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Guest Blog

The Illinois whitetail disaster

Tue, December 31, 2013

higgins n bucks


I am blessed to have watched the whitetail herd in my part of Illinois rise from nothing to become the greatest whitetail herd on planet earth. As a kid running the creeks and woods of east-central Illinois we basically had no deer whatsoever. Seeing a deer track was newsworthy and announcing such a discovery was more likely to bring ridicule than belief. Then, slowly at first, the deer started to appear. When I shot my first buck back in 1979 I only knew of three men who had taken a deer and two of those were harvested down in southern Illinois.

Back in the early days Illinois was blessed with a couple of cutting edge whitetail biologist who were ahead of their time in their approach to state-wide whitetail management. Forest Loomis and Jack Calhoun micro-managed Illinois growing deer herd county by county utilizing county check stations manned by college students and started a new management approach that other states would soon adopt; either-sex hunting. Up to this point, states that allowed deer hunting managed their seasons by larger zones or even state-wide and only allowed bucks to be harvested. Loomis and Calhoun put Illinois on the fast-track to whitetail stardom with their hands-on approach to managing Illinois most precious natural resource. These pioneer biologist deserve way more credit and recognition than they have been afforded.

Soon whitetails were at huntable populations in every Illinois county. Not only that but with the management approach of these cutting edge biologists, the state enjoyed a whitetail herd with great age structure and proper sex ratios. By the mid-1980s Illinois was home to a whitetail herd that would please any deer hunter. Monster bucks were present in suitable numbers in every county for those seeking the challenge while a growing population meant plenty of opportunities for the meat hunter as well. Illinois became the destination of choice for whitetail addicts from across the globe.

Then disaster hit. No, it didn’t hit with the force of a tornado that was obvious and clear to see. In fact many didn’t even realize anything happened. But it did. And it was bad. Loomis and Calhoun retired and some time following a new whitetail biologist was hired. Paul Shelton was a waterfowl biologist from Tennessee when IDNR director Brent Manning hired him to come to Illinois and oversee the greatest whitetail herd on earth. Shelton was noted for his “computer models for waterfowl management” and apparently the idea was that he could bring this experience to Illinois and use it on our beloved whitetail herd. The problem is that whitetails are not waterfowl and in the past 20 years Paul Shelton has yet to figure that out.

Today the Illinois deer herd is in serious trouble and Illinois deer hunters are finally seeing it. Most are blaming two straight years of massive deer die-offs from EHD as the culprit. They are only partially right. Today’s deer herd disaster is the result of 2 years of EHD and 20 years of bad management. The quality of Illinois deer herd has been slowly trending downward for some time but the casual deer hunter didn’t see it and most wouldn’t even acknowledge the possibility … until this year.

With a firearms season harvest that was down 25% statewide and archery harvest figures likely to mirror those of the gun seasons, eyes have been opened and voices raised. The thing is, most of those who are finally upset have no idea how bad things really are. The “harvest” may be down roughly 25% since last year but the “herd” is really down more like 70% in some areas. On top of that, if you compare this year’s firearms harvest to that of 2005, it is actually down 40%. If you think the deer hunting was off this year, mark my words, the worst is yet to come.

IDNR biologist Paul Shelton and his cohorts John Buhnerkempe and Tom Micetich are in over their heads and yet have never worked under a DNR director with the guts, motivation, desire or wisdom to rein them in and get them on track. Current director Marc Miller seems to be no different. Team Shelton has destroyed the great deer herd nurtured to life by Loomis and Calhoun, yet I am not sure if that fact is as sad as having a string of IDNR directors without the concern for Illinois deer herd to insist that the management of our deer herd get back on track. I find it frustrating and more than a bit odd that Illinois fish biologists do an awesome job of managing Illinois waters for quality fishing with well-designed regulations such as creel limits and size limits, yet our whitetail biologist manage our deer herd like high-school drop-outs using $1.99 Wal-Mart calculators.

