University of Illinois Extension

What Type of Permit Is Needed To Remove Deer?

White-tailed deer are protected under the Illinois Wildlife Code as a game species. It is illegal to take deer (including fawns) from the wild unless an individual obtains a permit from the IDNR. A person who hits and kills a deer with a motorized vehicle can legally claim the deer to salvage the meat, hide, and/or antlers. Controlling White-tailed Deer Damage in Illinois provides a key to help determine which type of permit, if any, is needed. Deer Removal Permits (DRPs) are generally issued to landowners for properties that are not incorporated within municipal boundaries to help reduce damage caused by deer, where excessive damage to agricultural crops, nurseries, orchards, and/or vineyards is current and on-going. Deer Population Control Permits (DPCPs) are issued to agencies, organizations, associations and municipalities, but are not issued to individual landowners.

Deer Removal Permits (DRP)

Deer Removal Permits (DRPs) allow individuals to protect crops and other plant life from deer that are causing severe damage. The DRPs are valid at the time the damage is actually occurring and are meant to augment other forms of deer damage abatement. These permits are issued after other damage abatement techniques have been attempted and have failed to reduce damage to acceptable levels. Landowners applying for such permits should be ready to explain what techniques they have used to help reduce damage.

The issuance of DRPs outside of the legal deer hunting seasons in Illinois may provide temporary relief during critical damage periods. The DRPs are issued only after documentation of severe damage. Permits are not issued for fence damage, as compensation for past or anticipated crop damage, nor are they issued during or between Illinois’ firearm deer seasons. Finding deer tracks in a field does not always indicate that deer caused the damage. In many cases, damage is caused by blackbirds, raccoons, or species other than deer.

Problems associated with this control method include the many man-hours that are required to kill each deer when vegetative cover is most abundant. Also, other deer may move into the area to replace the ones that are killed. Removal of deer by special permit may help in certain cases, but cannot be considered as part of a long-term solution to the problem.

How to Obtain a DRP

  • Contact your local IDNR district wildlife biologist (DWB).
  • Describe the type of damage (crop, nursery, orchard, etc.) to the DWB.
  • Set a date for an on-site inspection.
  • At the on-site inspection with the landowner or tenant, the DWB will: 1) determine the magnitude of the damage; 2) discuss the landowner’s current and past damage reduction efforts; and 3) determine the factors contributing to the damage. Such factors might include:
    • the hunting history on the property and on neighboring lands,
    • recent land use changes (such as addition of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) practices, timber harvest, etc.),
    • or flooding or drought.
  • Emphasis is placed on reduction rather than total elimination of damage.
  • On-site inspections usually occur within two working days. If the deer damage is determined by the DWB to be "excessive" (see below) a DRP can be issued for the harvest of a maximum of 10 deer within a 30-day period. Permits are issued at the discretion of the biologist. DRPs may be issued only if other damage reduction techniques have been previously attempted without adequate damage reduction or are on-going in conjunction with the removal permit. DRPs are not a long-term solution to damage control.

DRP Issuance Criteria

  • DRPs are not issued just because deer are regularly seen in crop fields.
  • DRPs are not issued when damage is restricted solely to the outer 15 feet of crop fields.
  • DRPs are issued when deer damage threatens to:
    • substantially reduce crop yields,
    • negatively impact the success of a tree stocking program,
    • or negatively impact the livelihood of tree nurseries, orchards, or vineyards.

What Is Considered "Excessive" Damage?

DRPs are issued during critical stages of plant development, which varies by crop.

Corn

A minimum of 5 percent of the field must be browsed to warrant issuance of a DRP. The most critical time for corn damage/protection is during the tasseling or "silk"stage, also called the "milk" stage. DRPs are not issued to control deer damage to unharvested crops when 75 percent of that specific crop has been harvested in that agricultural district unless extenuating circumstances (wet conditions, etc.) prevent harvest.

Soybeans

Browsing must be evident on 67 to 100 percent of leaves prior to the plant’s five-leaf stage to warrant issuance of a DRP. Given adequate moisture, soybeans typically can outgrow most deer browsing pressure. The most critical time for soybeans being browsed by deer is from the plant’s emergence to the 5-leaf stage. Soybeans can tolerate considerable defoliation in later stages (after the 5-leaf stage) and still produce good yields. Soybean yield reduction can often be minimized or reduced by drilling or double-row planting beans in areas of high damage. Deer are less likely to eat all plants in a row as drilled beans limit mobility a slight bit. Closer neighboring plants are more likely to re-grow and help offset any yield loss.

