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Through the Lens

Spring 2020 Legislative Update

Wed, February 26, 2020

As is typical in spring legislative session, there was a rush and flurry of new bills filed that impact our DNR and sportsmen and women.

Here’s a selection of recently introduced bills that bear watching by concerned sportsmen.  Concerned sportsmen can contact the bill sponsor and co sponsors directly, or visit http://www.ilga.gov to see the status of the bill, file a witness slip, follow the progress through committee etc. 

As always, be sure to visit the ILGA website, and view the FULL TEXT of the bill, and all of the versions as amendments and changes occur.

When visiting the ILGA website, simply navigate to the left hand side and enter the bill number in the search box.

Remember, you have a voice; USE IT!

HB 4112 - WILDLIFE-LAND PERMIT-RESIDENCY
Allows a landowner deer, turkey, and combination permit to be issued without charge to Illinois landowners (removes residing in the State) who own at least 40 acres of Illinois land and wish to hunt upon their land only.

HB 4254 - WILDLIFE CD-DISABLED VET EXEMPT
Provides that a veteran who is at least 10% disabled with service-related disabilities or who is in receipt of a total disability pension is not required to procure a trapping license in order to trap any of the permitted species identified in the Code during such times and with such devices and by such methods as permitted by the Code.

HB 4308 - WILDLIFE CD-TRAPPING LICENSE EXEMPT
Provides that a veteran who is certified by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to be at least 10% disabled with service related disabilities or who is in receipt of total disability pension may trap, as permitted by the Code, without procuring a trapping license. Provides further that a military member returning from mobilization and service outside the United States who is an Illinois resident may trap, as permitted by the Code, without paying any fees required to obtain a trapping license, if he or she applies for the license within 2 years after returning from service abroad or after mobilization. Adds trapping licenses to the terminally ill hunter licensing program. Provides that persons on active duty in the Armed Forces or Illinois residents with a Type 1 or Type 4, Class 2 disability as defined in the Illinois Identification Card Act may trap, as permitted by the Code, without procuring a trapping license. Adds definitions.

HB 4317 - FISH-FISHING LICENSE EXEMPTION FOR YOUTH
Provides that individuals under the age of 18 (instead of 16) may fish with sport fishing devices without being required to have a license.

HB 4863 - YOUTH HUNTING TURKEY STATEWIDE PERMIT PILOT
Provides that the Department of Natural Resources shall create a pilot program during the annual 2-weekend, youth-only spring wild turkey hunting season to allow for youth wild turkey hunting permits that are valid statewide, excluding those counties or portions of counties closed to firearm turkey hunting. Provides that the Department shall adopt rules to implement the pilot program. Provides that nothing shall be construed to prohibit the Department from issuing Special Hunt Area Permits for the youth-only wild turkey hunting season or establishing, through administrative rule, additional requirements pertaining to the youth-only wild turkey hunting season on Department-owned or Department-managed sites, including site-specific quotas or drawings.

HB 4994 - WILDLIFE-AIRBOW DEER HUNTING
Permits the use of an airbow in hunting deer. Defines “airbow”. Makes conforming changes.
“Airbow” means a bow and arrow device that applies 150 pounds of force in the form of compressed air to an arrow over a 25 inch power stroke.

HB 4996 - WILDLIFE CD-WILD SWINE
Includes wild swine as a protected species covered by the Code. Sets forth definitions of “wild swine” for purposes of the Code. Provides that wild swine may be taken by hunting methods at any time. Provides further that wild swine may be taken during the open season by use of a small light that is worn on the body or hand-held by a person not in any vehicle.

HB 5060 - WILDLIFE/4-POINT ANTLER RULE
Provides that it is unlawful for a person to take deer except antlerless deer and antlered deer with at least one antler having at least 4 antler points. Provides that the antler point restriction applies to all deer hunting zones, seasons, and permittees, except during the special 3-day, youth-only deer hunting season. Requires the Department of Natural Resources to adopt rules to implement and administer the antler point restriction.
“Antler point” means an antler point or tine that is at least one inch long from base to tip,  including a broken point or tine that is at least one inch long. “Antler point” includes the end of the main beam of an antler.

HB 5088 -FISH-AQUATIC STAMPS & LICENSE

Allows the holder of a scientific collector’s permit to fish with sport fishing devices without a license. Requires any individual who is required to obtain a license to also obtain an aquatic conservation stamp prior to taking or attempting to take any fish, including minnows for commercial purposes, turtles, mussels, crayfish, or frogs from waters of this State. Provides that the fee for the aquatic conservation stamp is $5 for both resident and non-resident licensees; waives the fee for residents over 75 years of age. Makes other conforming changes. Requires that fees derived solely from the sale of aquatic conservation stamps, gifts, donations, grants, and bequests of money for the conservation of aquatic life shall be deposited to the State Treasury and set apart in a special fund known as the Aquatic Conservation Stamp Fund. Sets forth further requirements regarding appropriations from Aquatic Conservation Stamp Fund.

