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Illinois Whitetail Alliance update

Fri, February 21, 2014

Spent a short period of time at the Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic today and, as near as I could tell, the most interesting deer-related thing going on in Springfield was the Illinois Whitetail Alliance.

Members of the new deer advocacy group had a 2.5-hour meeting with Department of Natural Resources director Marc Miller on Friday. While I don’t know what will come of that meeting, I can say the Alliance is on its way to shaking things up in Illinois.

Let’s face it, Illinois deer hunters are an unhappy lot in the wake of a 2013-14 hunting season that saw the deer kill decline by 18 percent.

This year’s preliminary kill total of 148,569 for all deer seasons was down 32,242 and marked the eighth straight season of population decline. It was also the lowest gun season total in 23 years and lowest total deer harvest since 1999.

Faced with those facts, a group of Illinois hunters has formed the Illinois Whitetail Alliance. The goals of the organization, whose founding members include former Department of Natural Resources Director Brent Manning, are outlined in a proposal recently released to the public.

Manning praised the DNR for a recent announcement about possible regulation changes. But he added, “Many other recommendations have been made with the best interest of Illinois’ deer herd in mind. The entire Alliance proposal is well thought out, and deserves consideration.”

Alliance member Kevin Chapman, a past Illinois Bowhunters Society president and Springfield conservation legislation watchdog, said one goal is to be proactive, instead of reactive.

“In the past it seems like everyone has wanted to sit back and complain about what the DNR did,” Chapman said. “I don’t think an organized group has wanted to take the initiative to make suggestions.

“Many in the Alliance have been involved with Illinois deer management issues for over 20 years, and have witnessed the rise and fall of Illinois deer hunting. Most hunters are passionate about the future of one of the state’s greatest natural resources. That’s why some of the best deer management ideas in the past have come from the hunting public, including the current statewide two-buck limit.”

Hunter’s passions have not been lost on DNR upper management. As Manning noted, in a recent press release the DNR said it “plans to revise deer population objectives for more than 40 counties beginning with the 2014-15 deer season, following a two-year review of Illinois deer management.”

“In these counties our strategy is shifting from deer herd reduction to maintaining or increasing deer populations,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller.

DNR is also considering limiting over-the-counter firearm permits and seeks hunter input at

But the Alliance is asking for greater changes, as outlined in a presentation Chapman will make Saturday (4:30 p.m.) and Sunday (11 a.m.) at the Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic.

He is also scheduled to speak March 2 at 12:30 p.m. at the Elmwood All Outdoors Show in Elmwood.

Chapman believes in parts of Illinois the deer herd may be down by as much as 50 percent with a statewide average of 30 percent.

For proof he points to the continued decline in deer harvest totals and in deer-vehicle accident totals (DVAs). Based on 2012 numbers, DVAs are down 25 percent or more from the peak in 2003 ­– which Chapman notes, “was really before we even started seeing the effects of EHD in 2012 and 2013).”

“I know DNR has to balance this between all stakeholders, but whatever the magic number is, I think hunters are taking notice that the herd is below the acceptable level they want to see,” Chapman said.

Alliance members were scheduled to meet with Miller after Heartland Outdoors went to press.

The plan outlined by the Alliance heading into that meeting included the following five points:

1) Enact an immediate five-year moratorium on any new legislation or administrative rule change that could result in the expansion of any deer hunting season, add any additional weapons, or increase the deer harvest in any way. After five years, an independent review of the deer management program would be performed by a qualified source.

2) Reduce the pressure on the overall deer harvest, particularly on female deer, by implementing the following:
a) Eliminate the current late winter deer season (LWS)
b) Move all future antlerless-only (A-O) seasons to mid-September
c) Implement a one-buck and one-doe limit in counties where an additional A-O season is not needed
d) Eliminate all over-the-counter (OTC) gun permit sales, and OTC archery sales after November 1

3) Implement a statewide one-buck limit, all seasons combined.

4) Implement new regulations on non-resident (NR) permits including an immediate elimination of the OTC A-O permit, unless the NR has purchased a regular combo permit.

5) Enact stricter penalties for deer hunting violations that involve “willful intent” which would result in a two-year suspension of hunting privileges for the first offense, five-year suspension for the second offense, and permanent loss upon the third offense.

Members of the Illinois Whitetail also include outdoor writer Les Davenport, whitetail habitat consultant Don Higgins and biologist/forester Lee Mitchell.

Hunters in Illinois took a preliminary total of 74,355 deer during the 2013 firearm season, 3,546 deer during muzzleloader season and 3,012 during the youth season. All totals were down from 2012.

Bowhunters shot 57,290 deer, compared with a harvest of 59,805 in the 2012-13 archery season. Late-winter and special CWD deer seasons had a combined harvest of 10,366, down from 14,723 in 2012-13.

Chapman concedes many other Midwestern states experienced similar harvest declines this year.