I personally was at a meeting in Decatur a few years back where John Buhnerkempe was telling a group of hunters about the approach they take to manage Illinois deer herd. Buhnerkempe said that they simply look at the herd numbers at the beginning of the season and set a goal of how many of those deer they want to be killed by the end of the hunting season. He went on to explain that they don’t care how those deer are killed or which ones are killed, they just want to get the herd down to a specific number. I’m serious folks, that is Illinois’ whitetail management approach in a nutshell. No regard at all is given to setting regulations that will improve sex-ratios or age structure. Nope, just go out and kill X number of deer. What’s worse is they can’t even do this right as evidenced by this year’s dramatic drop in harvest. They are so slow to react to changes within the deer herd that calling them “reactive” rather than “proactive” is too kind. It takes them years to even address a problem and never really admit that there was a problem to begin with. Again, mark my words, we haven’t seen the worst yet.

This leaves us with the obvious question of “where do we go from here?” Personally I hold out almost no hope that we will ever again see a deer herd of the quality that we once had. I have heard a couple of older hunters note that we still have more deer today than we did in the early 1970s so we can turn things around and have a good deer herd again in a few years. Let me give you three reasons why this won’t happen.

First and foremost we had Loomis and Calhoun in charge in the early 1970s whereas today we have Shelton, Buhnerkempe and Micetich. The former were clearly cutting edge pioneers whereas I have seen absolutely nothing from the latter to hint that they even care about the resource that they are in charge of managing. On top of this IDNR director Marc Miller has shown me nothing to indicate that he will step in and insist that the ship be righted. Strike one.

Secondly we have a lot more deer hunters today than we had during the 1970s. I would venture to guess that we probably have 4 or 5 times as many deer hunters now as compared to then. That represents a lot more pressure on a resource that now needs to be expanded rather than simply maintained at current levels. On top of that we now have a younger generation of deer hunters who do not remember the days when we had so few deer that a hunter would typically go years between deer harvests. Most of today’s deer hunters have always hunted during a period when they could easily kill multiple deer each and every year. It won’t be easy, and will likely be impossible, to get this group to accept a more limited role as true conservationists. Strike two.

Finally, Illinois politics will never allow for the proper management of our whitetail deer herd. Besides the fact that hunters themselves cannot agree on what is best for the herd, we also have to throw in the wishes of groups like insurance companies who want all the deer gone and are willing to fork over the bucks (pun intended) to see that their opinion carries plenty of weight with politicians who make key decisions regarding the management of our deer herd. Let’s face it, IDNR director Marc Miller is simply in his position because he was appointed to be there by Governor Quinn. It is no secret that Illinois politics is a dirty business and Marc Miller is really nothing more than a puppet whose strings are being pulled by someone else. Strike three.

In a perfect world the management of big game herds is left to qualified professionals. That is what created the Illinois deer herd that was truly the best deer herd on the planet. Loomis and Calhoun loved what they were doing and did so without politics tying their hands. The Shelton gang has clearly demonstrated that not only do they not know what they are doing with regards to deer management; they also don’t seem to care. Illinois politics is simply the final nail in the coffin.

Loomis and Calhoun left us the greatest whitetail herd of any state in the nation as their legacy. Now it’s Shelton and Millers turn to leave theirs. Just as decades later I remember and reminisce about Loomis and Calhoun, so too will others someday do the same with Shelton and Miller. Shelton created this disaster and this is clearly his legacy. IDNR director Marc Miller didn’t create this mess but he clearly came on board in time to turn it around. He didn’t. Instead he went along with status-quo and the wheels came completely off the bus under his watch. Shelton won’t do anything to right the ship, I am certain of this. From what I have seen from Miller, I don’t really expect him to do anything significant enough to make a real difference either. Mark my words, we haven’t seen the worst. I just hope that 30 or 40 years from now someone remembers the names Shelton, Micetich and Buhnerkempe as the ones who destroyed the world’s greatest whitetail deer herd just as clearly as I remember Loomis and Calhoun as the ones who created it.

