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Recent entries


Through the Lens

Is the Benefit Worth the Risk?

Sun, April 15, 2018

I have a sign on my desk that says, “BANG HEAD HERE” – it serves a good purpose on many days when I simply left dumbfounded, open mouthed, and frustrated with all sorts of different things.  My most recent episode of frustration came from livestreaming the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on SB2493 (AKA the deer feeding bill) . The bill was passed out committee with the stipulation that would return to committee after some refinement.
In a nutshell, SB2493 simply adds one small sentence to the Wildlife code:
“A person may supplementally feed deer with items otherwise prohibited by this Section when not in active deer hunting season which shall be implemented by the Department by rule.”

The otherwise prohibited items that are referred to are:
“any material, whether liquid or solid, including food, salt, minerals, and other products, except pure water, that can be ingested, placed, or scattered in such a manner as to attract or lure white-tailed deer.” (emphasis added)

This sounds simple enough, and certainly there are many proponents for this legislation.  After all, why wouldn’t we want to feed our deer herd? Grow even bigger bucks, bigger racks? My gosh – don’t we want to be able to put out the latest and greatest supplements and feeds to insure we have the healthiest herd ever?

This is pretty much what the proponents are shouting here, there, and yon.  Along with that shouting comes a bit of misinformation as well. Largely in part tanks to social media and all the deer nutrition experts that have popped up also from here, there, and yon.

Once piece of widely shared misinformation is that this “feeding” will be allowed on private property only. Hmmm, I don’t see that in the current language of the bill or the language that was part of the bill presented in committee.

Minor detail I suppose some would say, but good grief if you are going to campaign for the passage of a bill, at least get the language right. .

But what really bothered me was the overall attitude that the couple of “experts” trotted in to explain why our whole policy is wrong didn’t really specifically cite any of the “studies” they kept referring to.

It took a fair amount of searching and researching for me to even find the studies that I think they might have been referring to. 

The next verse of that song is that the conclusions in the multitude of studies that I did find weren’t exactly as presented to the ag committee.

Don’t be fooled my friends. Do you really believe this is being pushed as truly altruistic bill to improve the health of the herd?  It’s my opinion that this bill is more of method to market and sell these very supplemental products that are currently banned from use Illinois and to continue the push to build and engineer bigger deer, bigger racks and bigger bank accounts for more than just a few. Additionally, I see this a method to pave the way so to speak to legalize baiting.  Once again, it’s not about the deer, it’s about the dollars.

During the hearing it was noted the there were witness slips from 116 proponents, and 91 opponents. A quick perusal of the witness slips filed made that assumption even more clear. The proponents were heavily weighted towards those in the whitetail industries; outfitters, mineral and supplement producers, etc. While those opposing the measure were much more heavily weighted to those who favor wildlife, biologists, scientists.

Proponents have launched an effective campaign laced with visions of big bucks dancing through the myriad of reasons why supplemental feeding should be allowed. Seriously, it’s kind of turned into an “It’s about the health of the herd” mantra somewhat like that of the over used “It’s for the children” that so many causes employ.  But by golly if it will make deer healthier, and the additional claim that supplemental feeding of just the right product could prevent CWD and EHD (please someone, PLEASE give me the citation for that claim!) has hunters, outfitters, and supplement producers jumping on the bandwagon.

I see too many negatives to supplemental feeding in Illinois for this to even be logically considered by our legislators. I would be much more accepting if rather than just blindly allowing it via legislation, our legislators increased funding and resources to allow our DNR to effectively perform some controlled and scientific studies regarding the effect of supplemental feeding and/or baiting.

First and foremost, let’s look at CWD and other disease transmission. While the proponents will loudly proclaim there’s no correlation between feeding and baiting and disease transmission, I am certainly having a difficult time finding any data that outright states that as a conclusion of any of the CWD or other disease transmission studies. In fact, in most cases, the first action taken when CWD is discovered in an area is to ban feeding and baiting (if it is a state that allows either).

This is a good chart of CWD regs across the board by state. Take a long hard look at the regs concerning feeding and baiting. That’s information not exactly what I heard from some of the proponents during the hearing.  Additionally, deer could be lured away from CWD management areas hindering the current IL CWD management efforts.

I could write volumes filled with science terms, tables, gobbledygook and citations about CWD transmission. For now, I will spare you that.

Secondly, there are other negative factors associated with feeding wild deer.

Deer become habituated to humans, they may develop a certain amount of dependency on the supplemental feeding.

