 2012-13 season(s) compare to five years ago.
  • How does the number of deer you saw where you hunted during the 2012-13 season(s) compare to five years ago?
  • If you stated that the deer population where you hunt has decreased over the past five years, in your opinion which of the reasons below have led to the decrease?
  • If you stated that the deer population where you hunt has decreased over the past five years, in your opinion which of the reasons below have led to the decrease?

Along with the survey, the DNR site also includes the informational posters – they feature statistics and data on the deer herd, deer diseases, deer harvests and deer hunter opinion – that were available at the public meetings.

As for the meetings, DNR is still compiling information it gathered during stops in Rockford, St. Charles, Champaign, Carterville and Pike County.

“It’s been highly variable,” Paul Shelton, DNR’s forest wildlife program manager, said following the Carterville meeting. “We had some real interesting discussions in the northern part of the state. Needless to say the bigger concern is dealing with issues relating to chronic wasting disease, how well we’re doing. It tends to be less of a concern down here.”

Shelton noted that the meetings were different from those held in 2008 to discuss changes in seasons and the deer task force that was commissioned by the General Assembly.

“Here we’re trying to provide a wide variety of information about what we’ve been observing,” he said. “The status of our herd, with our harvest, with diseases, just provide the hunters with more or less a good status report. We have enough staff here that we can have one-on-one interaction, just anything that concerns them.”

Shelton pointed out that reaction was mixed. Hunters had varying opinions, depending on what part of the state they live and hunt in.

“I just want to come and see what we had and what they had to say about the deer management because over the years I haven’t really seen it managed a whole lot,” Rod Bennett, of Benton, said during the Carterville meeting. “They don’t want to spend any money. They don’t want to do anything. They don’t know how many deer we’ve got.”

DNR officials said concerns have varied greatly depending on what region of the state they visit.

Les Winkeler contributed to this report.

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