IDNR director Marc Miller held a phone news conference this morning with his top wildlife and deer biologists: Mike Conlin, John Buhnerkempe and Paul Shelton.
First, this kind of openness is news in itself.
The full proposals were posted here yesterday.
Below is my quick summary and take on it. More will come.
Miller indicated the split late season was a compromise from the original plan for a nine-day late-winter season. And the logic behind the split season is one that at first glance at least makes sense to me.
1) the end of December split will make it easier to ``allow more children to hunt with family members.''
2) As the last couple winters have shown, mid-January is often the cruelest part of winter. Splitting the weekends ups the odds of finding one that works out weather wise.
Buhnerkempe indicated one of the primary determining factors will be the deer-vehicle collison rates. But no, there will not be a firearm season in Cook County, which has one of the worst rates in the country. And I asked.
(CLARIFICATION/CORRECTION ADDED IN CAPS. WHILE COOK COUNTY HAS ONE OF THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF VEHICLE-DEER COLLISIONS, CONLIN NOTED THAT ACTUALLY THE RATE FOR COOK COUNTY IS LOW (ABOUT 1/7TH OF THE STATE AVERAGE) CONSIDERING IT ACCOUNTS FOR 31 PERCENT OF MILES TRAVELED IN ILLINOIS)
Shelton expects the new seven-day split-season in late winter coupled with a similarly extended CWD season and three extra days of archery season to add ``under 10,000 animals'' to total harvest.
Buhnerkempe correctly noted that we have to maintain levels of hunter interest as a management tool.
Miller agreed: ``Providing opportunities so we can arrest declining hunter numbers is important too. . . . [The proposals are] tailored to get more children out in the field, [that's] one of the considerations we are balancing here.''
In the end it will come down to hunter access as much as hunter success. Toward that end, Miller said some of the proposed fee increases will go toward an access program.
Ultimately, I think there is and was a lot of dancing around the root problem: access for regular hunters because of the influx and growth of outfitters.