Not all supplements are created equal, and who will oversee and develop regulations regarding the content of these supplements and what can and can’t be used. Let’s face it throwing out a pile of corn is not going to do much for “improving the health and nutrition of the herd”.  Do we even have any data that suggests deer in IL are suffering from any specific nutritional deficiencies and even need our help in that arena? Under the current language of the bill nothing specifies what can be fed. While the proponents are fighting for the use of mineral and vitamin supplements, my suspicion is given the cost, many will just throw out corn, pumpkins, apples etc. 

Deer feeding sites also attract unwanted predators, rodents, and may artificially alter the predator/prey balance.

Despite any rules that could be made regarding when feeds must be removed prior to hunting season, we all know that the habituated deer will continue to return to that same area looking for food.  This could be just another method to improve harvest and take rates. Sure, that corn pile was gone 10 days before season opened, but do you really think the deer will stop returning that quickly?

What about feeding in urban areas? I can see it now…. the daily parade of deer across busy urban roads as they trot off to Joe’s house because boy howdy, there’s a buffet in his back yard. Joe’s neighbor who ends up with collateral damage from the increase deer traffic and snacking on his thousands of dollars’ worth of landscaping may not be quite so enamored of said deer. Joe’s other neighbor who just totaled his new Chevy after hitting part of the deer parade likely won’t be too thrilled either.

Lastly, many of the “nutritional” arguments refer to either livestock or captive herds.  Whitetail deer in Illinois are a valuable natural resource and WILDLIFE – not livestock.

Here’s a link to some of the studies and conclusions that was put together by Wisconsin DNR that’s worth giving a look.

Ultimately my fear is that should this pass, it puts IDNR into the unenviable position of having to issue additional and more regulations, finding ways to fund additional studies, monitoring, increased enforcement efforts on the part of the CPO’s, etc.  We are still short on biologists, IDNR is still massively underfunded, we are still short CPO’s, so sure,  let’s just add more to their workload why don’t we?

Don’t you think it’s more important to address natural resources regulations through science and natural resource experts rather than public opinion or political maneuvering to benefit a select few?

I know full well this is hot button topic – so I have a request if you are going to comment, keep it clean, keep it respectful of others. Let’s all try to learn from this proposed legislation rather become increasingly divided.


WSRC Resumes Limited Public Shooting Hours

Fri, March 16, 2018

SPARTA - Since it’s closure in October of 2016,  shooters have bemoaned the loss of public shooting at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta. While the complex did continue to host the ATA Grand American, AIM Championships and few other specifically sanctioned shooting events, there remained no opportunities for the general public to utilize the various shooting ranges.

After much work by IDNR, the WSRC will once again be open on a limited basis to the general public who may wish to use the shooting facilities.
Per IDNR the public shooting opportunities are as follows:

Open Public Shooting:

Berm: Wednesdays 1p to dusk – check in at the office on the south side of the berm (Starting 3/7)

Sporting Clays: Thursdays 12 to dusk – check in at the sporting clays office (Starting 3/15)

Once a month on Saturdays from 10a to 4p – check in at the sporting clays office

Trap:    Thursdays 3p to dusk – check in at the Café at the League table (Starting 3/15)

          2nd Saturday of the month – check in at Gipson Guns or J&J Guns (Starting 3/10)

Indeed this is far cry from days of when the public could visit at most anytime to utilize the complex, it is a start, a beginning to seeing the WSRC move a few steps closer to being fully utilized. The potential for increased multi use opportunities remain at the WSRC.

While the shooting aspects have been closed, selected campgrounds, the fishing lakes, and Season’s Event Center have remained open to public and continue to be open to the public.

For more information about the WSRC visit the IDNR Web Page or Call 618-295-2700


Legislative Updates - Part 2

Tue, February 27, 2018

Here’s Part two of recently introduced legislation that impacts IDNR, outdoorsmen and women, hunters and anglers. Some is innocuous, “clean up” and appropriations type, yet there are still those few pieces that leave me as always, wondering about the why we need this particular change. Clicking on the bill number and title will take you the full text of the bill.


Synopsis as Introduced:
Amends the Department of Natural Resources Act. Provides that the Department of Natural Resources has the authority to accept, receive, and administer on behalf of the State, federal grant funds associated with the development or preservation of recreational boating infrastructure on this State’s waterways and distribute those funds as prescribed by the appropriate federal agency. Provides that funds received by the Department shall be deposited into the Natural Resources Federal Boating Infrastructure Grant Dollars Fund and used for these purposes. Makes conforming changes in the State Finance Act.

This is essentially what I would call a clean-up or appropriations bill. It just insures that funding gets distributed as it’s supposed to.


