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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Alliance Forms to Tackle Illinois Deer Management Issues

7:53 AM 0 Comments
A group of Illinois deer hunters formed the “Illinois Whitetail Alliance” to promote proactive deer management in Illinois. This group met with Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) officials and presented a plan for deer management changes on the heels of a record harvest drop during the 2013 deer season and eight consecutive years of decreased deer numbers. The proposed changes would help offset several years of over harvest from liberal seasons and bag limits, and loss of deer due to disease.

Alliance member Brent Manning, a past director of the IDNR, congratulates the current IDNR for their recent announcement of possible future regulation changes. However, Manning adds, “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 serious consideration. We look forward to future meetings with IDNR officials to continue the discussion that was started today.”
Kevin Chapman, a past president and legislative liaison for Illinois Bowhunters Society, said, “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.”

Members of the Alliance hope to gain support by presenting their ideas at the upcoming Illinois Deer Classic in Springfield on February 22 and 23 (4:30pm and 11:00am, respectively), and the Elmwood All-Outdoors show on March 2 at 12:30pm. Hunters are encouraged to attend. Also, the Alliance requests that hunters call their local legislators in support of the following Alliance proposals to help restore Illinois’ deer herd back to acceptable levels:

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 1st

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

3b) As an alternative to 3a, keep the 2-buck limit, but implement a split buck season. The 2nd buck (all weapons combined) wouldn't be killed until AFTER the end of the first gun season.

4) Implement new regulations on non-resident (NR) permits including an immediate elimination of the OTC A-O permit, unless the NR purchased a regular combo permit prior. Also set a limit on NR permits at 10% of the previous year's total harvest, with an allocation of 2/3 of that amount to archery deer hunters and 1/3 to gun hunters.

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 3rd offense.

The Illinois Whitetail Alliance consists of Manning and Chapman listed above, along with Les Davenport, an avid outdoorsman who has hunted whitetails in IL for 51 years and has been a national outdoor writer for 25 years; Don Higgins, a whitetail habitat consultant with experience throughout the Midwest, nationally recognized outdoor writer, and past director of Illinois Bowhunters Society; and Lee Mitchell, a biologist/forester with twenty years of experience in wildlife and habitat management who has bowhunted for 30 years.

The Alliance is dedicated to proactive management ideas based in science; ones that are fair and equitable to all deer hunting stakeholders.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Get Geared Up For the Great Backyard Bird Count!

7:39 AM 0 Comments
New York, N.Y. and Ithaca, N.Y. —From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, bird watchers from more than 100 countries are expected to participate in the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), February 14–17, 2014. Anyone anywhere in the world can count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and enter their sightings at The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track the health of bird populations at a scale that would not otherwise be possible. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada.

 ©Gretchen Steele 2014 
“People who care about birds can change the world,” said Audubon chief scientist Gary Langham. “Technology has made it possible for people everywhere to unite around a shared love of birds and a commitment to protecting them.”
In North America, GBBC participants will add their data to help define the magnitude of a dramatic irruption of magnificent Snowy Owls. Bird watchers will also be on the lookout for the invasive Eurasian Collared-Dove to see if it has expanded its range again. GBBC observations may help show whether or not numbers of American Crows will continue to rebound after being hit hard by the West Nile virus and whether more insect-eating species are showing up in new areas, possibly because of changing climate.

© Gretchen Steele 2014
Last year’s Great Backyard Bird Count shattered records after going global for the first time, thanks to integration with the eBird online checklist program launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab and Audubon. Participants reported their bird sightings from all 7 continents, including 111 countries and independent territories. More than 34.5 million birds and 3,610 species were recorded—nearly one-third of the world’s total bird species documented in just four days.

©Gretchen Steele 2014

“This is a milestone for citizen science in so many respects—number of species, diversity of countries involved, total participants, and number of individual birds recorded. We hope this is just the start of something far larger, engaging the whole world in creating a detailed annual snapshot of how all our planet’s birds are faring as the years go by,” said Cornell Lab director Dr. John Fitzpatrick.

© Gretchen Steele 2014

“Canadian participation in the Great Backyard Bird Count has increased tremendously in recent years, and it’s wonderful to see this program growing globally,” said Bird Studies Canada President Dr. George Finney. “The count is introducing unprecedented numbers of people to the exciting field of bird watching.”
The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way for people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with nature and make a difference for birds. It’s free and easy. To learn more about how to join the count visit and view the winning photos from the 2013 GBBC photo contest.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.