Hunters seemingly have mixed views about deer

Springfield —  Hunters surveyed online and at last June’s public deer meetings tended to contradict themselves when answering questions about the state’s deer herd, summaries of both surveys indicate.

A majority of the 7,000 or so hunters who participated said they thought the deer population in Illinois is too low. But when those same hunters were asked about the deer harvest, 87 percent indicated they “wanted harvest levels to stay the same or to increase.” The same percentage of hunters wanted the proportion of does in the harvest to “remain the same or to increase. “

Oddly, this desire to maintain or increase deer harvest levels contradicts the desire to have a larger deer herd, because bigger harvests would likely have the opposite effect on population size, the survey’s administrators pointed out.

The two surveys featured similar questions and were aimed at both hunters and non-hunters. A third survey, “Stakeholder Attitudes Toward Deer Management and Chronic Wasting Disease in Illinois,” was posted on the DNR website at the same time. However, it was conducted separately by the Illinois Natural History Survey. The INHS study includes more in-depth questions about the deer herd and hunters’ attitudes about the condition of the herd.

DNR’s public deer meetings – labeled as “open houses” – were held in Barry, Carterville, Champaign, Rockford and St. Charles. Hard copy surveys were distributed to attendees. An online survey was posted by DNR so that hunters and non-hunters unable to attend the open houses could participate.

In the online survey, 64 percent of hunters reported harvesting one or more deer during the 2012-13 Illinois deer season, considerably higher than the 42 percent success rate based on actual reported harvest for those seasons. Hunters also reported a higher rate of harvesting multiple deer (51 percent) than occurred in the actual statewide harvest (35 percent).

A finding that may seem suspicious is the fact that 38 percent of hunters surveyed claimed to have harvested one or more trophy bucks (Boone and Crockett or Pope and Young class) during their hunting careers, but a whopping 87 percent of those same hunters indicated they did not enter any of their trophies into the record books.

More believeable, 60 percent of hunters reported harvesting fewer deer and 68 percent reported seeing fewer deer compared to five years ago.
Hunters indicated “disease and the overall health of the deer herd is the most important considerations for DNR when setting goals for the size of the deer population.” As for sex ratios, 61 percent of hunters said they felt current harvest sex ratios to be acceptable, while 31 percent of hunters felt that female deer should make up an even higher percentage of the harvest. A full 57 percent of hunters believed that current harvest levels were acceptable and should remain the same.

Summaries of both surveys can be found at

Categories: Hunting News, Social Media, Whitetail Deer

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