Illinois DNR just released the 2020-2021 Harvest Report on their website. This is a very detailed breakdown of permits held and the harvest associated. (Link at the bottom)
After a close look at the numbers it piqued my interest and I began searching for information from the past to compare. It began with the oldest fact sheet on the IDNR website, dating back to the 2002-2003 season. From there, I wound up on a page that broke down Illinois' whitetail herd health/conservation statements from the past 100+ years (links below). All I can say is, "Wow!".
After reading the 2020 report, I was initially concerned with our current herd health. "How can we still have over half a million tags issued per year, 160,000 deer harvests, no limit on antlerless deer, while seeing these declines?" This was based on a personal perception of less deer than before and the fear that things like EHD are also lowering the population under the radar. For instance, only 10-15 years ago I could drive around the "block" and see several dozen deer. Now if I see a handful I figure they must be moving pretty well. I'm not alone in an opinion that IDNR has mismanaged our herd, with a bias towards revenue vs. conservation and whitetail herd health. However... after reading through the historical outline, I did have to stop and think about how far we have come. A little over one hundred years ago whitetails had literally no protection from over hunting. As a matter of fact the commercial hunting that led to their depopulation, was encouraged by law. Over time you see the reports of literal extinction in certain areas. Keep in mind this is one of the most adaptable species we have in America. Eventually, shorter season dates, bag limits, and much more regulation... led to one of the greatest comeback stories ever.
While this may make our current day complaints of "lower deer numbers" seem ridiculous. I believe it's still wise to keep a close eye on our government and how they regulate our natural resources. Never think that a politician with a secret handshake doesn't have input on the decisions made. What do you think caused the wipeout before? Greed. I'm not saying we don't have excellent management professionals that truly value our resources, we do. However, no matter how clearly our state biologists lay out and decipher the information, a government entity has the final say on revenue vs. conservation. For these reasons, we should watch our annual harvest reports. At the end of the day we, as hunters, have the final decision when it comes to tags being filled. If your county numbers are reportedly low and you realize the same, pass the does. Access to unlimited tags, and the tv personality stating that you should shoot every doe you see for "herd management" isn't a reason to blindly kill deer. Sweeping state law and the perfect habitat mixed with low pressure in another state has nothing to do with your situation, where you hunt. Do what is right for your situation, not what is perceived and pressured to be right. You may find that you don't want to research nor worry about any of this. Maybe I'm totally wrong about tax money being snack food to the state. Maybe if you weren't supposed to shoot 30 deer you wouldn't have access to unlimited tags. In that case, shoot away, let big bro clean some tax money out of your timber, and enjoy the instant gratification, dwindling wildlife, and less than ideal hunting later on. For the rest of us, we will manage on the ground level. If you love seeing deer and also hunting them, maybe allow a few to live in your area. Talk to your neighbors, have meetings, call your local biologist and go over numbers and a management plan, form your own management board in your county... whatever. Texans already do a lot of this. Just remember, natural resources are the property of the people. Hold your department responsible and take it upon yourself to manage and protect them. We've come a long way since 1900, it's not time to slip now.
Again, all of your reports are listed here and updated yearly.
IL EHD Reporting -
Full History Outline
2020-2021 IL Harvest Report