“I think everybody kind of adopted the same principles. It’s the same story everywhere,” he said. “All the other DNRs are just realizing we did a little too much and now we need to tweak it back the other direction.”

Chapman said he hopes the Alliance can help the Illinois DNR reach the same conclusions as it reviews deer management.

Alliance members urge hunters to contact their local legislators. The group also has a Facebook page with 1,615 members.


Kudo’s to the alliance and I hope all their hard work and dedication doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

Posted by Jesse James on February 22

That sounds like a great start Jeff and I hope the state takes the suggestions to heart. The deer herd here needs help and unfortunately a some hunters in our state would continue to buy more permits and hunt our herd into the ground without imposed limitations.
Good Luck

Posted by kirkv on February 22

Thanks to all those who are dedicating their personal time for this Alliance.  It will be appreciated by many!  I hope Miller can put aside the politics and do what is right.  Too much knowledge, and hopefully pressure in front of him right now, for him not to do what is right.

Posted by BIGPOND on February 22

Thanks for the info Jeff.  Your following statements said it all: 

“Let’s face it, Illinois deer hunters are an unhappy lot in the wake of a 2013-14 hunting season that saw the deer kill decline by 18 percent. This year’s preliminary kill total of 148,569 for all deer seasons was down 32,242 and marked the eighth straight season of population decline. It was also the lowest gun season total in 23 years and lowest total deer harvest since 1999”.

It is very refreshing to see this alliance formed.  Its also great to see that this group is led by some very well respected guys in deer management.  It seems all of their points and initiatives are 100% spot on. I cant wait to learn more.

Posted by CCHUNTER2024600 on February 22

I agree with everything except the one buck rule.  Personally, if you want to take a second buck, that is fine, as long as the deer meets at 4 point on one side or a 14” minimum spread.  Some of their points though don’t make sense, in counties where an a/o season isn’t needed they want one buck and one doe limits but then below that it has a one buck limit statewide.  Personally, I’ve only shot two bucks in one season once, a 120” and a 140”.  Most seasons I eat three or four buck tags but still would like to have the opportunity to harvest a second.  I don’t shoot bucks under 120” though.  I think we have to start with limiting does to two a season, we do that, I think it will really help the deer population after about 3 years.  I think we just have to sit and wait and see what comes of this.  I don’t agree with an antler less season in September, its too warm and fawns are still a little young to be on there own.  We have 3.5 months to shoot does with a bow, we don’t need more time to do so.  Also, last thing we need is a September gun season (if that is what they are saying) I can’t imagine the amount of bucks that would be poached during that time frame.

Posted by Bigb on February 22

  There is no need for the one buck rule. Although I was okay with it, there was no need for the two buck limit that the IBO proposed to the DNR years ago. The DNR did change the law but stated that there was no biological reason to do so. They changed it because that’s what “we” asked for. Since then we have all been brain washed to let small bucks walk, so everyone concentrated on big bucks and does. There is no need to protect bucks of any size. Think about pheasants, turkeys and ducks. We protect the hens to produce more offspring, not the males. Looking back on it, letting the small bucks walk may have been a mistake. Lets keep it simple - two deer limit PERIOD - until the herd rebounds.
  I don’t want the first gun season to change from Friday to Monday. I wouldn’t mind moving the first firearm weekend to the weekend after Thanksgiving. My personal reason for this is that I have missed out on several Thanksgivings due to the fact that I was butchering deer from the previous weekend. Another upside to this idea is that kids will already be out of school on Friday. The other firearm weekends could be pushed back one weekend. If this idea were to fly, the five days before Thanksgiving should be closed to bow hunting to give the deer a break during the rut. This would also prevent bow hunters from having another exclusive rut week.
  One last thing, where is the hunter outrage on the lack of pheasants and quail???

Posted by spazman on February 22

  Gentleman at least the DNR is willing to talk but as far as really listening and using good common sense is another question. The 5 recommendations sound like a very good start. Everyone isn’t going to agree with them all. My objection is the one buck only change for a couple of reasons. Think about it, if everyone is complaining of seeing no deer why force the hunters to shoot does. A lot of hunters and myself are bow and gun hunters so if this passes I’ll be just a one season hunter. I have seen this coming for a long time. You can’t keep killing the hens and expect eggs. I have not taken a doe in 10 plus years. A change that was not brought up.  WE NEED THE CHECK STATIONS BACK!!!

Posted by deer1 on February 22

I think the 1 buck rule is a GREAT idea.  It makes people be accountable for what they shoot….  If someone wants to say he/she is a meat hunter than they should be content with what they shoot.  For the person who is a trophy hunter, it will make him/her think twice before letting that arrow go or slug fly on the buck they choose.  I agree completely with Whitetail Alliance and their proposals, I believe they were well thought out and are beneficial to the deer herd.

