It is imperative as sportsmen and women that we speak up to those who control wildlife rules and regulations in our state or those that we travel to. Below see how I took advantage of a recent chance to do just that. This may be in regards to Illinois but similar situation are occurring throughout the Midwest. Also, in general I would like to encourage all of you to make your presence know at your respective state capitals to protect our rights and interests.
I had the opportunity to speak in person to Wayne Rosenthal the Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources a week or so ago. I have to admit that I was surprised when he walked in. He was just a normal guy wearing a camoflauge jacket, not the suit wearing bureaucrat I was expecting. I had a limited amount of time with him so I prepared the following information which I asked him verbatim.
I have one comment and one concern/question that I would like to bring up.
First, thank you for changing the youth hunting license requirements so that they may hunt with a parent up until the age of 16 without have to complete the hunter safety course. While the Apprentice Hunter License was and is still a great opportunity for adult recruitment I believe it still hampered youth participation. The youth hunting license changes was a fantastic move to get more youth into the field. Also, along the same lines I am a big supporter of the dedicated youth seasons the IDNR offers.
Second, I would like to talk about deer management. From 2001-2005 there was a 24% steady increase in deer harvest numbers. As a matter of fact 2005 was the Illinois record harvest of 201,209 deer which can likely be attributed to liberal allocation of tags and additional seasons. Unfortunately since 2005 there has been a 28% decline in harvest numbers. Notably the decline began increasing at a higher rate in 2007 after the formation of the Joint Task Force (JTF) and the “recommendation that the rate of deer/vehicle accidents be used as the objective by which to judge the success or failure of deer management programs”. Does the DNR have any plans to utilize science and biological factors, including herd health and environmental carrying capacity, as the means of deer management in the upcoming seasons to hopefully address the reduced harvest numbers amongst other things?
I ask that question knowing per the Illinois Deer Management Program Review on the IDNR website and the Illinois Natural History Survey that the range of people who feel that the “Importance of the number of deer-vehicle collisions” is “very important” ranges from 31%-53% of those surveyed while the range of people who feel the “Importance of the health of the deer herd” to be “very important” is 70%-86%.
I will have to paraphrase his response as I didn’t have a recorder present but I think I got a pretty good summary of what he said.
- He was appreciative of my first comment about the youth opportunities and made it clear he was aware that recruitment of both young and older hunters is paramount to the continued hunting tradition and intends to keep offering as many programs as he can to help.
- Regarding my deer population concerns he said he has heard similar questions. Which I thought was a positive because that means that hunters are speaking up and making our concerns known.
- He did state that deer to vehicle accidents are indeed a good tool for estimating deer populations. I still have a hard time buying that but I haven’t been able to find any studies/graphs to disprove the method. I do believe that it would be a tool to identify trends in populations rising or dropping but I’m just not sure about the correlation to the actual population. Either way, I have no choice at this time but to take his word that it is an effective method for measuring deer populations.
- His comments specific to the actual population and harvest goals were that the harvest in ’05 was too high. However, he did say the recent harvest levels (below 150,000) were too low. Ideally the yearly deer kill in Illinois should be between 160,000-180,000. After the last two years of very low harvests they are planning to re-evaluate seasons/tag allocations for this coming season. He did not provide any details of their plans.
- Another note I found interesting was that he was very open about the fact that the carrying capacity of deer is Illinois is WELL above the current herd levels.
- Also he noted that many people feel that the insurance companies play a big hand in the DNR’s population objectives (I could probably be lumped into that category) but rather the Farm Bureau probably has more influence than any other outside entity.
Overall I felt that it was a positive interaction. While it may not have been the exact answer I was looking for I feel that Wayne and his staff have a lot of influences to juggle regarding population goals but have not forgotten about us Sportsmen and women. We owe it to ourselves to stay aware, engaged, and active in how OUR resources are managed and maintained.