Well I'll be damned. I received a reply on my comments to the DNR.
Although you didn't need a reply, I felt it appropriate to respond to at least a portion of your note to our agency.
Thank you for taking the time to share your observations and concerns; and my apologies for having taken so long to get back to you. You will find my comments in blue, below.
If you should have any other deer-related questions, comments or concerns, don't hesitate to drop me an email at any time.
Deer Project Manager
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
700 S. 10th Street
Havana, IL 62644
ofc - 309/543-3316 ext 231
fax - 309/543-6914
Primary area of interest: General information.
Question/comment: Today I participated in another DNR survey, and while I appreciate that you are seeking input from the people, there was no place to comment on why I answered the way I did, so I find myself writing this explanation. In regards to eliminating over the counter purchasing of deer firearms permits, I voted that I strongly disagree. I disagreed because I don’t see a correlation between the convenience/ inconvenience of purchasing permits and the issuance of the proper amount of permits. If the amount of permits made available is appropriate for the desired harvest needs to sustain the herd whether they are available through a lottery system or available over the counter makes no difference. Personally, I like the convenience of over the counter. And, if the appropriate amount of permits issued has not been reached it allows for those who forgot to apply in the lottery, a common mistake, a later chance at obtaining a permit. You are correct. Quotas for firearm/muzzleloader permits remain in place, are reviewed and adjusted as needed annually. The convenience, especially to those seeking additional permits once their lottery-assigned permits have been filled, cannot be argued.
And while I’m commenting, I’ll take the time to address a few other subjects. I also took the time to read the prior survey results you have posted on the website. And I agree that taking larger amounts of does is not compatible with increasing populations. Killing unlimited does, antler restrictions, and earn a buck programs are the result of Quality Deer Management programs. A management practice geared at trophy bucks. The Q stands for quality, not quantity. And while maintaining the healthiest herd that we can, should be the goal, raising trophy bucks should not be the primary objective of wildlife management. Trophy buck management is not our priority (nor is it the priority of the QDMA), but trophy animals are a by-product of sound management practices. Maintaining maximum sustainable yields should be. MSY is not our priority, either. Illinois citizens complained of too many deer in 2007, resulting in the establishment of the Legislative Deer Population Control Task Force (deer task force). We are working to keep deer at what is termed a "cultural carrying capacity" or tolerance level. While QDM is fine for individual management of private properties, it is not an appropriate herd management practice for governing bodies. Regulating or legislating for trophies is as misconceived as emotional based regulations such as protecting white deer. A management program protecting a gene deficient animal in the population is counterproductive, has no scientific basis, and is void of logical management concern. QDM has been applied to limited state-owned/managed properties over the years, as well. There has been little evidence, however, that those antler point restrictions had any impact on increasing abundance of older age class animals on those properties. You are correct, it may best be carried out on private land. However, QDM is not just about trophies as it includes consideration for adequate antlerless (doe) harvest. That is sometimes missed in a review of QDMA literature; and by QDM practitioners on properties under their management.
Further, while the survey indicated majorities were against using sharpshooters for CWD control in your hypothetical, “IF scientist concluded”, your survey results took the time to make special note “that there is no scientific evidence to date that any state has been successful in controlling CWD while using hunting programs as the only management tool.” First, I would suggest you restrain your questions to what is in evidence rather than what is not. Science has shown that hunters alone will not adequately reduce deer numbers in CWD management zones. It has been proven repeatedly (everywhere it has been attempted) that hunters will not take numbers low enough to have any impact on this disease. Only Illinois, using post-season, intensive culling in areas known to have the disease, has shown no increase in disease prevalence over the past 10 years while the disease has increased in all other states. I have attached the most recent scientific evaluation of our program for your information/use. In it you will find a comparison to Wisconsin which conducted a program similar to ours until 2007. At that time, they abandoned their sharpshooting due to political pressure -- and have experienced prevalence rate increases annually since. The use of hypotheticals indicates there’s a lack of evidence concluding that sharpshooters are not the most effective means of controlling CWD. The use of the word "hypothetical" was to avoid any argument to the contrary while asking the question. IF it was shown to be effective, would it make any difference in the way you feel about sharpshooting? For hunters where CWD exists, the answer was "no." They are opposed to sharpshooting because it is directly impacting their hunting (bad for them). However, it is keeping prevalence rates low, reducing the rate of spread to surrounding counties and downstate (good for the herd) -- but that doesn't matter to a high percentage of CWD-county hunters. Misleading questions based on hypotheticals skew the results and give the appearance of an agenda. While those against sharpshooting were a clear majority I suspect those against might have been even higher had fact based questions rather than leading questions been asked. Those against "in the majority" were from areas where the disease exists. Hunters residing outside current CWD counties, and downstate, were in favor of doing anything/everything possible to keep the disease from spreading to their locales. Secondly, has there ever been a single proven case of a deer dying from CWD? It is difficult to find a dead deer in the wild that has not been ravaged by predators/scavengers. Sick, dying deer tend to succumb to predation, or even road-killed, before any disease actually kills them. Pneumonia tends to kill a high percentage of CWD-infected animals in research pens. All the research I’ve read on CWD starts conclusions with lines like, “In the absence of empirical data, such effects have been forecast using models…”. Is creating rules, regulations and laws based on likely outcomes resulting from data comparison of hypothetical variables really good wildlife management practice? Early on, there was much speculation. Today we know far more than we did in 2002. Perhaps it is this absence of evidence that helps bring people to find the use of sharpshooters objectionable. That combined with the fact that the only way to positively identify CWD is by testing the deer, in the case of sharpshooters, a deer that has been killed. I haven’t seen the DNR publish the numbers, but I suspect the number of deer killed by sharpshooters that tests negative for CWD out ways the deer killed by sharpshooters that tests positive for CWD. Yes, more deer are negative than positive, even among sharpshot animals. That is to be expected when the prevalence is around 1%, overall. Sharpshooters are more likely to kill a positive than hunters, because we are working only where the disease exists. If those suspicions are validated, then aren’t sharpshooters serving to eradicate the population, as much if not more than they are in controlling disease? Ultimately, while there are necessary limitations, I want to see the deer herd managed to thrive at its maximum sustainable population. Illinois' citizens were upset about high numbers of deer and let their elected officials know it. The deer task force mandated herd reduction to the extent that deer-vehicle accidents were reduced by 14% compared to the 2003 level. And while disease control is a concern, we must regulate ourselves to evidence based management practices. Exactly! If Illinois' CWD management had not been proven effective in dealing with the disease, we would have discontinued it years ago. Other states now look to Illinois' management methodology as the best management practice for CWD when it shows up within their borders.
Live to Hunt, Hunt to Live.