Don Higgins is a freelance outdoor writer from Shelby County, Illinois and has had articles published in most major hunting magazines. He has also written two books on hunting whitetails and owns Higgins Outdoors Inc., a multi-faceted company specializing in wildlife habitat improvement projects. He can be reached through his website –


Well said Don but we all know it was just to cold this year for the deer to move. That’s why the harvest was down so much!! wink

Posted by Mike Howie on December 31

DON Higgins is so smart i would think he had to be a teacher at mit or something.  NOthing to add to this, its simply the perfect description of where we stand and i agree, nothing will change what is going to happen to this deer herd.

Posted by clintharvey on December 31

Well said mister Higgins well said I remember the days also when just seeing a deer track was big news the last two years remind me of hunting back in the early 80’s

Posted by herman on December 31

Perfectly stated, Mr. Higgins.  Everyone who gives a damn about Illinois’ Whitetails needs to read and share this article.  Sharing on Facebook now.

Posted by Treehugger on December 31

So, so true!  Nothing compared to the late 80’s early 90’s, man I wish I could see the herd of those years again!  I wish we could get check stations back, and none of this buy your tags over the counter!

Posted by whitetailkrazy on December 31

Great read.  Well thought out and well written.  I just wish it was fiction rather than nonfiction.

Posted by goodsoil on December 31

Does anyone have emails for Shelton, Buhnerkempe and Micetich?

Posted by sirrobinhood on December 31

Don, Perfect and well said.  I have long read your books and articles in North American Whitetail.  I grew up in Virginia just two blocks from Jack.  Ran around with his son.  I spent many great hours learning about whitetails from Jack.  Even got to go with him on some relocation projects and we would ride around with him on spot light observations and collect data.  He and Frosty were top notch biologists and men.  I consider myself blessed to have known Jack.  He is responsible for my passion for the study and hunting whitetail. Some of my favorite study was Frosty’s work.  Wish we had them back to say the least.  I moved to Mo. in 1993, but still come home to hunt.  Sad to say the very least what is happening to the herd in Illinois.  That said our kill in Mo. is down some 25% overall this year.  I do believe however our MDC will be far more proactive.  I have worked with our biologists and regulation committee for the last three years ..I think they do feel they need to do more to protect does for the next few years.  God forbid if we have yet another hot dry summer.  I saw on this site a Ill. biologist state that HD seldom effects population in a county let alone the state.  He has his head in the sand so deep he must be blind to any reasonable thinking.  Thanks for your comments.  Hope with your reputation as one of the “good guys in the industry” that many in Illinois will get on the cause and scream at IDNR until they are heard.

Posted by trails end on December 31

Don Higgins, You my friend nailed it BIGTIME!!!!Awesome read….Cant wait for tim to read this:)

Posted by WhitetailFreak on December 31

Maybe we should flood their feedback page:

Posted by sirrobinhood on December 31

Those glory days must be great.  I wish professional football still had Halas and Lombardi.  Those guys made football, so I am told.  Back when it was real.  Now we have instant replay, coach’s challenges, fantasy football, special rules about hitting a QB, no sudden death overtime.  Why?  Because someone always thinks they know better than the previous guy.  Oh and TV MONEY.

Hunting certainly has changed lately and so have perspectives.  My nephew is going squirrel hunting soon and one guy in the group is going to film it.  Times have changed.  Now some deer farmers grow crops just for late season kill plots in order to film it for TV.  For those that may not know, I am against trophy management being mandated by the state.  You still are free to do it on your property.  Deer are not Illinois most precious resource.  In my opinion it has to be the soil.  Deer may be considered the most precious resource to some who choose to exploit the animal.  Whether it be outfitting, seeds, management theory, I am fine with your attempts to make a buck on a big buck.  I just don’t think the state should be your enforcer and the farmers and land owners get dismissed.

—I think I read that someone mentioned Calhoun didn’t believe in trophy management.  My memory of the media source is spotty.  I think it was a guy named Tim that stated it somewhere in regards to Calhoun.  It may have been said on another site or newspaper story.

