Unfortunately, it’s that time of year again when the politicians are back in session… and sportsmen’s eyes turn towards the capitol city to see what kind of nonsense (for the most part) is being introduced that will impact hunting. Over the next couple of weeks, thousands of new bills will be filed, hoping to make their way through the legislative process (reminds me of the old “Schoolhouse Rock” cartoon about the process, which some young guys may have to Google).
This is a particularly bad time since we have a new general assembly (GA). GA sessions last for 2 years (on the election cycle), so bills can linger out there a while. But we start this week with a clean slate… back to bill #1 in each house. And it also means new legislators, and politicians running unpopular bills without an election year cloud hanging over their heads.
Like usual, I’ll do my best to keep up with what I can. Politicians have a way of back-dooring legislation, or keeping their true intent hidden when running bills. That being said, I won’t be posting every gun bill that gets introduced. That would be a full-time job by itself. If a gun bill could impact hunting, I’ll try to get it posted.
Without getting TOO political, we’re not off to a great start this week. The House, again, elected Rep. Mike Madigan as Speaker… a position he’s held for all but 2 years since 1983. Senator Cullerton takes the reins again as President of the Senate… a position he’s held since 2009. Republicans don’t fare much better… electing Senator Rodogno as Senate Rep. Leader and Rep. Durkin as House Minority Leader. They’ve both been in those positions since 2013.
Only in IL can we complain so much about IL politics, and then turn around and keep putting the same people back in power and expect different results!
So, without further ado… off we go…
I always like to start the year off with legislation that is so important to the state that it simply HAS to be introduced in the first few days of session. It’s never hunting related (couple sessions ago it was medical cannabis), but these bills have the potential to be life-altering for us all… and an absolute priority #1 for our Springfield elected officials. This year is no different…
SB0055 – BARACK OBAMA DAY
Introduced by Sen. Emil Jones, III, (D) Chicago
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the State Commemorative Dates Act. Provides that August 4th of each year is designated as Barack Obama Day.
Just to be safe, the House has their own version of this bill (HB0231, Rep. Andre Thapedi, (D) Chicago) doing the same thing. It gets more specific to amend specific codes to make it a state holiday for schools and banks (among other areas). Don’t we already have a “President’s Day”???
Now on to the good(?) stuff…
SB0074 – FIREARMS-FINGERPRINTING
Introduced by Sen. Ira Silverstein, (D) Chicago
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act. Provides that on and after the effective date of the amendatory Act, each applicant for the issuance or renewal of a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card shall include a full set of his or her fingerprints in electronic format to the Department of State Police for the purpose of identity verification. Amends the Firearm Concealed Carry Act. Provides that a license application shall contain a full set of fingerprints submitted to the Department in electronic format for the purpose of verification of identity (rather than a license application shall contain a full set of fingerprints submitted to the Department in electronic format provided the Department may accept an application submitted without a set of fingerprints in which case the Department shall be granted 30 days in addition to the 90 days period to issue or deny a license).
Now they want your fingerprints just to own (or possess) a gun in our great state?!?!?
HB0406 - HUNTING-CARRYING HANDGUNS
Introduced by Rep. David Reis, (R) Olney
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Wildlife Code. Provides that a person with a valid concealed carry license issued under the Firearm Concealed Carry Act, or an off-duty law enforcement official or officer, may carry a handgun on or about his or her person while hunting. Effective immediately.
HB0427 - WILDLIFE-CROSSBOW DRAW WEIGHT
Introduced by Rep. Avery Bourne, (R) Litchfield
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Wildlife Code. Provides that all crossbows used to hunt in this State must have a minimum peak draw weight of 125 pounds and a maximum draw weight of at least 300 pounds.
Stay tuned… I’m sure there will be much more to come!
Preliminary deer-vehicle accident (DVA) data was released last week. IDNR had been “waiting on current DVA data” before making any management decisions. However, don’t expect any changes beyond the bare minimum of taking a few counties out of the LWS.
So, what does the new data show?
The statewide DVA rate (which has been proven to correspond to the deer population) dropped again from 2014 to 2015. The statewide herd reduction rate has now climbed to 23.5% from its peak, compared to the IDNR target of a 14% reduction.
