On Tuesday, I attended one of the five Illinois Department of Natural Resources public meetings about Illinois’ deer herd at the Hickory Hills Discovery Center in St. Charles.
You never really know what you’ll encounter when you attend something like this. The deer herd is an incredibly hot topic and nothing arouses hunter’s emotions more than when you discuss managing the population.
The meeting was in a large room adorned with placards on easels that explained the facts and figures about all things deer-related. Although a lot of numbers and graphs were used, the information was easy to understand if you took your time to analyze the information.
Ample IDNR staff members positioned themselves around the room and were friendly and willing to answer any and all questions that came from the visitors on hand. Attendees also were given four-page surveys to fill out.
All the while I was there, things proceeded calmly and in a polite manner. The crowd interacted with the IDNR folks pleasantly. There was no conflict or raised voices, quite surprising for a meeting such as this.
One thing that always rears its head at an IDNR meeting is the accusation that the state of Illinois manages the deer population because the insurance industry instructs them to do so because of the influence they wield financially over legislators.
I was surprised the IDNR showed on its first easel that, in 2007, the Joint Task Force on Deer Population Control used statistics on deer/vehicle accidents to determine the number of deer that should inhabit each of Illinois’ counties.
“Many people are affected by the deer population,” said IDNR Forest Wildlife Program Manager Paul Shelton. “Farmers get hurt when deer damage their crops. Outfitters get hurt when the population is too low. Anyone who ever hits a deer with their car gets hurt.
“What better way to determine a correct number for the deer population than the statistics on deer/vehicle collisions? It’s an unbiased number. We don’t collect the information, it is given to us. We used the numbers to determine where the population should be.”
I think the IDNR did a good job of presenting what it was doing in regard to the state’s deer herd. No matter what, there always will be a small percentage of our hunters who will say the IDNR lies about everything it does and there is nothing that can be done to change those opinions.
You can follow the results of the survey and take a look at the public’s input given at the meetings by going to dnr.illinois.gov.
Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “Some of the ponds have a fair amount of weeds already and bass can be caught on Scum frogs, Spro frogs or Stanley Ribbit frogs. Fish open areas with a Senko hooked wacky style or a topwater bait such as a Bang-O Lure. Catfishing have been great. Use cutbait or stink bait. Bluegills are in close to the bank spawning and can be caught on wax worm or red worms. Good reports of walleye on fathead minnows and leeches on the Fox Chain. Fish in two to four feet of water and on current breaks.” Call 815-455-2040 for updated reports.
From Gill at the McHenry Dam and Chain O’ Lakes State Park: “Just like throwing a switch, the fish have turned on over the entire Chain O’ Lakes and Fox River. Walleyes are being taken on Lake Marie along the east side, under the Grass Lake Bridge, and throughout the lower Fox River above the Dam. Nightcrawlers on jig heads seem to be the bait of choice. The upper Fox still is kicking out white bass, but they are only hitting under the 173 bridge. Anglers there are using jig heads with colorful twister tails. For all my catfishermen, the water finally is at the right temp and coolers full of channel cats are coming out of the river at the dam. Both above and below seem to be hot, but you have to be on the west side of the river in the deep water. Forget the crawlers, as loads of carp are eating them up before you can get to the channel cats. Better choices are chicken liver or stink bait. Remember to fish at the bottom and use plenty of lead as there still is a lot of current in the river.”
From Honest John’s Fishing report from C.J. Smith’s on the Fox Chain: “Walleye are really biting. Guide Walt Koch reported a very successful day recently and that the Lake Marie sandbars are the hot spots. Drift over them using XL fatheads or leeches for some real action. The Spring Lake Bridge and other bridges also are good spots to try because of the currents.”
As of Tuesday, the Upper Fox River, Lower Fox River and Fox Chain were open to boating with no restrictions. For up-to-the-minute water conditions on the Fox Chain and Fox River, go to foxwaterway.state.il.us/ or call 847-587-8540.
Lake Michigan: Captain Bob Rossa of Migrator Charters (ALakeMichiganCharter.com) said, “Fishing on Lake Michigan has been very good this past week. Limits of Coho salmon with a few king salmon and lake trout are being caught in the Illinois waters. The fish are anywhere from 10 feet to 200 feet of water depending on wind direction and water temperature. Small OO orange dodgers with aqua and mirage Coho flies tied 16 inches” behind have been the best baits. Cohoes are being caught from the surface to 80 feet down in the water column, but the majority are in the top 20 feet. Perch fishing still is very slow.
• Northwest Herald outdoors columnist Steve Sarley’s radio show, “The Outdoors Experience,” airs live at 5 a.m. Sundays on AM-560. Sarley also runs a website for outdoors enthusiasts, OExperience.com. He can be reached by email at