Happy New Year.

Posted by virtualSniper on December 31

VS, your comments here again like always are way off base.  NOthing from higgins article here has anything to do with trophy hunting.

Posted by clintharvey on December 31

i think wildlife biologist have a strong case of the stupids.  Here is a different biologist here on the news today.—238304241.html

Posted by clintharvey on January 01

Yea Virtual, Clint is right, Don’s not a trophy hunter….pay no attention to that wall of tiny bucks in his photo!  smile

Posted by jpphish on January 01

Clint I can’t speak to the populations in some of the counties listed in your post above; but can for Randolph and Perry, and our numbers are not only stable, we do have some areas where the herd definitely needs some thinning. That’s why I think the old management by small area /county system was the best. Admittedly, I know very little about deer management but I am not seeing decline in the herd here. Granted the largest public hunting area in Perry county is already part of QDMA program with certain restrictions - but a couple of sites actually requested the extra late season due to the deer numbers the boots on the ground DNR site techs and site managers have observed and are trying to manage.

I have to wonder if some of the high dollar outfitters who have fallen in to the deer = dollars trap that exists in our state canceled any clients this season? Are they still booking clients for next year? Have they voluntarily cut back? I know several in Iowa who did just that this year. Actually shut down the deer portions of their outfitting and guide services until Iowa’s herd begins to recover. They did this in order to help out the herd. Is this happening here as well?

Posted by G on January 01

Phooey - I forgot to add; thank you Mr. Higgins for another well written piece!

Posted by G on January 01

G, i think we are lucky in southern illinois.  We have alot of cover here when compared to the rest of the state and thats helping. There are still pockets around of good deer hunting even in my area. 

Here is what ive noticed around here thats the biggest change g, 15 years ago every piece of property in this county was as good as the next.  You could expect to see 10 deer plus per hunt during prime parts of the rut and each country block had a herd of 60 plus deer that you could see during late season when they are grouped up. When shed hunting, it didnt matter where you went, with some walking you could expect to find several sheds. someone could argue that this was too many deer for people to tolerate.

Currently here there are country blocks where you could currently see 60 plus deer in a group but thats from landowners controlling the hunters on their property.  I have a few country blocks where i can still have a good hunt.  I seen 12 doe yesterday morning for instance. 

There are also whole townships where you can drive around until dark and not see 10 deer.  I went on one of these laps two weeks ago in an area i do not hunt.  I seen two does and we drove every road in the township.  I have three mounts im looking as currently that came from a 300 acre jungle that never had alot of deer in it, this YEAR 3 deer have been seen in that woods in about 10 hunts.

Are you noticing any pockets where deer difficult to find in those areas and in other area’s they seem like they are everywhere? 

Posted by clintharvey on January 01

Virtual and jpphis just because someone has a wall of trophy class deer doesn’t make them a trophy hunter. Deer managers in this state should be applauded for what they accomplish in land management… a trophy ( old deer) is just the mere output.
Now back to the article… I will be sharing this on Facebook and every other avenue I know.
Very well said and very well written. The biggest alarm on here and I saw this a week ago as I did some of my own figuring is the difference in harvest in the mid 90s vs today. 40% is a huge obstacle and a bigger red flag than the 25% this year vs last.
When will this state hire someone with sense?  Marc miller and his team clearly have none and I’d say it to their face!
As I see it the general population is going to have to wise up. For example most farms don’t need any doe shot this year. How many took to the field last weekend with gun in tow for an antlerless deer?  How many will make it out the last weekend of season?  As much as I want a deer for sausage this year I continue to pass every doe on my farm. With very few exceptions others should be following suit.

Posted by Deerlover on January 01

Happy New Year again.

This article may not bash you over then head with trophy terms.  But age structure is the politically correct term for valuing older deer.  The only thing an older buck has is a few more pounds and probably more horn.