Posted by whitetailkrazy on February 22

BigB, the way I read it, it makes sense.  There would be a 1 buck limit for the entire state (great idea) and then the counties WITHOUT an A/O season would also have a 1 doe limit.  The counties WITH an A/O season would still allow more than one doe.  All great ideas and as stated, there is zero chance of making everyone agree with EVERY change.  Lets all just be happy and proud of these guys for taking the time and initiative to make these positive changes.

Posted by CCHUNTER2024600 on February 22

Thanks a lot to the guys in this alliance for standing up for what we all believe in which is reaching and sustaining a good deer herd for our future!! You’ve nailed it almost to a T!!!! My hat goes off to you!!! I don’t agree with what somebody said on here though about not allowing bow hunting the entire week before gun season…..that’s the best and sometimes the only time that you’ll get a big mature buck in bow range and often times the most exciting time of the year to be in a treestand and you don’t want them to allow hunting then!? I’m confused on that one! I also don’t agree with the one buck limit I know it has it’s pluses and negatives but my biggest buck is 149” and I shot that in high school….I’ve ate my tags every since then and I’m 22 now! So your telling me if I shoot a 165” buck on the farm I just purchased at the start of the rut that I have to pass on a 180” buck on the other farm I lease if it walks by during gun season!? I mean I know it’s very rare for a hunter to bag two trophy bucks in one year but if the opportunity presents itself I want to be able to take advantage of it!!! I understand that there’s people out there though that shoot small deer or any deer that moves for that matter so I understand where they’re coming from with this!!!

Posted by Taterbug on February 22

taterbug, i just returned from the classic.  There was about 20 current year deer at the classic and the total was WAYYYYYYY under 100 when i left at 615 tonight I have went to this show for 20 years now and ill tell ya i wont be back.  What once was a show where i looked forward to all year that now we could hold in a small town highschool gym. If you see a 165 and a 180 in the same season, you should have played the lotery that week.  If we get a two buck limit… either the 165 or the 180 may be doable in your lifetime.  Lets hold with that goal.  Also i havent seen anything anywhere about not bowhunting before gun season.  Iowa has a one buck limit and the shed hunters there find truck loads of antlers still.  Lets take shooting 1 150 a year for the rest of our lives over the hope of killing two giants next year….

Posted by clintharvey on February 22

ClintHarvey….I just went back and read it….spazman is the one that said something a about not allowing bow hunting the week before gun season!!

Posted by Taterbug on February 23

My comment about no bow hunting before Thanksgiving, was only if the first firearm season was moved to the weekend after Thanksgiving. Moving the weekend would move the gun season away from the peak of the rut pissing off alot of gun hunters. By eliminating bow hunting during this time would let the deer have a week off to get some breeding done without being harassed. It would prevent the bow hunters from having another exclusive rut hunting week and hopefully alleviate some gun hunters concerns about moving their first weekend.

Posted by spazman on February 23

Ohhh okay I get what your saying now….hopefully they don’t go moving things around and just take care of the problem by eliminating antlerless only seasons and the unlimited antlerless only archery tags you can buy over the counter!!!

Posted by Taterbug on February 23

We’ll at least this organization alliance w.e it is has a nice name. For me most of what they propose sucks…my management plan next year includes shooting as many does as I can. At least four….and one small buck…a terribly small buck hopefully. After all that I’ll hold my last buck tag for a big boy that won’t walk by…but he might. What I’ve seen in 13 years of hunting brown sangamon and Jim Edgar is Too many does…. More does. And too many does.  People kill some of these does please.  And start shooting some of the small bucks too. I hope this didn’t blow anyone’s mind or make me sound like a troll but I think these guys got it all wrong. I can clarify if needed lol

Posted by Cfitz on February 23

I think the main concept here is compromise. Even if you don’t agree with all the points, wouldn’t you want what is best for your deer herd? I know I stand behind the Illinois Whitetail Alliance 110%. I am more than willing to sacrifice the opportunity for a second buck if it means that the future generations of hunters have a chance to pursue the deer where we are today. We can’t be selfish, we need to unite for the greater good.

Posted by CHAPMAN on February 24

Isn’t having bent manning part of your organization kind of like inviting the fox into the hen house?

Posted by riverrat47 on February 24

at this point Riverrat, I’ve bit the entire bottom portion of my lip off!

Posted by walmsley on February 25

The one buck rule makes no sense to me but I am all for it, which makes no sense.

Posted by yellowstone on February 27

Yellowstone, my understanding was that they are concerned that if the doe tags are limited more guys will fill their tags with bucks. In order to try to maintain the buck to doe ratio they want the bucks limited to one so the bucks don’t take a big hit as the does are spared and cause the ratio to swing.

Posted by goodsoil on February 28

Goodsoil, I would think shooting bucks is what we need to do at this time if we are trying to build up a herd. Better a buck than a doe if that is the goal. Reason I agree with it is because I am a trophy hunter but from a management perspective right now, it makes very little sense.

Posted by yellowstone on February 28

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