Synopsis as Introduced:
Amends the Illinois Lottery Law. Requires the Department of the Lottery, beginning on January 1, 2019 or as soon thereafter as is practical, to offer a special instant scratch-off game for the purposes of upkeep, maintenance, and improvements to Illinois State and local parks. Provides that the net revenue from the special instant scratch-off game must be deposited into the Illinois Parks Scratch-off Fund. Provides that the moneys deposited in the Fund shall be used by the Department of Natural Resources for upkeep, maintenance, and improvements to Illinois State and local parks, including grants for those purposes. Authorizes the Department of the Lottery to adopt rules necessary to implement and administer the game. Defines “net revenue”. Amends the State Finance Act to create the Illinois Parks Scratch-off Fund. Effective immediately.

While I don’t think any of us can argue that any additional revenue stream, for our IDNR especially our State Parks is a bad thing, I must wonder what the anticipated revenue from this program will be. Additionally, is this to replace the sustainability funds that we may or may not have lost due to the lockbox amendment? I think that’s still up in the air. I can’t seem to get a concrete answer from anyone about whether IDNR lost those license plate generated sustainability funds.


Synopsis as Introduced:
Appropriates $442,403 from the Snowmobile Trail Establishment Fund to the Department of Natural Resources for the administration and payment of grants to nonprofit snowmobile clubs and organizations for construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation of snowmobile trails and areas for the use of snowmobiles. Effective immediately.

Again, just cleaning up and insuring that money goes where it is supposed to be going.


Synopsis as Introduced:
Amends the Fish and Aquatic Life Code. Provides that all properly licensed individuals shall be permitted to take, in any one day, no more than one flathead catfish under 35 inches in length within the waters of Rock River. Provides that a flathead catfish in possession of an individual from Rock River that is over 35 inches in length shall be released immediately. Provides that all properly licensed individuals shall be permitted to take, in any one day, no more than 6 channel catfish under 30 inches in length within the waters of Rock River. Provides that a channel catfish in possession of an individual from Rock River that is over 30 inches in length shall be released immediately.

This seems sensible, and we can hope that it was brought about by hard data from our fisheries department.


Synopsis as Introduced:
Amends the Fish and Aquatic Life Code. Defines “fishing license” for purposes of the Act as an electronic or physical license authorizing the person to take a certain type of fish during a specified period. Effective immediately.

Again – seems sensible to me. I am one who carries the pdfs of my credentials on my phone. Having utilized some of the smartphone-based systems in other states, this is a step in the right direction.


Synopsis as Introduced:
Amends the Fish and Aquatic Life Code. Provides that residents of this State may obtain a 5-year fishing license. Provides that the fee for a 5-year fishing license is $62.50. Provides that for residents age 65 or older, the fee is one-half of the fee charged for a 5-year fishing license. Provides that for resident veterans of the United States Armed Forces after returning from service abroad or mobilization by the President of the United States, the fee is one-half of the fee charged for a 5-year fishing license. Provides that residents of this State may obtain a 5-year sportsmen’s combination license that shall entitle the holder to the same non-commercial fishing privileges as residents holding a license and to the same hunting privileges as residents holding a license to hunt all species under the Wildlife Code. Provides that the 5-year sportsmen’s combination license fee shall be $112.50. Provides that no sportsmen’s combination license shall be issued to any individual who would be ineligible for either the fishing or hunting license separately. Provides that for residents age 65 or older, the fee is one-half of the fee charged for a 5-year sportsmen’s combination license. Provides that for resident veterans of the United States Armed Forces after returning from service abroad or mobilization by the President of the United States, the fee is one-half of the fee charged for a 5-year sportsmen’s combination license. Amends the Wildlife Code. Provides that residents of this State may obtain a 5-year hunting license to hunt all species for $52. Provides that for residents age 65 or older and resident veterans of the United States Armed Forces after returning from service abroad or mobilization by the President of the United States, the fee is one-half of the fee charged for a 5-year hunting license.

Again – unless I’ve missed something – there’s nothing in this to really upset any apple carts. Why not offer a five-year license? In our household, we would likely take advantage of this.


Synopsis as Introduced:
Amends the Wildlife Code. Provides that a person shall not establish or use a blind or pit for the taking of wild ducks within 100 yards of the boundary of property on which the blind or pit is located without consent from the landowner of the adjacent property. Provides that the provision only applies to property located in Alexander County, Union County, Williamson County, or Jackson County. Effective immediately.

On the surface this seems cut and dried. But I still have few questions. Why just those counties? Is it due to the number of commercial waterfowl clubs? Seems like we are complicating regs a little with this. Why not just make it apply statewide? And while we are at it – why not include deer stands, blinds etc. So many of the disputes each hunting season seem to come from property line creepers. Would this give property owners any assurances? Oh, and what about geese? Would the legislation be a little cleaner if it used the term migratory waterfowl vs wild ducks?