I tried to search the net for the Calhoun quote I spoke of and found an interesting thread on QDMA that features prominently a trophy/management subject and the ‘value’ of the herd.  I also found that this article mirrors closely with a reply in the thread.  So it seems this speech has been trotted out before.  I never did find the Calhoun quote.


Posted by virtualSniper on January 01

Here is a HUGE kick in the pants for ya!—238304241.html

Posted by Willie-Nillie on January 01

I cannot quote JACK OR
FROSTY, but when they made the decision to allow any deer, any age to be harvested from day ONE in 1957 it was unpopular in many hunters eyes.  They were still reintroducing deer in many areas and allowed any deer to be shot was hard for many to understand. Being well ahead of their times, they did not want a Wisconsin, Michigan, or Missouri where no does could be harvested. They knew those states had a serious herd balance problem.  It took many years to convince hunters in those states to kill does.  From day one hunters in Ill. never had the idea that does were off limits and were ok to harvest.  Paid off big time for many years.  Wish we could bring back those fine gentlemen to manage the herd now. Back then only one deer could be harvested in any season.  Kill one in Archery and done. Could not gun hunt. Can you younger guys just imagine that? Most of us could not even figure out how to kill one with a bow and used bow season as a scouting tool for gun season.  I know the first person to kill a deer in Ill. with a bow.  A doe in Cass county.  He was a God in many eyes .  Sad how times have changed in Illinois and how poorly the deer herd is being NOT managed.

Posted by trails end on January 01—238304241.html

This biologist is delusional!  You can’t just go by deer/vehicle collisions to determine whether or not a county is over populated!  Some roads may be in funnel area’s which become travel corridors and thus high vehicle/deer collision rates, that doesn’t account for the county as a whole, what a poor way to determine if a county is over populated!

Posted by whitetailkrazy on January 01

Good article Don. I was a little surprised modern farming practices (those that virtually destroyed our small game populations), weren’t touched upon as part of the problem. I also think we are being a little short sighted in thinking this is only an Illinois problem. Deer hunting and the quality of deer herds is deteriorating all over the Midwest.

Posted by yellowstone on January 01

Another thing Don said in his article (which I have been saying as well and believe), is that we haven’t seen the worst of it. Are all you guys that are saying you won’t shoot a deer this year because the numbers are too low going to just quit? It won’t be any better next year or in 5 years, so what really can we do? We either have to start shooting them or quit, this year will be no different than next year or the next.

Posted by yellowstone on January 01

Jack Calhoun stated that No hunter in Illinois should be allowed to kill more than one antlered buck per season. I know that because he stated that to me around 1995. So he was in heavy favor of protected the bucks in the Illinois deer herd. He appreciated the fact that his E/S permit system created an off shoot of having a high percentage of ADULT bucks in the herd’s make up, even though that was not his primary goal.

Posted by walmsley on January 01

I have hunted since 1979. I have seen the best and worst of it. If it meant quitting for 5 years , I would in a second. Hunting is a privilege not a necessity , call it reverse population control or whatever. I just feel sorry for our youth who are just starting out. They are getting the short end of the stick. Sad. This state is broke, run by incompetents, and the deer herd is the last thing they are worried about. Its the almighty dollar and as long as outfitters are getting paid big bucks (no pun intended) , and land specialist guys are selling land for 5k an acre, they will until it is exhausted or the deer are gone , then they will move on elsewhere. No skin off of their nuts.

Posted by knoxcounty on January 01

Well said Knox.  Another good read Don.  Most of us agree.

The worst is yet to come folks!

Posted by Andy Meador on January 01

One other thing Mr.Calhoun told me back in 94/95: He said Non-Residents should not be allowed to hunt bucks in Illinois. At the time, it kinda caught me off guard, and went over my head. I didn’t give it a lot of thought then, but very soon after that I would, as he must have seen what the future held with Unlimited N/R permit quota’s. Once again he may have been ahead of his time.