HB 5179 - DNR-STATE PARKS-APPRENTICESHIP

Provides that the Department has the power to enter into contracts with union apprentice trade programs across the State for the purpose of providing maintenance and repairs to State parks. Allows each Regional Office of the Department to contract with such programs in its respective region. Provides that funds from the Park and Conservation Fund may be used by the Department to enter into contracts with union apprentice trade programs.

HB 5192 - FISH-AGE REQ-FISHING LICENSE

Provides that any individual, resident or non-resident, who is 18 years of age (rather than 16 years of age) or older shall, before taking or attempting to take any aquatic life protected by the Code by any means whatever in the State of Illinois, obtain a license to do so. Provides that before taking or attempting to take salmon from Lake Michigan, a resident or non-resident who is 18 years of age (rather than 16 years of age) or older shall obtain a salmon stamp authorized by the Department of Natural Resources; before taking or attempting to take trout from all waters except Lake Michigan, a resident or non-resident who is 18 years of age (rather than 16 years of age) or older shall obtain an inland trout stamp authorized by the Department. Requires an individual under 18 years of age (rather than 16 years of age) who possesses a lifetime hunting or sportsmen’s combination license to have in his or her possession, while in the field, a certificate of competency as required under the Wildlife Code.

HB 5469 -  DNR-OUTDOOR GRANTS PROGRAM
Provides that the Department shall establish the Outdoor Equity Grants Program, subject to adequate appropriation or private funding, to increase the ability of underserved and at-risk populations to participate in outdoor environmental educational experiences at State parks and other public lands where outdoor environmental education programs take place. Contains provisions relating to the organization of the grant program, priority of specified populations, funding of the grant program, and annual reporting. Provides that the Department shall adopt rules to implement the provisions. Amends the State Finance Act by adding the Outdoor Equity Grants Program Fund.

HB 5542 - STATEWIDE YOUTH DEER - DISABLED HUNT
Provides that during the pilot program that creates the special 3-day, youth-only firearm deer hunting season, one day of the 3 days shall be reserved for children with disabilities. Provides that the one day youth-only firearm deer hunting season reserved for children with disabilities shall apply to all counties located in the State. Provides that all provisions of the pilot program are inoperative on and after January 1, 2023. Effective June 1, 2020.

HB 5543 -COMMERCIAL FISHING DEVICES
Allows commercial fishermen to obstruct more than one-half the width of any stream or watercourse under specified circumstances. Specifies requirements for commercial fishermen who are unable to be in immediate supervision of his or her gill and trammel nets. Defines “trammel net” and “gill net”. Makes conforming changes

HB 5544 - ANIMALS-DOGS-TRESPASS ON LAND
Removes the provision of the Code that prohibits a person from intentionally or wantonly allowing a dog to hunt (i) on the land of another, or (ii) on the waters that flow over or stand on the land of another, without first obtaining permission from the owner or the owner’s designee. Effective immediately.


SB 2550 -TRAPPING LICENSE EXEMPTION
Provides that a veteran who is certified by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to be at least 10% disabled with service related disabilities or who is in receipt of total disability pension may trap, as permitted by the Code, without procuring a trapping license. Provides further that a military member returning from mobilization and service outside the United States who is an Illinois resident may trap, as permitted by the Code, without paying any fees required to obtain a trapping license, if he or she applies for the license within 2 years after returning from service abroad or after mobilization. Adds trapping licenses to the terminally ill hunter licensing program. Provides that persons on active duty in the Armed Forces or Illinois residents with a Type 1 or Type 4, Class 2 disability as defined in the Illinois Identification Card Act may trap, as permitted by the Code, without procuring a trapping license.


SB 3230 - WILDLIFE-HABITAT STAMP-EXEMPTION
Provides that owners of land and their children, parents, brothers, and sisters shall have the right to hunt upon their lands without procuring a State Habitat Stamp, but the hunting shall be done only during periods of time and with devices and by methods as are permitted by the Code.

SB 3232 - WILDLIFE-OUTFITTER PERMITS
Provides that the Department of Natural Resources shall, by rule, provide for a number of Wild Turkey Hunting Permits to be set aside specifically for wild turkey outfitters operating in this State with a valid outfitter permit. Authorizes wild turkey outfitters to provide these permits to customers in the course of providing outfitting services. Provides that nothing shall prohibit a wild turkey outfitter from scheduling hunts with persons holding permits not otherwise provided by the outfitter.

