By Chad Miller
Our community leaders, and especially forest preserve officials, have been trying to utilize our preserves as tourism destinations for decades. We even pay an employee whose primary job it is to promote our preserves.
I used to enjoy going to the preserves to observe nature and, in particular, deer. That can’t be said today.
We need to look at ways to manage, to the fullest potential, our greatest natural inhabitant of these preserves. Bow hunting and quality deer management (QDM) are the method and philosophy we should enact.
Bow hunting has most certainly evolved far past the negative images portrayed by the media and anti-hunters. So much so that anti-hunters hardly have a valid argument against it. Bow hunting is, therefore, the economic engine that could drive tourism and increase visitors and tax revenues to our region far more than without.
Deer hunters today use science and technology far more than many people realize to become the most effective and efficient conservationists and hunters. We do more to improve timber, plant forage, keep the population in check with habitat, and harvest within specific age and sex ratios than the non-hunting community knows. We have removed the top of the natural food chain as sport and tax fee revenue source, and the herd has been reduced to mortality by car collisions and starvation. This is neither proper nor humane! Bow hunters fill that harvest gap and do so in ways much more humane than the alternative.
Through the use of modern technology and change in mentality, hunters are out in the woods year round and keep track of various deer numbers, ages and sex ratios. Trail cameras are a perfect example of the benefits of such technology. We have eyes in the woods 24/7, 365 days a year, watching and observing so we know which deer to target in the coming season. Our chainsaws and prescribed burns help remove invasive trees or dying trees so new growth can occur and new habitat be formed. Our bows shoot razor sharp, lightning fast arrows that pass through many deer before they even know what happened.
People say it is inhumane to see a deer with an arrow stuck in it, and hunters are the LAST people who want that. However, from the point of a hunter, we are also the people who stop at road kills and cringe over the time it took that animal to suffer and die. We, too, love our animals.
The main safety issue with hunters today is tree stand safety, NOT wayward arrows flying through the air. We use harnesses to get in and out of our tree stands. The flight of our arrow is primarily downward and into the ground. Where is the valid point against these facts? There is none.
Quality deer management encourages people to slow down before a shot to determine age, sex and behavior. I have never heard of someone or their pet being accidentally shot by a bow hunter, let alone a proponent of QDM. This self-discipline during harvest is exactly what allows us to be safe and grow the healthiest and best deer herd. How does this benefit the average user, though?
Yes, the forest preserve district could charge up to several thousand dollars for just one deer tag! Times how many deer? Do the potential tax math for operations and land acquisition!
Bow hunters spend thousands of dollars a year in the forms of licenses and fees, gas, food, seed, lodging and many forms of equipment. This translates into tens of thousands of dollars in local revenues. We would gladly pay hundreds more in fees to our forest preserve district as well as hundreds of volunteered hours of labor. People pay thousands just to hunt the genetics we so uniquely have in Winnebago County. We would gladly take time to put more food sources in and around preserves to bring greater viewing pleasure at lower overall deer numbers. This practice benefits the habitat, as well as the general public.
We need to stop paying county employees to shoot deer when we could make so much more with bow hunting. The time has come for the general public to understand we will not stop applying pressure to be involved in this process. Our involvement will be the greatest shift in utilizing eco-tourism for this region and should not be swept aside.
Chad Miller is a Rockford resident, family man, conservationist and bow hunter.
From the March 7-13, 2012, issue