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Suggestions about what to do with deer herd abound



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Updated: December 17, 2013 8:50PM

Ideas pile up on what to do about Illinois’ deer herd.

Hunters knew something had happened, even before preliminary harvest numbers from the firearm seasons came in with a historic 25 percent drop from last year.

For weeks, brainstorming has been going on. Some ideas are better than others. One I like the most is in the consideration stage.

An outdoors friend, who grew up in Chicago, got into bowhunting for deer hard. He noticed something wrong this fall. Once it became clear it was more than a localized thing, he approached a lawyer about what is needed to set up a statewide advocacy group for deer hunters.

We had a discussion this week and agreed any such group should be for advising and advocating with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, not as an adversary.

I told him one of my pet peeves about hunting groups is that too many feel like they are Republican rat terriers sent to nip at the heels of the ruling Democrats. That makes no sense in Illinois, where deer hunters are split roughly in half on party affiliation.

The leaders of a deer-hunting advocacy group would have to delve into the politics of Springfield, but their emphasis has to be on the deer management in a bipartisan manner. That’s a tough line.

I hope my friend pulls it together because hunters need a strong voice in the deer discussion — as strong as the Farm Bureau and the insurance lobby.

† Some suggestions are philosophical. Many suggested hunters not hunt during the late-winter antlerless seasons this year because the IDNR refused to make an emergency closure of the late seasons. But I also agree with those who don’t think the majority of deer hunters will self-regulate.

† On other levels, there has been some talk about tweaking management in areas with confirmed chronic wasting disease. In CWD areas, culling often is done. Some suggest that every means should be used to gain permission to cull within the hot spot itself and that hunters be used if any culling needs to be done on nearby public lands. That makes sense to me.

This discussion is far from over.

Duck season

Duck season ended Tuesday in the north zone.

It was a down year at Wolf Lake on the Southeast Side, where 504 hunters bagged only 28 geese, 59 mallards and 59 other ducks. Goose hunting will continue as long as the launch is open.

Heidecke Lake also was down, with only 358 mallards and 442 other ducks shot. The launch there iced in, so hunting ended Dec. 8. It’s doubtful the launch will reopen to allow goose hunters to finish that season.

Wild things

With the ice forming, bald eagles are concentrated around open water. Readers have sent photos from most area rivers. For those of us who remember when eagles were headed toward extinction, it has been an astonishing turnaround. No longer do we have to trek to Starved Rock or the Mississippi River; eagles are among us now.

† The eruption of snowy owls continues, with reports of multiple owls on the lakefront but also inland. If you think you saw a snowy owl in a field, there is a chance you did.

Stray cast

I used to rank the smarts of Chicago sports fans (Fire, Bulls, Cubs, White Sox, Bears and Blackhawks) and the smarts of fishermen (fly, bass, muskie, panfish, ice and hoggers). After the past week, I put Bears fans below even hoggers.

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