SB 3235 - WILDLIFE-FISH LICENSES-MILITARY EXEMPTION
Provides that an Illinois resident who is on active military duty and is stationed in Illinois may fish as permitted by the Fish and Aquatic Life Code without paying any fees required to obtain a fishing license. Provides that an Illinois resident who is on active military duty and is stationed in Illinois may hunt as permitted by the Wildlife Code without paying any fees required to obtain a hunting license.

SB 3393 - FISH-LICENSE FEES FOR VETERANS

Provides that, beginning with the 2021 license year, resident veterans of the United States Armed Forces who have returned from service abroad or mobilization by the President of the United States shall be issued a fishing license, or a sportsmen’s combination license, free of charge. Requires veterans to provide verification of their service to the Department of Natural Resources. Provides that the Department shall establish what constitutes suitable verification of service for the purpose of issuing a fishing license or a sportsmen’s combination license free of charge to resident veterans.

 

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Southern Illinois Aerial Waterfowl Surveys Delayed

Sat, November 16, 2019

Hunters have been voicing frustration with the Hunting Digest for several months. Thankfully digests shipped this week and should currently be in the hands of DNR site offices, staff, and vendors. But another frustration has surfaced for waterfowl hunters. There have been no southern Illinois aerial waterfowl surveys performed yet. South central season opener has come and gone and south zone opener is looming on the horizon.

Hunters who routinely check the weekly survey results, and use them as tool have been frustrated since late October. Usually the flights for the southern region begin around the the last 10 days of October.



Not this year.

Hunters aren’t the only ones frustrated. DNR site staff have been bombarded with the question, ” Where are the survey numbers? Are they doing the surveys? ”  along with the months long refrain “Are the hunting digests here yet?”.  Unfortunately, the staff had no answer to give users.

I reached out to Randy Smith Wetland Wildlife Project manager for IDNR in hopes of getting some clarification to when the survey data might be available for southern Illinois hunters.

According to Smith:

“The state initiated a new procurement system in 2019. We anticipated delays to contracts such as aerial surveys (southern, west-central and northeastern Illinois), and began our internal process a month sooner than previous years, but delays have still held things up. Additionally, Federal Aviation Administration approval procedures for low-level flights changed and DNR nor our survey pilot was aware of the change, further adding to the delay.

We anticipate those approvals clearing any day now, and will begin conducting surveys and posting results as soon as we are able.

As a reminder, the purpose of conducting these surveys is to monitor populations, long term trends in waterfowl abundance and habitat use and to assist in making management decisions. The surveys also serve as a great resource to hunters for scouting and migration tracking, but that is not their primary function. Thus, DNR has a great interest in completing as many surveys as possible as well; each survey missed leaves a hole in our dataset, and we are equally frustrated with the situation.”





I for one appreciate that Smith was willing to answer my question, explain the situation. Rather than feel angry and frustrated with IDNR, I can understand that sometimes despite everyone’s best efforts things just go awry. This seems to be one of those situations.

My frustration however remains with the failure of IDNR to effectively communicate the delays and snafus in a timely manner. We understand that mistakes can happen, that things can go awry. Just be up front and tell us.

The delay of the printed copies of the hunting digest is perfect example. Once it was determined that a reprint of the digests would be neccesary, simply issue a statement telling constituents that there would be a delay and give them an expected date. At the very least, keep site staff informed so that they are not placed in the awkward situation of having to say “I don’t know”.  Same with the aerial surveys.



As I have always said to IDNR -  Just Talk to Us. It’s frustrating that we have to keep uttering those four simple words. Communication is key. Public perception of IDNR continues to decline into the negative region. Constituents continue to feel disenfranchised and left out. Frustration in getting even the simplest of questions answered runs high. So my plea to IDNR once again is JUST TALK TO US. Get out in front of issues, problems, let us know what’s happening.

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An Open Letter to Non-Resident Hunters

Fri, November 08, 2019

It’s that time of year – as I drive through the local public land hunting areas it seems that I see more out of state plates than I do those from Illinois.  I seem to be encountering more strangers and non residents in my wanderings of public land. Sometimes the encounters are pleasant and friendly, sometimes they aren’t.

I’m probably more open minded about non resident hunters than many, I do travel to other states for fishing, hunting, etc. So, in those places, I’m that darned non resident out of stater that’s invaded the neighborhood.

I also recognize the economic benefits and tourism dollars that non resident hunters bring to many small rural communities. Those are appreciated as well. 

Yet – there are still issues involved with the visiting hunters so in an effort to help those visiting to hunt; I’ve put together this open letter. Who knows, I may even get brave and start dropping a printed copy on few windshields in the coming days and weeks.

Dear Non-Resident Hunter;
First and foremost, welcome to our neighborhood. We love our natural resources here, and feel very blessed to be able to live in such close proximity to such wonderful outdoor assets.  We can understand why you find our area such an attractive place and a place that you would want to visit.

