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Guest Blog

Rauner needs to clean house at DNR

Thu, January 15, 2015

Bruce Rauner has taken over the reins of Illinois government and hopefully will bring the kind of change many of the state’s residents have waited too long to see. One of the first things he will do is appoint people to various positions on his staff. Of great interest to Illinois sportsmen will be the appointment of a new DNR director.

I remember very well the appointment of Marc Miller as DNR director by Governor Pat Quinn. I was privileged to be invited to a meeting at DNR headquarters during the first few weeks of Miller’s tenure. Illinois Whitetail Alliance president Kevin Chapman was also present at that meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the late-winter antlerless seasons which IDNR was looking to expand. Those of us representing Illinois deer hunters at that meeting were offering sensible proposals regarding the antlerless season and controlling an expanding deer herd in a way that was more beneficial to the herd while also offering quality recreation opportunities for Illinois deer hunters.

As the meeting wound down one could literally see the anguish on Director Miller’s face. He had no argument to counter any of our proposals and yet he had a team of biologists wanting to go in a totally different direction. He was going to have to make a decision and it was clearly going to be a tough one for him. I left that meeting knowing that this one decision would set the tone for Miller’s entire tenure as leader of IDNR. He would either follow the common sense plan laid before him by his constituents or he would give the ball to his biologist and let them control the game for his entire time as head of IDNR. He chose the latter and under his watch the wheels fell off the bus that is the Illinois deer herd.

To be fair, I honestly believe that Marc Miller is a very decent human being who happened to be in a political position with pressures the rest of us will never fully understand. Like many of us, Director Miller had a boss. To some degree he had to do what his boss told him. While he will long be known as the DNR director who let the deer herd fall apart under his watch, Miller really did nothing more to make that happen than the directors who came right before him. He simply left the management of the state’s deer herd to a team of biologists who proved over and over again that they are in over their heads and totally clueless regarding solid whitetail management on a statewide level as well as in dealing with the public.

When governor Rauner names his new IDNR director that person will also face the same question that Director Miller faced when he took over that position; will he (or she) continue to allow the same team of biologists to manage Illinois deer herd? How that question is answered will likely set the tone for his/her legacy. It will also instantly set the tone for how the public views their new IDNR director.

All one has to do is get on any Website discussion forum where the topic of the management of Illinois deer herd is being discussed and it becomes very clear that the public has lost all trust in the biologists who have been managing the states deer herd for the past 20+ years. Not only are many Illinois deer hunters disgusted with the condition of Illinois deer herd, they are also disgusted with the biologists managing it. To leave any of those individuals in their current positions puts the new director in a precarious position. The public is likely to cut the new director some slack and give him some time to right the ship if he is willing to come in and clean house. Sticking with the same old individuals will make the lights shine brighter and the magnifying glass more intense as every move regarding deer management is closely scrutinized.

Let’s be clear that I am not suggesting anyone be “fired”. Instead a “reassignment of duties” would be in order, but that’s not my call. Leaving even one of the current “whitetail management team” in place would lessen the public’s trust in the new IDNR director and destroy their hope that positive changes are coming. These biologists have had their chance and all they did was turn the best whitetail herd on the planet into a pathetic mess. When a cancer surgeon removes a tumor he doesn’t leave part of it behind. He removes it all.

With my finger firmly on the pulse of Illinois deer hunters I can confidently say that they don’t really care “who” Governor Rauner places in charge of IDNR. Instead they are much more concerned with how that person deals with the whitetail biologists in charge of the states deer herd. How that one question is answered will not only set the tone for how the new director is viewed by Illinois deer hunters but also in how they view Governor Rauner. Many of them voted for “shaking up Springfield”, now they want to see it start with the whitetail biologists working at IDNR.


You may not want to see them fired but i do. If i did my job as poorly as they did i would expect to be fired . Make an example of them . Show everyone incompitance will not be tolerated any longer.

Posted by Mattg on January 15

How about some biologists that hunt and get in the field every once in awhile? Decreasing population of our deer herd in some counties is in danger and needs help. Please listen to the hunters. While yor at it can you use some intelligent decisions instead of just DVA rates to monitor our herd.

Posted by cuttnstrut on January 15

One of the first things IDNR Director Miller did when installed was to gather all Illinois outdoor writers at Rend Lake. Miller requested outdoor writers’ help for passing legislation on a pet project. He stated he’d get a complete set of meeting minutes to all the outdoor writers in attendance. Never happened!I knew then he could not be depended on and was more politically motivated than conservation-minded.

I also interviewed Paul Shelton, at that gathering, on the deer herd. Main question: Why our state was not managed more regionally for deer. He responded with the same old song and dance I’d gotten from him in years past. The kill statistics were never available until July because of his uncaring attitude toward whitetail management. To say he is clueless about managing this resource is an understatement. He has to go!

That was the past, and now is the future. We, as deer hunters and concerned sportsmen, hope that the new director appoints a deputy director who understands what deer management is all about and he/she hires a proactive program manager to this resource…whitetails. Without major changes in the permits system, reduction of non-resident hunters, and additional violation penalties, our herd will only deteriorate farther down the road of mismanagement.

Posted by loveofthehunt on January 15

I’ll never forget just 5 years ago when a DNR wildlife biologist told us we needed to take 30 does off of our property. We took about 2 per year for 3 years. Now there are hardly any. Can’t imagine what it would be like now had we shot those 30 does. I got the feeling from the guy that he just felt like there should be no deer. That’s the vibe I got from him from the get go. I know nothing of his politics but liberal elitists have a certain air about them and he smelled. Hopefully under a Republican administration those types will be put out to pasture.

Posted by yellowstone on January 15

Yellowstone, i think they actually believe that if you have no deer, you have better deer and i saw where qdma believes you actually have MORE deer, if you shoot them all.  Its pretty amazing really.

Posted by clintharvey on January 15

Great article - totally agree.  The Illinois deer herd is a hot mess right now but luckily, being a ‘renwable resource’ it IS recoverable but as has been pointed out very clearly here (and just about everywhere) it’s gonna take some change.  Let’s hope Rauner, and a new IDNR can get the job done.  Unfortunately, the deer herd (and the IDNR) is only one of MANY challenges that need to be addressed here in the People’s Republik of Illinois.  We’re reaping the benefits of disasterous leadership for a lengthy time now.  This guy Rosenthal sounds like he’s got the cred to get it done.  Let’s hope Rauner turns him lose with one mandate.  “Fix it”

Posted by RiverRat on January 16

Maybe there is some change taking place already - Don’t recall seeing any press releases Hyping up the last chance LWS this weekend.

Posted by BIGPOND on January 16

Until they stop taking money from the insurance companies and the farm bureau the deer herd is in trouble.  Special interest groups rule the roost when politics are involved.  We don’t need anyone to be a director.” WHEN” there is a renewable resource it will balance itself with basic laws.  Mother nature will play her part and with the right group in charge permits will be based on deer densities by county not the whole state.  This sight has had enough input and good people with sound improvements that can run the DNR from the deer side anyway!

Posted by muzzyman on January 16

This is very simple. Are the farm bureau and the insurance companies in Rauner’s pocket? If they are nothing happens. If they’re not the solution is simple limit NR permits to 10K either sex permits and no OTC NR permits. Go back to 1 late season hunt and limit the permits. 3-4 years it’ll bounce back.

You can not have the proliferation of Outfitters and pockets of severe overpopulation which promote disease AND have everyone else pushed on to the remaining resource and decimate the herd there, without eventual collapse of the resource.

And that’s what happened. It just needs to be unwound.

Posted by Buckfever on January 18

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