Posted by walmsley on January 01

I personally feel like its a lost cause and its more about the mentality of hunters than anything else.  Those few people that arent reporting a problem for their area are all saying the same thing.  We dont have ours ruined yet to the point im noticing yet, I need to continue shooting does and others need to until ours is just like yours.  You have my word, the day is coming.  Keep calling for liberal doe harvest in your areas.  Keep doing it yourself.

VS, age structure is one of the most basic elements in a healthy deer herd.  In a natural rut older bucks are suppose to be present to do the breeding.  Also older does are suppose to be present as well. 

For the most part these forums get the most dedicated hunters around.  SOmetimes it takes a smack in the face to open their eyes which we have gotten this year.  But every now and then we get one of the normals that dont want anyone telling them they cant just kill everything they see.  That its their right to slay what they want and people should just stay outof their way.  Its good for these people to see exactly what we are up against.  Because for every person that gets it, there are 50 out there during late weapons season causing the problem to get worse.

Posted by clintharvey on January 01

Nice article.
I would like to see less firearm weekends, Crossbow should be off the table unless age or condition. Ban out of state hunters during the firearm seasons that lease property and are blasting anything they see is crazy.

Posted by Buck-Man on January 01

Don this is an excellent article and I appreciate your quality work…  I agree with most everyone on this thread to understand the problems we are going to face.  I do not think the State of Illinois is going to do anything different…This is unfortunate and a potentially going to really wipe out the states herd.  We all must remember one thing…Money runs things in life.  If you cant figure something out…Just follow the money trail.  The state claims to be broke.  The crooked governors who stole money from the teachers pension fund and never repaid it are just like the rest of the politicians in our state.  Why would they limit the number of licenses they sell and not reap the money?  They could care less if I spent my money on two tags and a sportsmans license and harvested zero deer.  They have cashed the check and the money is in the bank..  It is up to the hunters to monitor their own harvest and purchase less licenses.  Lets see what happens if the licenses purchased goes down 25% in a year????

Bring back the check in stations!!!!  I believe they have a huge impact on keeping hunters honest on their check ins.  It also gives hunters a place to gather for a few moments and see others enjoying the same sport.  Go ahead and get college kids to run these stations and pay them a few bucks.  Probably wont happen because that is going to give away the most precious resource in our state…MONEY FROM THE HONEST TAX PAYER !!!!!!

Once again Thank You Don for Great Article…

Posted by GalenaBob on January 01

One more thing…  Don those are some beautiful mounts you have.  Hopefully you will have the opportunity to see and harvest more like it in our state…

Posted by GalenaBob on January 01

Ditto on good article & good posts. But it’s hollow words until people stop talking & start taking action. When the aforementioned leaders speak they should be heckled until they stop speaking.  We can sit hear & complain & nothing changes. Actions speak louder than words. When Mr. Miller speaks at the state NWTF banquet Saturday in Springfield he should be booed off the stag.  Every time any of them speak they should be heckled. Don is correct in his assessment but until we stand together & embarrass them every time they speak nothing will change.  Because frankly they are hard of hearing.

Posted by submissive on January 01

Lot of good points made, been managing in Ill for 10 yrs now, seen a steady decline of quality and quantity and I have made many improvements. EHD was a setback, but continued increase of buck permits to increase revenue has been the biggest enemy.
Seems they more concerned with $bucks, instead of Bucks!

Posted by rackmaster on January 01

Another great article Don.  I commend you for continuing to fight what is seemingly a losing battle. Our DNR has become an enemy to the resource. Things are bad and will only get worse unless these guys get a clue. I remember when I was in college studying wildlife biology in Carbondale. There was a bad EHD die off in southern Illinois that year. The response from the DNR was to issue more deer tags. The hunting in that area is still nothing like it was. Even as a young college student at the time that angered me. If these guys were truley serious about what is best for the deer herd they would all resign immediately, go back to ducks or whatever and leave the deer to someone with vision. These guys completely lack vision and accountability.