Tree Plantings

If the damage caused by deer has reduced seedling survival to less than 70 percent of the stocking rate (as documented by an IDNR district forester) and jeopardizes a cooperator’s payment (such as Conservation Reserve Program, Forest Development Act, etc.), then a DRP may be issued to augment other forms of damage abatement (e.g., fencing, repellents, hunting).

Nursery and Orchard Loss

Issuance of a DRP for a nursery or orchard depends upon the size of the tree stock involved. When trees are less than two inches diameter at breast height (DBH), 10 percent of the specific species damaged may be eligible for DRP. Older, saleable plant nursery stock has higher value, and the 10 percent rule does not apply. Given the high value of the crop grown, and the fact that it is grown continuously in the same area, the best long-term solution is often exclusion of deer by fencing. Exclusionary fencing may be a legitimate business expense deductible from taxes. Check with your tax preparer to obtain more information, and to see if your business would qualify for this deduction.

Guidelines on When a DRP Will Not be Issued and Exceptions

Electric fencing knocked down by deer is annoying, but DRPs are not usually issued unless: colored electric vinyl fencing has been installed, or highly visible flagging has been installed on section(s) of fence routinely damaged, or "peanut butter" foil flags have been used. Permanent deer-proof fencing is very expensive, but it is likely the best way to protect high dollar crops (like vineyards, orchards) on small acreage.

Baled Hay

DRPs will not be issued when damage can be alleviated by fencing or by removing the hay from the field and storing it in a protected area such as a shed or barn.

Small Grains, Hay, Specialty Crops
  • Winter wheat is seldom if ever damaged. Cattle grazing is allowed on winter wheat without yield reduction—provided it occurs prior to jointing.
  • Deer browsing does not damage established grass hay—it is "mowed" without damage when cut for baling.
  • "New" grass plantings are typically not damaged by deer. However, extremely wet conditions may contribute to "uprooting" of plants by deer (and geese), thus causing damage. In that situation, a DRP may be issued to augment other damage abatement methods.
  • Established hay fields (clover or alfalfa) experience very little real loss due to deer browsing.
  • Establishment of new alfalfa via fall planting (i.e., over-seeding via broadcasting) may be very attractive to deer after snow melt, when it becomes the most palatable greenery available. A late-winter DRP may be considered along with other deterrent methods.
  • Specialty Crops: Fencing is the best protection for high-dollar crops on small acreages. DRPs may be considered to augment other deterrent methods.
Natural Regeneration
  • Natural tree regeneration damaged by deer will not result in a DRP.

DRPs Are Not Currently Authorized to:

  • Remove more than 10 deer.
  • Be valid for more than 30 days.
  • Remove deer during or between firearm deer seasons (except in closed counties). A "hazing only" permit may be issued in some circumstances.
  • Remove deer damaging wildlife food plots or plantings.
  • Remove deer damaging family garden plots, and/or farms less than five acres, unless other techniques that were recommended by the authorizing agent and were used by the landowner have not addressed the problem.
  • Remove deer damaging Christmas tree plantings, orchards, or nurseries less than 10 acres in size (individual field) unless the techniques suggested were seriously applied but have not addressed the problem.
  • Remove deer that damage residential ornamental plantings (recommend fencing or "less palatable" plants).
  • Remove deer as a form of compensation or as a substitute for obtaining deer permits. DRPs will only be issued at the time of actual depredation.
  • Access property other than the complainant’s.
  • Discharge a firearm within 300 yards of an inhabited dwelling without first obtaining permission from the owner or tenant; or within city limits unless the complainant can provide a copy of a written waiver (of any ordinances precluding firearm discharge) from city officials/managers.
  • Allow removal by a method other than firearm. Live capture and relocation are not allowed.
  • Allow the permittee to keep deer parts other than meat for personal consumption. Hides and antlers must be disposed of according to the Illinois Dead Animal Disposal Act.
  • Control deer damage to unharvested crops when 75 percent of that specific crop has been harvested in that agricultural district unless extenuating circumstances (wet conditions, etc.) prevent harvest.

