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

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Whitetail Alliance suggests restraint

Springfield —  A growing and determined group of hunters in Illinois is borrowing strategy from a national waterfowl organization as part of an attempt to resurrect the state’s slumping deer herd.

Their message: Just because a deer permit is available doesn’t mean it needs to be filled.

“Voluntary Restraint” was a campaign first adopted by Delta Waterfowl in 1989, when it asked duck hunters to focus on shooting drakes in order to let hens re-build the duck population. A quarter-century later, the Illinois Whitetail Alliance announced that it has licensed the use of the “Voluntary Restraint” campaign from Delta, with hopes that hunters will consider taking a new approach to the upcoming deer seasons in wake of recent seasons that featured drastic declines in harvest.

The IWA (www.ilwhitetailalliance.com) was formed earlier this year by a group that said it is concerned about DNR’s approach to deer management. It is now an official organization and recently began accepting memberships. Spurring the group’s most recent move was DNR’s July announcement that, after months of study and deliberations, it was removing 20 additional counties from the late-winter season and reducing the number of firearms permits available in some counties. According to DNR’s plan, the number of either-sex permits is being reduced by 4,925, while antlerless-only permits are being reduced by 6,375.

Members of the IWA were hoping for changes that were much more proactive for the purpose of growing the herd.

“On the heels of the underwhelming announcement from DNR on deer management changes for this season, the fate of local herd management will rely on hunters managing their herd, and deer harvest, on their own,” Kevin Chapman, president of the IWA, noted when announcing the Voluntary Restraint campaign. The term can refer to a lot of things in the deer hunting world these days, Chapman pointed out.

“Restraint from buying more permits than you need.  Restraint from overharvesting does if you think the herd is down in your area.  Restraint from harvesting only bucks in areas that do need the herd reduced,” he explained. “If you want to see bigger bucks, restrain from shooting immature bucks.  If your local herd doesn’t need additional does harvested, restrain from participating in the herd-reduction seasons the DNR offers. Restrain from thinking you need to fill every last permit, just because the DNR sells it to you.”

IWA board members have met with DNR on more than one occasion and have offered ideas and proposals to the state’s deer management plan. IWA’s original 5-point proposal was recently tweaked to reflect input from hunters and the belief that a one-buck limit statewide is not necessary.

“Even though support for a one-buck limit has grown significantly over the last several years, limiting the buck harvest is still a polarizing issue with hunters,” Chapman said, explaining why the limit was pulled from IWA’s proposal.

Other pieces of the IWA proposal include eliminating the current late-winter antlerless-only seasons in counties at or below deer-vehicle accident goals; moving future antlerless-only seasons before the November rut, eliminating all over-the-counter permit sales after Nov. 1; tightening regulations on non-resident hunters; imposing stricter penalties for specific game law violations involving deer; and enacting a minimum five-year moratorium on administrative rule changes for Illinois deer hunting regulations.

Chapman emphasized that IWA’s Voluntary Restraint campaign is just that – voluntary.

“One goal of the IWA is to educate hunters on how the deer herd is being managed,” he said. “Through the Voluntary Restraint campaign, we also hope to let hunters know that they can do their part by becoming more informed on how they can make a difference.”

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