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      Joint Deer Population Task Force Makes Final Recommendations

      Not long ago we told you about statewide efforts in Illinois to address the huge deer populations in many parts of the state.

      You'll remember a State-wide Joint Task Force on Deer Population Control was looking into how to curb the population because of the huge number of traffic crashes involving deer. Now the Joint Taskforce has released its list of recommendations to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to bring deer herds down to reasonable levels.

      It will likely change the way local hunters bag their deer.

      One of the first recommendations to the Illinois Department Natural Resources is to extend the first firearms season through Monday, making it 4 days instead of 3.

      Gary Harpole is an outfitter and owner of Heartland Lodge near Pleasant Hill.

      Harpole said, "It give us another day in the field and helps with overall management of the herd."

      He says while that's good news for hunters, changes to the current late winter doe season is a huge step forward towards managing and controlling the massive doe population in Pike County.

      That recommendation calls for extending the late winter firearms season from 3 to 9 days as well as selling doe tags over the counter.

      Right now hunters are preparing to hit the fields again for the late winter firearms doe season. Now hunters have to apply in advance for their tags. But with this change, hunters will be able to walk into a store and buy a tag at any time.

      Harpole said, "The more convenient something is, the easier it is to do. Sometimes applying for one doe permit, hunters didn't want to do it. Now being able to pay and go buy one at a sporting goods store or here it will be convenient."

      Harpole says this change also brings with it a solution to the massive numbers of does which is causing problems for the deer herd's genetics and breeding cycles....while helping the local economy.

      How will this affect outfitters?

      Harpole said, "Any ethical outfitter should be concerned about deer herd management. We bring hunters in to manager those deer herds. This is another way for us to manage deer effectively."

      Other recommendations include the expansion of educational outreach programs relating to deer, increased support for the Sportsman Against Hunter program and support for programs to improve hunter access to private lands. It also includes work with the Illinois Department of Transportation to enhance traffic safety programs related to deer-vehicle accidents and the development of materials related to deer for the Drivers' Safety program.

      Also recommended is the formation of a task force to review programs designed to reduce crop damage by deer.

      The Task force recommendations aren't set in stone yet. Staff with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is currently reviewing the possible changes to set up a timetable for when the recommendations may go into effect.

      None of the changes need to be approved by the state legislature before implementation.

      If the recommendations are confirmed by I-D-N-R staff, they would most likely take effect in the upcoming hunting season in 2009.

      Below is more information direct from the The Joint Task Force on Deer Population Control.

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      (JTF SPRINGFIELD) " The Joint Task Force on Deer Population Control (JTF) has made final recommendations on ways to manage the deer population, provide additional deer hunting opportunities, and reduce deer/vehicle accidents throughout the state. The recommendations include extending portions of some deer seasons, expanding educational outreach efforts, and making certain seasonal permits more readily available for longer periods of time to the public.

      "I want to thank the members of this task force and the public, for their dedication to this important issue," said IDNR Acting Director, Sam Flood. Managing the state's deer population is an ongoing responsibility, and I commend this group for its well thought out, data driven recommendations to better manage populations,"

      The JTF recommends that the rate of deer/vehicle accidents be used as the objective to guide deer management and to judge the success or failure of the management programs. The specific target rate (both statewide and at the county level) was set at halfway between the minimum and maximum rates measured during the period 1994 through 2007. The statewide target rate corresponds to a 14% decrease in the accident rate from the statewide peak observed during 2003.

      The Joint Task Force on Deer Population Control was created by House Joint Resolution 65 of the 95th General Assembly, with the mission "to examine and make recommendations on ways to manage the Illinois deer population". The Task Force consisted of 15 members including members of the General Assembly (or their appointee), state agencies including the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and constituent groups. The JTF met 4 times between April and October 2008, and conducted a series of 6 public meetings around the state to seek public comment about changes that were being considered.

      The JTF recommends the following changes in Illinois deer management:

      That deer permits for the antlerless-only Late-Winter Season be made available to hunters over-the-counter (OTC) at license vendors throughout the state, rather than through the current application and lottery system;

      That counties included in the Late-Winter Deer Season be categorized into two groups for permitting purposes, based upon their deer population status:

      (a) counties that are slightly above goal levels, in which only one permit could be purchased; and

      (b) counties that are significantly above goal levels, in which an unlimited number of permits could be purchased.

      That the length of the Late-Winter Deer Season be extended from 3 to 9 days.

      That permits for the regular Firearm Deer Season which remain unallocated after 2 lottery drawings be sold OTC on a first-come, first served basis until the end of that season.

      That the length of the first segment of the regular Firearm Deer Season be extended from 3 to 4 days, beginning on a Friday and ending on a Monday.

      Expansion of educational outreach programs relating to deer, including creation of a new web site ("Living with Illinois Deer"); increased support for the Sportsman Against Hunter program (venison donations); support for some type of Hunter Access Program to improve hunter access to private lands; working with the Illinois Department of Transportation to enhance traffic safety programs related to deer-vehicle accidents; and working with the Illinois Secretary of State's Office to develop materials related to deer for the Drivers' Safety program.

      Formation of a task force to review programs designed to reduce crop damage by deer.

      The recommendations are currently being reviewed by IDNR wildlife staff to determine feasibility and a timetable for implementation. None of the changes recommended by the JTF require new legislation; all could be accomplished via administrative rule. The complete report of the Joint Task Force on Deer Population Control is available online at www.idnr.state.il.us

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