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The Back 40

Don’t Be A Tool

Sat, December 18, 2010

So you want to help the deer population do you?  Step #1:  Don’t be a tool.

Here’s my take on things.  I think that most of us on this site agree that we sure could use some more deer in Illinois.  So who is to blame here?  Hunters?  IDNR?  Insurance companies?  The Farm Bureau?  It’s simple to say all of the above.  It’s also probably correct.  But while the IDNR may be to blame in terms of their decisions, are they really to blame when it actually comes to the killing?  I think not.  In my humble opinion, the IDNR’s selling of too many tags is simply a suggestion…a tempt to us hunters.  Their dangling of the tags in front of us is like holding a steak over a dog’s head.  We are the salivating dogs jumping for the tags.  The fix here is simple if we can all get with the program…or against the program as it were. 

The IDNR is the dealer, the pusher.  We hunters are the users.  We are the tools they use.  I for one have not let the IDNR use me as their tool for many years.  They say I can shoot two bucks per season.  I say Thank You very much.  They say shoot more does.  I say No Thank You.  I’ll shoot two bucks if they’re bucks I want mounted.  Not bucks that will impress others, but bucks that will impress me.  When it comes to does, I’ll shoot what I think my property can handle.  I am the manager of my hunting property, not the IDNR.  Yes, the state of Illinois owns the deer on my property, but I own the knowledge of that herd.  That’s not a shot at the IDNR.  There is no way they could know about my deer herd specifically.  That’s my job.  Just because the state would love for me to shoot more deer doesn’t mean I have to.  Like I said, I refuse to be their tool. 

50 acres isn’t much land, but it’s what I have to work with.  If I overkill my farm, the results are obvious and immediate.  I pay the price for my own greed.  On the flip side, I also reap the rewards for behaving myself and holding back when I should.  Remember, I manage the deer on my farm, not the state.  They can limit the amount I can kill, but they can’t force me to kill more than I know my property can handle.  That’s my decision and that’s how it will remain.  I respectfully disagree with their opinion to shoot more deer by not shooting more deer.  Whether you own property, have permission to hunt someone else’s property, or hunt public land, you are the deer manager.  To me this is a no-brainer.  This year I will be sitting out the Late Winter season.  I think my property can actually handle a couple more does being taken out, but it sure would be nice to know that I’ll have a healthier herd size next year.  Self-governance.  Self-control.  Not always an easy decision, but it is a very gratifying one. 

Bottom line…Don’t be a tool.  If your property is overrun with does, have fun and knock ‘em down.  However, if your property is like most others in Illinois, use a common sense approach and stay home.  It’ll actually be a gratifying feeling knowing that you’ve done your part.  You’ll thank yourself next year. 

Hunting small properties forces you to micro-manage.  You can watch your deer numbers go drastically down or up in just a few short years by your own actions.  When I first bought my place, the numbers were terrible.  There were deer all around my place, but not on my place.  For me, the fix was easy.  Get rid of the renter’s cows and let the browse and undergrowth catch up again.  Don’t shoot any does year one.  Plant some food and additional cover.

As a result, year two was much better and year three even better.  Even though my deer numbers are increasing nicely from year to year, I could change that in just one irresponsible season.  I choose not to and have been very happy as a result.  You see, it’s not the IDNR’s management plan, it’s mine.  If I have an irresponsible season, me and my kids will pay the price.  If we play it right, we will reap the rewards.  We are the true field managers, not the IDNR.  Just my opinion.Year-Two Management Result.
Year-Two Result


Small Acreage Hunting

Mon, December 13, 2010

Let me start by saying that I am honored to write a blog for such a great web site.  I have been a follower of this site and Jeff’s past endeavors for quite some time, almost to the point of addiction.  What a great place for us all to share stories, information and opinions.

Now for my introduction.  Regulars to HO may know me as TREEHUGGER.  I have been married to my high school sweetheart, Carole, for 23 years.  Not once in those 23 years has she ever asked me to stay home or hunt less.  Carole and I have two kids…daughter, Stefani (20), and son, Jake (15).  We live in central Illinois and are the typical outdoorsy family.  The kids and I hunt deer and my wife hunts upland birds with us.  We have two German Shorthairs, one black lab, three Quarter horses and a few barn cats. 

Though we have lived in central Illinois since 1994, Carole and I grew up in Chicago where I used to watch my uncles come home from Wisconsin hunts with deer and bears strapped to their hoods.  The seed was planted.  Growing up in Chicago can make hunting opportunities a near impossible task though.  If you want to be turned down for hunting permission, just say “Chicago” when asked where you’re from.  Fair or not, it is what it is.  So back in 1993, I (we) purchased a 40 acre piece of timber in Peoria County so that I’d have a place to bowhunt.  We loved that piece of property so much that we sold our house and moved to the property less than a year later.  Best thing we’ve ever done.  This is exactly how and where we want our kids to grow up. 

In 15 years of owning that 40 acre tract of timber, I’ve learned a lot about Whitetails and how to hunt them on small pieces of land.  Through the years I have been fortunate enough to take several P&Y bucks, but every deer I have ever met has taught me something.  Usually something I’m doing wrong!  I’ve also learned that you can actually manage a herd with very little property.  Sure it would be better to manage 500 acres, but you work with what you have.  A few years ago we sold that 40 acres in Peoria County and bought a new 50 acre piece in Knox County where I now hunt.  The fun part is trying to figure out a new herd, and believe me, they’ve made me work hard this year.  Hunting small tracts of land is different from hunting large pieces in my opinion.  You have to be VERY careful entering and exiting, and when you do bust a deer, it’s real easy for that deer to leave your ground.  It’s also much easier for Whitetails to pattern you.  We all like a deer herd that gets very little pressure from neighbors, but that’s not completely true for small property hunting.  Trust me, if your neighbors are not pressuring deer and you’re hunting them on your ground, they will have your number in short order.  That’s what has happened to me this year.  Though my deer numbers have increased slightly according to my trail cameras, my hunting sightings are way down.  My neighbors don’t bowhunt, but they are gunners.  Guess where the deer bedded down in daylight hours during bow season?  Thank God for trail cameras or I’d think I have no deer at all on my property.  That’s the cool thing about hunting small acreages.  You truly have to hunt.  In the past, I hunted small timber lots in northern Illinois that were surrounded by residential areas and shopping malls.  The deer were trapped and fairly easy to hunt.  Hunting small acreages in farm country is a whole different thing.  They are far from trapped.  You bust them one too many times and they’re gone.  Off to your neighbor’s.  It’s that easy.  But along with all the difficulties in hunting small acreages comes great rewards.  If you provide the deer with what they need, including a lack of human pressure, your chances of scoring on a good buck are high. 

In the future, I’ll be writing more on hunting small acreages.  I’ll share some of the things I’ve done right, some of the things I’ve done wrong, the dos and don’ts, and other small acreage concerns…like being neighborly.  I hope you enjoy this blog and hopefully some of you will find it helpful.


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