I can understand his defense of his program, I didn't take the reply as snarky. And I tried not to be too argumentative in my responses...
I want to sincerely thank you for your reply. On my original comment form I marked that I didn't need a reply because I wasn't specifically asking a question as much as I was making some observations and stating some opinions. I found the study you included interesting, but it may have raised more questions in my mind than it provided answers, so I'm going to take this opportunity to continue our conversation a little further. I replied in red.
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. Knowing conservation is a much more difficult and lengthy process than eradication I have to wonder, if herd reduction to a culturally acceptable tolerance level has been the goal since 2007, rather than herd management for maximum sustainable habitat carrying capacities, what plan was there for unexpected reductions in the herd due to things like droughts and massive infestations of EHD and how will such things effect the overall desired numbers of the herd? 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. I agree, antlerless (doe) harvest is a key part of QDM, along with culling of “inadequately” antlered deer. Establishing and maintaining a desired buck to doe ratio of does being breed by “superior” genetic males is all a part of QDM. A design aimed at producing the highest “Quality” deer possible. I’ll agree to disagree on the objective of QDM. In my experiences “Quality” in deer is almost always judged by antler growth potentials, and the ability to reproduce those qualities.
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. Past practices may indicate hunters haven’t been able to take numbers low enough to have an impact on the disease, but comparing regulated hunting to sharpshooting is apples and oranges. I would guess that sharpshooters are allowed to use tactics otherwise illegal for licensed hunters such as the use of center fire rifles, baiting, spotlighting, and the taking of deer outside of the normal hunting seasons, just to name a few. I haven’t seen any proof that hunters “will not” or “cannot” have such an impact, only evidence that suggests hunters haven’t been successfully utilized to due so.
The study you provided me with concludes “based on the results of our study the effectiveness of using public hunting rather than government culling is questionable”. Yet in a lengthy explanation of the variables the article contains one easily overlooked statement; “In addition, animals often were located in areas where hunter harvest was not allowed and government culling represented the only avenue of control in those areas”. How much credence can one give to a program that bans hunting in those areas, and only uses government culling, then concludes that hunting was not effective in comparison to government culling in those areas?
The study further concluded that “The use of government culling as a management strategy instead of increased public hunting has been criticized because of a perceived reduction in hunter opportunity. Based on annual Illinois hunter harvest records, we found the Illinois disease management program has not had a negative effect on regional hunter harvest in northern Illinois.” But earlier in the article the study indicated that “… the majority of the deer removed by the IDNR for CWD control were from four counties…” and “…two of the four counties had significant reduction in hunter harvest between the 10 years prior to CWD control and the 10 years post CWD control implementation. Average annual hunter harvest was reduced by 20.9% in Boone and by 11.2% in McHenry” I can’t help but wonder, could Boone and McHenry have been counties where “hunter harvest was not allowed and government culling represented the only avenue of control”? And while the study shows sharpshooting to have had significant reductions in hunter harvest in two counties, it almost seems researchers desired to lessen that impact of “perceived reduction in hunter opportunity” by diluting the findings and not only including all ten CWD counties but the inclusion of 21 other counties in Northern Illinois where CWD has never been found and sharpshooting has not been implemented. I think the reductions in Boone and McHenry speak for themselves.
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.[/color] 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? In a “what if” question the best answer I can give you is, Maybe. 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.[/color] 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. And according to the study, because hunters are being prevented from hunting in those areas. 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. Using the yearly average of deer removed by the Illinois disease management program, as indicated in the study, and giving 100% of the credit for reported deer taken that tested positive for CWD to the sharpshooters (a percentage I doubt is accurate) the program would be credited with having taken 372 CWD positive animals while being accountable for killing approximately 7100 healthy deer. 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. In the light of many questions, some of which you answered, some of which I addressed above, I would say that what has "been proven" is at the very least debatable. Again, I appreciate your time and the information you have provided.
Live to Hunt, Hunt to Live.