IDNR Deer Management Update: First Lottery for Firearm Deer Season Not Affected

Chris Young
IDNR Deer Management Update: First Lottery for Firearm Deer Season Not Affected
SPRINGFIELD, IL � The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) will make final decisions on deer hunting permit quotas and the counties open for late-winter antlerless-only seasons once all data, including the final deer-vehicle accident (DVA) statistics from the Illinois Department of Transportation, are available sometime this summer.  IDNR biologists have flexibility to close late-winter seasons and adjust county permit quotas for the traditional firearm season after lottery drawings have begun.

�We are committed to making deer management decisions based on the best-available science, and we will make those determinations when all of the numbers are in hand.� said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller.

�The first two lottery drawings are generally all about participation,� said IDNR forest wildlife program manager Paul Shelton. �If at all possible, biologists try to ensure that quotas are sufficiently high to allow hunters to receive an either-sex permit for the county of their choice during those lottery periods.  During the past several years, changes in permit quotas have primarily impacted the number of bonus permits that are available to hunters beginning with the random daily drawing periods in September.  Hunters should not be concerned that participating in the firearm season lottery will have any negative effect on the status of the Illinois deer herd.�

The deadline to apply for the first lottery for the 2014 firearm deer season is April 30.
Last fall�s deer harvest numbers in Illinois were down more than 20 percent during the traditional firearm seasons, possibly due to a combination of back-to-back outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic (EHD) disease in 2012 and 2013; poor weather during firearm seasons; and, efforts to reduce deer numbers over several years.  Since Illinois� deer management goals are based on deer-vehicle accident rates, studying those data is essential to determining if individual county deer populations are at, above, or below their goal.

�As we move into the permitting phase of the upcoming firearm deer seasons, the first lottery deadline provides us with an opportunity to update deer hunters on our progress and give them some insight into the process,� Miller said. �We value the input we have received from our constituents who are concerned about Illinois deer and deer management issues.�

Biologists held a series of public deer meetings throughout the state last June, providing the opportunity for any interested party to ask questions and provide input.  The IDNR has conducted surveys to gather additional information about Illinoisans� (both hunters and non-hunters) opinions and ideas.  Staff members respond on a daily basis to numerous letters, email, and media inquiries about deer management, deer harvest, deer diseases, and many other related issues.  The IDNR is responsible for the management of white-tailed deer numbers for all 13 million Illinois citizens, and as a result the agency must be responsive to a wide variety of desires and opinions.

Deer management Q&A:

Q: Why use deer-vehicle accidents as your index to deer population?
A: DVA numbers correlate well to population trends and are a valuable index to herd status. Surveying the entire state by air would be nearly impossible, cost-prohibitive, and still not provide a definitive number. Road kill surveys are used to gauge population trends of many wildlife species.

Q: Why does it take so long to get the numbers?
A: The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will provide the numbers as soon as all accidents are entered in their database. It is a huge undertaking, and the IDNR is grateful to IDOT staff, who are working as quickly as possible to provide that data.

Q: Won�t the deer-vehicle accident numbers come in too late to be useful this year?
A: No. Biologists will have plenty of time to make changes after the numbers become available.  Decisions on permit quotas and late-winter season counties will be made when all the data is available - whether IDNR receives deer-vehicle numbers today or in July or August.

Q: The IDNR website already lists dates for late-winter seasons. Why announce the late-winter seasons if the decisions haven�t been made yet?
A: Season dates have been established by administrative rule.  Counties that are open for the late-winter season normally are announced by October. The late-winter season may still be needed in some counties. Listing the dates does not mean changes will not be forthcoming.

Q: Why were some counties that were below a 14 percent reduction in deer-vehicle accidents in 2012 still open for the 2013 late-winter season?
A: The statewide goal called for a 14 percent reduction in DVAs, which was achieved for the first time in 2012; but goals for individual counties varied widely. The formula was the same for calculating statewide and individual county goals.  Initially set at a rate halfway between the lowest and highest DVA rates during the period 1994 � 2007, there have been some minor adjustments since then.  DVA rates fluctuate, sometimes significantly, at the county level.  For this reason, a county must be at or below goal for two years before a change to its late-winter season status is considered. 

Q: How can I find out more about IDNR�s decision-making process?
A: We are working on new communication strategies to do a better job of sharing IDNR�s management goals, methods, and ultimately our decisions, with the public. In cooperation with the University of Illinois, development of a new website devoted to deer and deer management is underway.
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