Special bowhunt aimed to protect state park’s plants

Zion, Ill. —  An ongoing effort to protect an Illinois state park’s wildlife habitat and endangered plants from deer will include a special archery deer hunt.

DNR announced earlier this month that it will offer an archery hunting program at Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park in Lake County. 

“The archery deer hunt will assist DNR in managing the deer population at the site and help protect vegetation and habitat in the park and nature preserves,” DNR noted in its announcement.

The hunt program will be initiated in the site’s North Unit between Nov. 1 and Jan. 17, 2016. That portion of the park is roughly 900 acres in size.

“Archery deer hunting at IBSP supports the site’s habitat management efforts and provides another recreational opportunity for Illinois residents,” DNR added.

Illinois Beach State Park stretches more than 6.5 miles along the western shore of Lake Michigan and contains unique dune and swale topography with emergent marshes, sedge meadows, wet-mesic prairies and black oak savannas. The North and South Units of IBSP encompass more than 3,000 acres, and contain two dedicated Illinois Nature Preserves. 

IBSP contains habitats and plant communities unique to Illinois, and supports more than 500 species of plants, including 51 Illinois threatened or endangered species, three federally-threatened species and one federally-endangered species. The site also supports a large variety of wildlife, especially insects and birds. 

Problems with deer at the site date back to as early as 1975, according to records kept by DNR’s Division of Wildlife.  

In 1982, the managers at Illinois Beach commented on the public’s concern that the state park was “harboring deer that move into adjacent neighborhoods and complaints of deer damage to ornamental vegetation from residents adjacent to the park.”

As early as 1993, DNR’s Natural Heritage staff commented that deer numbers were increasing at Illinois Beach and that “some control may be required in the future to protect the park’s ecosystems.”

Park staff continued to receive reports of deer destroying gardens in the neighborhoods bordering the park through the 1990s and into the 2000s. 

“Site staff report seeing  more deer every year at Illinois Beach State Park, and during the winter, it is not uncommon for a staff member to see over 20 deer during one day’s activities,” a 2006 DNR report stated. “The IBSP deer are becoming very tame and do not appear to avoid [or] be wary of humans. There is a safety concern since the deer do not always get off of the entrance and interior park roads to avoid approaching vehicles. Vehicles trying to avoid deer have ended up in roadside ditches, and deer-vehicle collisions have occurred.”

The North Unit is located east of Sheridan Road and north of Shiloh Boulevard. 

Some special notes and rules included by DNR:

• Hunting periods will be filled through a mail-in drawing. Applications are available on the DNR website. 

• Hunters are required to hunt from elevated stands which are a six-foot minimum above ground or ground blinds if the topography allows. Treestands and climbing devices must be portable and must be put up on the first day of the hunt only, but do not have to be removed at the end of each day. 

• All trails are open to hikers during the archery hunting season, therefore stands and gut piles must be a minimum of 75 yards from designated trails. 

• All stands must be tagged with site issued permit number on weatherproof material. 

• Hunting hours will be ½ hour before sunrise until ½ hour after sunset.

• Either sex deer may be harvested according to the deer tags in the hunter’s possession. 

• Harvest data must be reported online and on the report card provided by the site. Harvest report is due no later than Feb. 1.  

• If it is necessary to track a deer onto private property, the hunter must first notify the site office and obtain permission from the landowner. 

• Plastic markers and flagging tape are prohibited. Spectators are not allowed on the area. 

• All regulations found in the Illinois Wildlife Code of 1971, Administrative Rules 510 and 670, and federal regulations apply unless the areas site specific rules are more restrictive.

• Hunters are asked to clean their boots of any vegetation or mud before entering the site.

For more information, call  847-662-4811.

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