The 2.1% decrease is a stark contrast to the 6.5% increase in the deer harvest last year. This tells us what most of us already knew… that the higher harvest last year wasn’t an indicator of an increasing herd. It was a combination of excellent hunting weather, season timing, and probably hunter attitudes.
Looking closer at the county-specific numbers, it’s a mixed bag. Some initial thoughts on the data (most of which exclude CWD counties).
• 34 non-CWD counties have been below their DVA/population goal for at least 4 consecutive years.
• 8 non-CWD counties have now lost at least half of their deer herd since peak DVA years.
• 14 non-CWD counties have been reduced by 40-50% from their peak levels.
• 7 CWD counties have lowered their deer herd more than 50% since peak levels.
• Only 14 total non-CWD counties remain more than 10% OVER their DVA/population goal.
• 13 of the remaining 24 counties in the LWS are less than 10% above goal. 7 of those counties are below goal, but haven’t met the “2 year consecutive” minimum to be considered for removal.
IDNR finally made the landmark decision to remove Pike County from the herd-reducing LWS. Pike was under its deer population goal for the 6th consecutive year, when most counties are removed after their 2nd straight year below target. Another decrease in their 2015 population data shows that the herd is 54% lower than the peak, while their harvest totals in 2015 were 44% lower than their peak. Last year’s total deer harvest in Pike County was the lowest since 1994.
Is Adams County the next Pike, in terms of declining deer herd?
Following the EHD outbreak in 2012, Adams has been on a freefall. The DVA rate in Adams alone has dropped 43% since 2011. The DVA rate is at a historic low, even though the harvest was up slightly in 2015.
More analysis to come, but these are the highlights.
Illinois Whitetail Alliance (IWA) has posted the complete history of all 102 IL counties on its Facebook page. Included for each county is a graph showing the DVA history back to 1994, along with harvest data for the same time period. It also shows where each county currently sits in relation to the IDNR established goal.
Note: In light of the comments below (it appears that we may have different sets of data from IDOT), I’m going to post the disclaimer from IDOT that was provided to me.
DISCLAIMER: The motor vehicle crash data referenced herein was provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation. The author is responsible for any data analyses and conclusions drawn.
In other words… the data I used came directly from IDOT. The graphs and any other analysis came from me. I’ve used this same source of data every year since I’ve been tracking DVA’s independently, and we’ve always been spot on with the totals. I’m making every effort I can to make sure what I received was accurate. I can’t think of a reason why the same data provided to IDNR would show additional accidents. I’ll update the readers as I know more.
After five consecutive years below the agreed-upon deer population goals (as of 2014 accident data),Pike County will finally be removed from the late-winter antlerless deer season (LWS) this year. Three other counties will also be removed (Marshall, Edwards, Saline) while Perry County will be added back to the LWS this season. Read below for more info…
SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois’ Late-Winter Antlerless-only Deer Hunting Season will be open in 24 counties, while the state’s Special CWD Deer Hunting Season will be open in 14 counties for 2016-17, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) announced today.
The Late-Winter season provides additional hunting opportunities in counties with surplus deer, while the Special CWD season allows hunters to help combat the spread of chronic wasting disease in Illinois’ white-tailed deer herd.
Season dates for the split 7-day Late-Winter and Special CWD hunts will be Dec. 29, 2016-Jan. 1, 2017 and Jan. 13-15, 2017.
Counties open previously during the Late-Winter season that will be closed for Late-Winter hunting in 2016-17 are Edwards, Marshall, Pike and Saline. Perry County, which was not open to Late-Winter hunting last season, will be open for the Late-Winter hunt in 2016-17.
There is no change in the list of counties open for the Special CWD season in 2016-17.
IDNR biologists recommended the changes for the 2016-17 seasons following analyses of deer data including hunting harvest, deer-vehicle accidents, deer disease reports, and other factors.
Hunters in Illinois harvested 4,537 deer in 27 open counties during the Late-Winter season and 1,825 deer during the Special CWD season in 14 open counties in 2015-16. Hunters harvested 155,229 deer during all firearm and archery seasons in Illinois last year.
Open counties for the 2016-17 Late-Winter Antlerless-only Deer Season and Special CWD Deer Season are listed below.
Late-Winter Season Open Counties:
CWD Season Open Counties: