Like most deer hunters in the state, I was hoping for more changes with deer regulations this year. With all the hype of a new director, tons of meetings and even an online deer hunter survey… hopes were high that we’d see something significant. But the recent announcement left a lot of many of us wanting more.
First off, the changes that were announced will do nothing to better manage the deer herd. By the time we see significant changes to regulations we’ll be at least 4 years removed from the EHD outbreak of 2012.
As for what WILL change this year…
Youth season deer permits will roll into the first weekend of the firearm deer season. I’m assuming this won’t upset many people, although I’m not sure why the change was needed. I do wonder how the rules will transfer into the firearm season, though.
During the youth season (typically one of the least crowded weekends in the woods), all youth hunters must be under “immediate control” of a non-hunting supervisor. Does that non-hunting supervision requirement disappear during the busiest hunting weekend of the year?
The other change will see the elimination of the single non-resident (NR) antlerless-only (AO) archery permit. Many outdoor organizations, as well as IDNR law enforcement, had called for this permit to be discontinued due to abuse. It’s a shame that law-abiding hunters will be impacted, but once again the law breakers ruin it for the rest.
That leaves us with the big news… that nothing else will change this season.
I, for one, am glad that the proposal to limit bowhunters across the board, statewide, has been postponed. Let’s hope that idea never comes to fruition. It’s not because I oppose setting individual bag limits. I simply oppose implementing more sweeping, statewide regulations that don’t make sense in most of the counties in IL.
There was never going to be a significant limit imposed. Nobody wants to limit hunters to fewer than 2 bucks statewide. Since archery permits are sold as a combo permit… I assume the lowest limit we could have had would be 2 bucks and 2 does. There’s just not that many bowhunters taking more deer than that.
I know “everyone” knows someone who shot 15 deer last year, but the statistics just don’t back that up. A “2+2” limit may have lowered the harvest a few hundred deer statewide, and there was no guarantee that it would lower it in the right places!
Some counties still have deer populations above the IDNR-mandated goal. Does it make sense to limit the deer harvest at all in those areas? Some counties are WELL below their population goal. A 2+2 limit would have very little impact in those areas.
The bottom line is… we need to quit looking at statewide regulation changes like they’re a one-size-fits-all solution to managing deer populations county by county in IL.
IDNR has always had the opinion that they manage the deer herd through gun permits. Any tweaking can be done by raising or lowering the firearm permit quotas in each county. That may be true to an extent. But we’ve reached population levels in some areas that requires a new thought process with deer management… beyond asking the firearm hunters to shoulder the entire management load.
Moultrie County is a good example. According to 2013 statistics, Moultrie’s deer population has been below the goal for the 2nd straight year. They have never been in the late-winter antlerless season (LWS). Last year, the number of firearm AO permits was cut from 250 down to 200. Most would agree that was a step in the right direction, even though bowhunters were still unlimited in the number of does they could take.
This year IDNR cut out all of the firearm AO permits in Moultrie. That makes sense, with no LWS in the county and a still-dwindling deer herd. But what good does it do to keep cutting one user group (firearm hunters) while you let other users (bowhunters) harvest unlimited numbers of does?
I assume most firearm hunters in Moultrie are being limited to a single permit this year, while bowhunters still enjoy no doe limits. Will we reach a point where a firearm hunters gets refused a permit in the lottery? Probably not, considering we cruise through two permit lotteries before we know what changes are coming for the upcoming season. IDNR makes sure that everyone gets at least one firearm permit every year. But is that helping grow the herd where needed?
The whole system is out of balance, and we need to be thinking about long-term solutions. I know I sound like a broken record sometimes, but when will we actually start to see meaningful changes? The biggest thing we’ve seen was cutting permits that were never sold… and the talk of limiting bowhunters across the state, at harvest levels that most hunters don’t ever surpass.
According to IDNR management data, there are 40 counties that are more than 10% below their population goal. That’s nearly half of the 85 counties being managed by deer vehicle accident numbers. We need to work on meaningful hunter limits across all weapons, at the county level, to get back on track in those areas.
Likewise, 16 counties are still more than 10% over their population goal. We don’t need more regulation changes in those areas aimed at limits. Every county in IL is different, and each one deserves its own management plan… beyond simply limiting firearm permits after the first two permit lotteries.
Director Rosenthal has left the door wide open for changes in 2016, and he’s on the right track with recent ideas about restricting harvest. Let’s hope the extra time will get us a fresh look at management solutions. Next year will be a pivotal year for the deer herd in IL.
On Saturday, August 29th, the Illinois Whitetail Alliance will host the first Illinois Whitetail Forum in Springfield. The forum hopes to bring together representatives of every major outdoor organization in the state to discuss deer issues. It will be open to the public, and will give deer hunters a chance to speak to leadership from these groups. Stay tuned for more information on this upcoming event.