The columns I have written over the past several months about whitetail deer management in Illinois have really struck a nerve. I have never received so much correspondence on a subject in all the time I have been writing about the outdoors.
I always say that I have a thick skin, but to be truthful, it gets a tad tiresome being called things like “girlie boy,” which is probably the least offensive thing I’ve had hurled at me.
The letters and emails are quite repetitive and, frankly, boring after a while. I recently received a few pieces of correspondence that I’d like to share, in part, with you. These letters contained some of the most cogent thoughts that I have been sent on deer, sharpshooting and chronic wasting disease.
Keith Baldacchino wrote, “I have been watching the culling efforts through the various media outlets that cover it. As an avid deer hunter my interests are aligned with these magnificent creatures. That being said, I am disheartened to hear that so many are culled in the name of CWD with very low positive test results.”
“Since there is a valid population problem, why not allow archers to hunt in all of the vast forest preserves around the northern counties and beyond? While this may initially be politically unpopular, I am sure once revealed that these deer are wasted, a valid argument can be made to open this resource to archers. Moreover, the paved paths can be accessed by handicapped or elderly folks that otherwise would not have a good opportunity at a buck, or a deer for that matter, on public lands pressured by many.”
“There are plenty of volunteers, including myself, that would assist in organizing, qualifying, and managing the events that can be a net zero for the state and/or counties, and perhaps even bring in some revenue. Additionally, the selection process can be by lottery and to those that live in proximity by county. McHenry County does this and the state of Ohio has had multiple municipalities offer these types of programs for some time with success. Why is this not ever spoken of?”
Mike Rau had this to say: “Where do I begin? After reading your latest article, I felt I just had to respond. You seem to defend and praise the [Illinois Department of Natural Resources] as a whole on the deer management issue. You are an outdoor writer, for the sportsmen of Illinois, and by defending the DNR policies you are flying in the face of the readers.
"Maybe, since you are not an avid deer hunter, you should listen to the voice of the hunters to gain valuable information. The whole CWD issue angers all hunters in the state, not just the ones from the north. The idea of the state of Illinois, as broke as we are, hiring sharpshooters to bait and kill many, many deer just to extract a small percentage of infected deer is just appalling. Most of this wanton killing is done on forest preserves that do not allow hunting. As an outdoor writer you should be spearheading a drive to unite the sportsmen of Illinois to push our lawmakers to open up these forest preserves to legal hunting of whitetails in a controlled manner. The deer could still be tested.
“Where have all the deer gone? I'll tell you. The DNR is constantly adding more and more "seasons" and selling more and more permits, to kill off more of the deer herd. It has gone too far, and I believe you should sound off in favor of us readers and hunters. You stated in your article that the statewide harvest totals this past year was almost 33,000 more than 10 years ago. Very misleading figures! Apples and oranges! Why not compare the thousands of extra permits sold and the decline in harvest numbers over the past 5 years. That would be a more accurate look at what we hunters are facing.
“In closing, I hope you will become more of a voice for the sportsman of Illinois and less of a blind puppet for DNR bureaucrats.”
Finally, Bruce Spittal had this to say: “Regarding the matter of deer population in Illinois, the only research you have is whatever the IDNR tells you. This information is no less anecdotal than hunter experiences. In this regard, you are like a puppet of the DNR because you have chosen to believe their information, yet believe none of the information hunters are providing you.
“You are similar in this topic to Tom Micetich, IDNR Deer Project Manager. I have corresponded with him a few times, and he has the same mentality that you do. Both of you seem to have not only a dismissive attitude for hunters, but a genuine disdain for them. The agenda of the DNR is to solve the CWD issue at nearly any cost. It is not reasonable to kill thousands of deer in order to control CWD.
“Over the last five years (especially the last two), I have seen the deer population go down significantly. It's not just me but every hunter I talk to is saying the same thing. I bow hunt 45-60 times a year at an average of 3 hours per hunt and have done so for the last ten years. So, why would you think that the IL DNR has better information about the deer population? Think about it. Hunters hunt the same places year after year. We know what we see and lately we aren't seeing many deer. We are concerned that our deer herd is in crisis. Why would we lie?
“Steve, stick with fishing where you have credibility.”
The letters contain many good points, and I will try to formulate my opinions in a more objective manner in the future. Who knows? Maybe the IDNR is all wet on the subject. I hope to meet everyone who has written to me at one of the soon-to-be-announced public meetings that the IDNR will have to learn what all the people think.
To prove I truly have a thick skin, I didn’t even get peeved when I was called “a blind puppet for DNR bureaucrats” or told that I should “stick with fishing.”
• Northwest Herald outdoors columnist Steve Sarley’s radio show, “The Outdoors Experience,” airs live at 5 a.m. Sundays on AM-560. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.