Illinois’ new bobcat season is still facing possible attacks as we’re just months away from a possible first season in decades. In the meantime, IDNR staff is still working out how to implement the season that was signed into law last year.
The bobcat season has been worked on for a while. The Illinois Trappers Association (ITA) has been the driving force behind it for several years. It came close to passing in 2014 when it passed the IL House by a 91-20 vote… and the IL Senate by a 30-19 vote, only to be vetoed by Governor Pat Quinn. House Bill 352 passed in 2015 and was signed in to law last July by Governor Rauner. After nine months of being law, we still have lawmakers trying to dismantle it… and we face a lot of unknowns how IDNR will regulate it.
Senate Bill 2143 was filed by Senator Don Harmon (D) from Oak Park, IL during last year’s session. The original language was written to prohibit the sale of bobcat pelts in IL. Instead of the normal route through the Agriculture Committee, like most hunting regulations, this bill was assigned to the Commerce & Economic Development Committee.
One day before this bill was to be heard in committee on March 3rd of this year, it was amended to exclude trapping as a means to take bobcats during the new season. More backdoor politics by Springfield’s finest, trying to sneak in a last-minute amendment to avoid opposition to their attacks.
Luckily, the bill was not heard in committee on March 3rd, and was due to be called again on March 10th. Another amendment was filed to clean up language on the trapping exclusion the day before the committee meeting. By now, ITA had become aware of the amendments and was able to mount opposition to the bill (although the anti-hunters had more support on witness slips). Senator Harmon held the bill again without calling it for a committee vote, so it’s anyone’s guess as to what will be tried next.
I’m not a trapper, but I support trapping 110%. ITA has always had a strong presence in IL, and they always have went to bat on issues impacting their pastime. In addition, they’ve been a strong advocate for hunter rights when deer hunting issues come up in IL. Excluding trappers from the bobcat season is just plain wrong. If it weren’t for the work of ITA, there would be no bobcat season in IL. We all owe them our support on this one.
Which leads me to my next point… how the season and permits will be implemented.
In the proposed administrative rule, nearly 25% of the state will be excluded from the season. While that may disappoint some, the bobcat population in this area just isn’t there. Since the permits will be so limited anyway, why would you want to have possibly 25% of the permits given to hunters in areas where there are no bobcats?
Speaking of the permit allocation, the only thing proposed for the sale of permits is that they would be available online at 8:00 am on the first Tuesday in October. No word if there will be a lottery draw. I assume from the wording that it will be first come-first served. Last I heard, only 500 permits would be made available.
What precautions are being taken to prevent anti-hunters from gobbling up available permits? How are we making sure they get in the hands of hunters/trappers in areas that hold bobcats? Why no allocation by county, like deer permits, to get them to counties that hold the highest populations? With permits being so limited, what are we doing to make sure everyone has a fair shot at a permit? Is something in place to keep someone from drawing permits 2 years in a row, while others are left out?
Think about it… if only 500 permits are available statewide every year, your odds of ever getting a permit are slim. With about 270,000 deer hunters in the woods… if they all applied for a permit, it would take about 540 years to get them all a permit! Unfortunately, the very people who fought to get this season implemented, the trappers, probably face the worst odds of ever getting a permit.
If you’re lucky enough to draw a permit, hopefully IDNR law enforcement won’t enforce the law that’s currently in effect that makes it illegal to shoot a furbearer with the aid of the “tree-climbing device.” In the past, treestands were considered tree climbing devices. Under past IDNR administration, we were forced to change the statute just to get this changed to legally shoot coyotes from a treestand.
I know this is a pipe dream, but why can’t we have a system that puts the permits in areas/counties that need them… keeps them out of the hands of anti-hunters… and provides a method of allocation that makes sure everyone has an equal chance at a true once-in-a-lifetime permit?
Stay tuned for updates on how you can help support the trappers, and make your voice heard on SB 2143. The next time the bill is scheduled to be heard in committee, you can file a witness slip to voice your opposition. You can do it online. It’s quick and easy, and we need to make sure legislators hear us.