Population Control

Deer Removal Permits (DRPs) are not meant to be used for deer population control. DRPs are meant to help temporarily reduce deer damage on a very localized basis by removing offending animal(s). Reduction and control of deer can be best accomplished by hunting with an emphasis on taking female deer. DRPs are not meant to alleviate damage to huntable properties where the landowner does not attempt to properly control the deer population during the hunting seasons. For example, DRPs are not issued in cases where the landowner will not allow deer hunting, or limits hunting to the extent that harvest is minimal, or the sex composition of the harvest is such that it does not significantly contribute to solving the damage problem (i.e., few, if any, females are harvested). However, a DRP may be issued in the prior situation if:

  1. The damage is excessive, as determined by IDNR personnel, and
  2. it is the first damage-related contact between the complainant and IDNR personnel. On properties where deer harvest is not allowed or where the doe harvest is inadequate, DRPs will not be issued unless it is the first contact with IDNR and the damage is new, excessive, and on-going. The decision to issue or deny future permits is based on the complainant’s efforts to increase deer harvest (emphasis on harvesting does) during the hunting seasons. Effort can be documented by providing the investigating biologist (upon request) the names of all hunters accessing the property and the number and gender of deer taken.

By the beginning of the next deer hunting season, the landowner will be expected to:

  • Allow and encourage increased hunting pressure.
  • Focus harvest effort on female deer.
  • Follow any other applicable recommendations.
  • Maintain records of hunters (name, address, phone number, and number and sex of deer harvested) and provide this information to authorizing agent upon request. Failure to do so may result in future permit denial.

Permit Provisions and Removal Specifications

The DRP issued will list the following information and actions:

  • The identity of up to two individuals authorized to shoot deer and the shooting hours allowed.
  • The firearms that can be used to take deer as part of a DRP are shotguns (20 gauge or larger) with deer slugs (no shot shells) and centerfire rifles of .243 caliber or larger. The authorizing IDNR agent will specify which firearms will be allowed on the permit based on public safety considerations. No handguns, muzzleloaders or archery equipment may be utilized.
  • The dates for which the permit is valid.
  • The type of deer allowed to be removed (i.e., antlerless only, antlered only, any deer).
  • Usually permits are issued for antlerless deer only. Fawns are to be shot after the doe is killed, and all deer are to be tagged. Each deer is tagged with a leg tag issued to the landowner/ tenant by an IDNR district wildlife biologist. An example where the removal of "antlered only" animals may be authorized would be antler-rubbing damage in a commercial nursery.
  • Additional management recommendations are listed and reviewed with permittee including: increase hunting pressure and harvest; emphasis on doe harvest; and use of fencing, repellents, scarecrows, "hazing", etc. DRPs may be issued for the harassment (hazing/ scaring) of deer, from areas where they are causing damage, by select firearm-fired noise-makers. DRPs are not issued for harassing deer with fireworks or for discharging shotguns loaded with shot shells at the deer.
  • The permittee signs and dates the permit acknowledging the required return date (10 days after expiration) and the consequences of failure to comply (i.e., no future permits).

Who Shoots the Deer?

The IDNR prefers that the landowner/complainant be one of the individuals who shoots the deer, plus one other individual or hunter of his or her choice. The names of the individuals who shoot the deer are provided to the local IDNR Conservation Police Officers (CPOs). Illinois resident shooters must have Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID). Non-residents can be shooters, and this is a common practice in counties bordering other states.

What Can be Done with Deer Taken via DRPs?

The IDNR encourages all deer taken to be processed for human consumption. Inedible parts of the deer, including antlers, and/or whole deer that are not butchered, must be disposed of according to the Illinois Dead Animal Disposal Act.

Deer Removal Permit Return

All DRPs, unused leg tags, and completed carcass disposition information must be returned to the authorizing agent within 10 days of permit expiration. Failure to do so may result in the complainant being ineligible for future permits.

Deer Population Control Permits (DPCP)

Deer population control permits (DPCPs) are issued to agencies, organizations, associations and municipalities, but are not issued to individual landowners. These permits authorize the reduction or control of deer numbers by non-traditional or non-hunting methods.

There is an application process for DPCPs, and the application is essentially a deer management proposal that documents the need for deer herd reduction by nontraditional means such as sharpshooting. The prevailing objectives for most current deer control programs under DPCPs are to: reduce damage to native plant communities or ecosystems, reduce deer-vehicle accidents on the property or adjacent roads, and reduce damage complaints from residents or neighbors. DPCPs are only issued for the use of "field-proven effective" techniques; they are not issued for experimental methods or research.

DPCPs are issued for a maximum of 90 days (time extensions are possible). There is no limit on the number of deer that can be taken, but the number proposed to be collected must be justified and documented. Additionally, the damage being caused by deer must be documented in the permit application.