We are happy to talk with you and help you find the best places to find groceries, to eat out, to buy gas, snacks and supplies.  We are happy to help you understand those confusing areas where private and public land are patchworked together to help you stay on public land and avoid any unpleasant confrontations with unhappy landowners and lease owners. We are happy to lend a hand if you hit a snag, have an equipment failure or problem. Get to know the folks who live in the communities where you come to hunt. Be friendly!

Just talk to us – we don’t bite!

Because this our home, because we spend so much time traversing the land, volunteering, doing conservation work, lobbying for various regulations and laws we do feel very protective and sense of ownership of sorts about our public lands. 

We ask that you respect and value our lands as much as we do.  Take the time to learn the regulations for the site where you are hunting and follow them.  Leave no trace. Just because you’ll be gone in a week doesn’t give you free reign to leave your trash and leftovers behind, ignore our rules and regulations. Leave our lands as nice or nicer than you found them.

Don’t hog up and clog up roadways, boat ramps, campsites, parking areas – it is public land and we all have to share. Take your turn at the ramp, get to know others in the parking lot.. Speak up and say good morning – it will help to avoid any conflict over who is headed where later on down the trail.
Be aware that while you may be here chasing a big whitetail, that same piece of public land may be open to upland hunters, squirrel hunters, coon hunters – hikers, bikers and kayakers as well. No one is intentionally setting out to ruin your hunt, they are just trying to enjoy that same piece of public land that you have traveled here to enjoy.

With those things in mind – there are some things that we don’t find all that enjoyable about some visiting hunters, and we would hope you would avoid being “one of those out of state jerks” that unfortunately we seem to encounter each year.

Remember, you are a guest here. A visitor here. Yes, indeed we are well aware of how much your non resident tag cost you. We get that you drove for hours, paid a high price for your tag, only have x many days to get that giant IL monster.  None of those things though entitle you to any preference or special treatment.  Those of us that are local have put in our share of time and money for our hunt experience as well. Please don’t assume that because we are local we can hunt anywhere anytime. That just isn’t the reality for many resident hunters.

Please don’t shout at us about how much money you have spent, how you are “saving” our little one horse town and how valuable you are to us. We spend our dollars here everyday and work hard to keep our little “one horse hicktown” viable throughout the year. We do appreciate the added economic benefit from visiting hunters, but again – it does not entitle you to be arrogant, rude, controlling, or lord it over us. This is our home. We are not quaint, we are not here for your entertainment, our lifestyles and homes are not fodder/subjects for your Instagram account. We live our lives here. Our culture might be different, but that doesn’t make us easy targets and subject to your derision.

Try to refrain from looking down your nose at those “redneck hillbilly locals”. News flash, it’s those same “redneck hillbilly locals” that will be the ones saving your fanny if you have problems while afield.

Please don’t assume because your stay here will be short that your behavior doesn’t matter. Be courteous. Stop and think – would you like us to waltz in to YOUR home hunting area and hang a stand right next to yours? Have a plan A, plan B, Plan C heck even a plan D – you are hunting public land and the time you spent online scouting and deciding which would be your best place, well it may be taken when you get there.

Hands off our stuff. That means don’t fiddle with, don’t swipe, don’t remove, don’t use any equipment that you find located in your hunting area.  If you find a unoccupied stand or blind that you think you would want to use look for the owners information that should be attached. Contact the owner.  Don’t just hop in it under the guise of well it was here and it’s empty so I can use it.

Please don’t threaten to shoot my hunting dog.  I am hunting too. The area is open to me and my dogs, and we will do our best to not interfere with your hunt, your area, but the dogs will follow their noses. Screaming at us and threatening to shoot our dogs will never have a good outcome for anyone.  Remember, we are local and likely have our local Conservation Police officer’s phone number on speed dial.

Please don’t crowd property lines. Private land owners do not have to give you permission to recover your deer if it goes down on their property. Private landowners are under no obligation to move their stands, blinds, or accommodate you in any way.

Please be mindful of where and how you dispose of your carcasses. We do not enjoy finding them rotting in the roadside ditches, tossed over the fence into our pastures, and at boat ramps.  Ask the site staff for the best place to dispose of your carcass. Please consider if you only want the head and cape for a trophy – donating the rest of the deer for the hungry. Again, the site staff can help you find information about how to negotiate the donation process.

Most importantly, keep safety foremost in your mind – be aware of what’s on the other side of that thicket, at the top of the ridge line, or below you as you sit on the ridgeline. No duck hunter appreciates a deer slug whizzing by their head from the ridge line above. Carefully study the hunter fact sheets and maps to determine if there will be other activities (including non deer hunting hunting activities) , structures, etc nearby.

Again, we welcome you – we just ask that you treat our natural resources, local hunters, and communities with the same courtesy and respect you would expect from us when we visit your neighborhood.

Happy Hunting and we wish you a successful and enjoyable time in our beautiful state.

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