Kane County bow hunting to continue, possibly expand
Hunters love it. Deer fans hate it. Kane County Forest Preserve District commissioners believe continuing a bow hunting program in local forest preserves, and perhaps expanding it, is the best move for both concerned parties.
A new report shows more hunters, 52, participated in the bow hunting program this past season than ever before. The program also netted revenues of $3,338 -- also a new high. Hunters harvested 44 deer in the program.
Bow hunting is allowed in only three of the district's preserves: Freeman Kame, Brunner and Big Rock.
Of the harvested deer, one from Big Rock tested positive for chronic wasting disease. That's the first time the fatal condition was found in the Big Rock preserve. It was also the first time in two years any local hunters harvested a deer with the disease.
The discovery is one reason to continue the bow hunting for another year, according to Bill Graser, the district's wildlife ecologist.
The district started the program four years to supplement the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' deer culling program in the local preserves. The district shares information about any animals that test positive for chronic wasting disease at the three preserves. As a result, the state agency has limited its sharpshooting at other preserves.
Given the popularity with hunters, Commissioner Phil Lewis suggested expanding bow hunting to other preserves. But Graser said the focus of the program is more about preserving plant life than supporting hunting.
"We're not running it as a recreational program," Graser said. "Before we expand it, we have to figure out is it needed (in another preserve) by looking at vegetation data. We're looking at a few sites, but there is nothing really ready to roll right now."
The district staff formed a hunting committee to contemplate all future changes to the program.
Commissioners said they want to strike a balance between the ecological need and district residents who continue to express concern about what they believe is a dwindling local deer population.
"The IDNR said they need data from the area for studies; therefore they need to take deer out kind of regardless of the numbers," commissioner Deb Allan said. "I'm still trying to reconcile that."
Graser said the state will provide a report on the deer culling activity from last year probably next month. It is likely the state will ask commissioners to continue the sharp shooting and chronic wasting disease testing. District commissioners approved the culling of 115 deer last year. Up until then, state officials had never actually shot and tested more than 80 deer from Kane County forest preserves.
"They'll never give it up," forest district President Mike Kenyon said. "There's too much pressure on the counties around us. Wisconsin is overgrown with (chronic wasting disease). We don't want that to happen to us."