Posted by JonSimoneau on January 02

Great!. On another outdoor site says ...( Illinois preps for possible wolf population). That would be the last nail in the coffin for deer. I think the DNR is trying to take a jab at all our dumb redneck hillbilly butts. But if it were true they would protect them with a vengeance. Wolves have no place in a corn field state…hmmmmm wonder what wolf tastes like. Would have to try my special spices , I call them the 3 S’s he he he. Just to set the record straight , some of the smartest people I know are dumb redneck hillbillies, including myself. As the plot thickens….

Posted by knoxcounty on January 02

Oh and the wolf article says there are plenty of deer in Illinois , which is the wolves favorite food. There you have it (like a I could have had a v8 moment). Stop worrying there are plenty of deer in Illinois!. Plenty for hunters and wolves…ummm I would bet that if wolves populated here we would not be allowed to hunt deer anymore. Wolves gotta have something to eat.

Posted by knoxcounty on January 02

Trails End:  “I saw on this site a Ill. biologist state that HD seldom effects population in a county let alone the state.”  Actually, the statement was: Seldom can a measurable impact on harvest [attributable to EHD] be detected at the county, let alone statewide level.

Posted by DozRdeer2 on January 02

says the computer model…..

Posted by clintharvey on January 02

At least you threw the “seldom” in there to cover your butt.

Posted by bw on January 02

What the computer model can’t show….is the effects on harvest trends years down the road after the event.  Because the year an HD die-off occurs, hunters still fill their tags even though they see less deer.  Because they shoot whatever they can. Thus compounding the problem for the next year, and so on.  Then, after a few years, the harvest trends down.  It is just finally getting to that point in the cycle.  The models are showing the results (of multiple factors).  That’s one of the reasons why much of the Midwest is seeing low harvest numbers.  Many states have suffered heavy HD losses.  And I don’t think any of them curbed permit sales to try and compensate.  Now they are on the same slippery slope we are on.

What the resource managers in all those states decide to do about it….will expose just what type of “managers” they really are.

Posted by bw on January 02

What do our managers do?  Have things in the local media outlets such as this was yesterday here. 

“Several area counties will get a second late-winter deer hunting season this month. Hunters in Wayne, White, Hamilton, Jefferson and Saline can target does only during the antlerless hunting season January 17-19.  The late season has been scheduled to help reduce overpopulation and limit the number of car-deer crashes.”

YOu guys can stop with the overpopulation lies.  People that dont hunt and have no interest in deer are already talking about the deer being gone.

Posted by clintharvey on January 02

Its about time someone has recognized what is going on! Great Job and well said, I have been concerned since they did away with the check stations and allowed over counter sales of tags. It is all about money! the state should never have hired a out of state biologist that’s only concerned was with a paycheck. Those insurance companies dominate legislation in the state which favor the fat law maker with more money. I am also sure that we have just seen the tip of the iceberg. Allowing the sports retailer to sell bags of mineral attractant,not knowing what might happen to the herd thru consumption of gene control to the deer. Fair chase for me and generations to come, get rid of all high fence deer hunting. We can kiss Illinois great deer herd goodbye, its a business instead of a sport. Thanks Don Higgins   Wildman

Posted by WILDMAN on January 02

seldom can ehd have a measurable impact on a county:  go on line and read the MI.DNR EHD report-they implemented emergency shut downs of Doe harvest in ENTIRE counties due to the 2012 EHD outbreak.

Some states have actually Invalidated Outstanding Doe permits and are you ready for this:::::???::::  REFUNDED HUNTERS THEIR PERMIT MONEY! Can you imagine?

Posted by walmsley on January 02

Tim I can’t even believe DOZRDEER2 would even get on and post something related to what’s being discussed.  As for the refund I have several permits in my household that I can turn in.  Something that came to my mind and it relates to DVA’s what the so called “task force” used as a excuse to issue permits.  Around 6 years ago I went over to the county IDOT building and picked up some road kill deer (2) and used for bait piles for yotes.  The supervisor said he would call me when they found some more along the roads and I could come and pick them up.  He called 3 more times that year.  Since than I have been called a few more times in 5 years.  As for road kill deer I have found one during that time. This herd that’s left is very little and I’m with Don it’s not going to get any better!!!!