Synopsis as Introduced:
Amends the Wildlife Code. Provides that traps used in the taking of mammals protected by the Code, for which an open trapping season has been established, shall be marked or tagged with metal tags or inscribed in lettering giving the name and address of the owner, or the name and customer identification number issued by the Department of Natural Resources, and absence of such mark or tag shall be prima facie evidence that such trap or traps are illegally used and the trap or traps shall be confiscated and disposed of as directed by the Department. Effective immediately.

Again this seems sensible and straightforward. Gives trappers the choice of using name and address or name and IDNR customer number. In today’s world with so many concerns about privacy, and difficulties from anti trapping organizations - being able to list customer number vs address may be just the ticket for some folks. 


Synopsis as Introduced:
Amends the Wildlife Code. Deletes language providing that the season limit for river otter shall not exceed 5 river otters per person per season. Effective immediately

Once again clean and straightforward. As long our biologists have enough data to support it – I say fine. It gives the Director and IDNR the ability to set limits vs having them legislatively mandated.


Synopsis as Introduced:
Amends the Wildlife Code. Raises the fair market value or replacement cost of various species protected by the Act. Provides that a person who possesses whitetail antlered deer, in whole or in part, captured or killed in violation of the Act, shall pay restitution to the Department of Natural Resources in the amount of $1,000 per whitetail antlered deer and an additional $500 per antler point, for each whitetail antlered deer with at least 8 but not more than 10 antler points. Provides that for whitetail antlered deer with 11 or more antler points, restitution of $1,000 shall be paid to the Department per whitehead antlered deer plus $750 per antler point. Defines “point”. Effective immediately.

This one I am good with. Matter of fact, I am really good with this one. It increases the restitution values of multiple species. The way I see it, the tougher we can make it on poachers and those hunting illegally, the more we get in their pockets, and the harsher sentences they can receive can only be a good thing.


Amends the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act. Provides that a permit for incidental taking under the Act shall not be required if a federal conservation agreement, including but not limited to, a candidate conservation agreement, habit conservation plan, or safe harbor agreement, is in effect and approved by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. Provides that in making Endangered Species Protection Board appointments of naturalists, the Governor shall give consideration to recommendations of conservation groups. Provides that of the remaining appointed members, 2 members shall be landowners representing the State’s largest general farm organization. Removes the exemption for notice or public hearing when the Endangered Species Protection Board automatically places a species or subspecies of an animal or plant on the Illinois endangered list after designation as endangered by the U.S. Secretary of Interior. Effective immediately.

Okay – in all honesty – this one is a little hard for me to decipher and pick apart. It does propose no new additions to the endangered species list without first having a public meeting/notice. That seems sensible enough. Stresses that the governor in his appointments to the board must give consideration to recommendations of conservation groups. Again, that seems reasonable and a good thing. Being honest, I do think agriculture should have a seat on the board, but I am not sure mandating exactly where those persons representing agriculture should come from is an especially good idea. We know the lobbying capability of the large ag groups in IL, and will they fight a listing of an endangered species if puts their members in a bind? Not too sure about that piece. Removing the requirement for IDNR to issue an incidental taking permit if there is a federal conservation plan in place, seems to remove a duplication of services, but also removes any opinions or looks by our own state agencies. This is one of those that indeed leaves me wondering why we need this change.  I need to be digging into this one a little deeper.

HB 5015 - DNR Programs Equipment

Amends the Department of Natural Resources (Conservation) Law of the Civil Administrative Code of Illinois. Amends provisions concerning the Department of Natural Resources Adopt-A-Park and Adopt-A-Trail programs. Provides that a volunteer may bring his or her own light equipment, including, but not limited to, a lawn mower, chainsaw, or other appropriate equipment to carry out functions granted by the Department at his or her own risk, so long as it does not interfere with work historically performed by Department employees.

Some I’ve spoken to seem to think this opens the door for volunteers to replace IDNR employees. I don’t see it that way. I see it for what it is; it allows volunteer groups to use their own equipment. Many of our sites have barely working equipment, or may not have exactly what is needed. If we want volunteers to be able to help with projects, we must stop tying their hands under the guise of protecting union jobs. Let’s face it, it’s not like any of our parks are suffering from an overabundance of staff, or staff that don’t have more than enough to do.

As always, I look forward to hearing what the Heartland community has to say about these pieces of legislation! I feel a bit like my old high school civics teacher who used to throw up a topic on the chalkboard and then turn to us and shout “DISCUSS! ” so Heartland friends, Let’s discuss!



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