Posted by muzzyman on January 02

Don thanks for very informative article and calling out the current DNR.  G I was the same way last year, I had heard of a lot of troubled counties, but my property was in good shape, really couldn’t imagine it and then we got hit this year, it is really unbelievable how hard they got hit, no one in thier right mind (bioligist or not) would continue a Late season hunt in my area!

Posted by BIGPOND on January 02

Also if anyone ever hunted Crab Orchard prior to 1995 they would of seen one of the greatest deer herds on earth.  EHD came into that place and wiped it out the following year. I went back there around 2001 during the second gun season and one of the guys in my group of 6 shot a 135 inch 8 point.  We took it to the check station at the refuge where their biologist examined it and he stated that was one of the best bucks they had seen in 5 years brought in.  That’s when we packed up after one day of hunting and seeing 7 deer between the group and went back up to Brown county to finish up.  So as for EHD having a “SELDOM” impact on a county wake up out of that smoke filled haze your in!!

Posted by muzzyman on January 02

Dozr.. Sorry for using the word population vs: harvest.  I can tell you that in the area I hunt HD has had a very negative effect on harvest, due to the population reduction effect and add lead poison.  Combined the effect is just sad.  It would seem to me that now that the task force goals have been met in MANY counties that putting the brakes on antlerless harvest is in order.  Past regulations were intended to reduce the population and it worked.  The same regulations will only continue to have the same effect. We hunters have proven that the masses cannot and never will SELF-regulate.  Just reading how the public views the people in charge is sad.  In spite of what some in Springfield believe, most hunters do not want overpopulation, but do desire a sustainable balanced herd.  curious-What is the economic value to the people of Illinois as it applys to deer hunting? In the USA it is over $90 billion. With the well known financial state of affairs, it would seem every dollar for all the expenses to hunt these days, that IDNR would want to preserve that value.

Posted by trails end on January 02

Don Higgins once again delivers a ringing indictment of how terrible of shape the IL deer herd is in, and how horrendously bad Larry (Shelton), Moe (Buhnerkempe) and Curly (Micetich) have managed it.  I’ve followed Don’s articles and posts for years (, IBS, and Heartland Outdoors, etc.).  As usual, he has absolutely nailed it again with this article.

IL DNR Director Marc Miller has had nearly 5 years to get the IL deer herd on track and has done virtually nothing.  I remember back in early 2009 that many people on this site (or maybe it was that said we need to give Marc Miller a chance (and rightly so.)  But since those 5 years have passed, about all he has done is just cement his legacy as a “do-nothing Herbert Hoover” of whitetail managers.

To add insult to injury, just take a look at the salaries these people are pulling in, paid for by us sportsmen/taxpayers of Illinois:

MARC MILLER - $ 133,272.96
PAUL SHELTON - $ 110,099.49
JOHN BUHNERKEMPE - $ 86,388.00
THOMAS MICETICH - $ 112,114.08


That is some pretty serious coin.  Add in healthcare & pension benefits and this easily exceeds $ 500K per year for just these four individuals.  I think the most offensive thing in this whole debacle is that we are having to continue paying these guys absolutely ridiculous salaries (and benefits) to destroy our once great deer herd.  This is nothing new, of course.  This crap has been going on for years. 

Many thanks to Don Higgins for putting this article together, and also many thanks to Heartland Outdoors for publishing it.

Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Loomis have to be turning over in their graves over this very sad situation.

Posted by ConcernedILDeerHunters on January 02

Walmsley - Michigan had one county with more than 6500 dead deer reported.  That’s significantly different than what we had in Illinois. 

Those western states offering refunds had extremely high proportions of their herd affected by EHD in certain of their hunting units; and one of them also had significan winter loss just ahead of (or immediately after) a summer EHD outbreak (ND).  Hunters had to turn in their permits prior to the opening day.

Posted by DozRdeer2 on January 02

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