Maybe it's just a bad start for Moline.
In its first city council-endorsed urban hunting season, at least two wounded deer have been left to wander the city.
In one case, a hunter reported that he shot a deer with his bow and arrow on permitted private property, but he didn't have the authority to track it onto neighboring land. The deer's remains ultimately were found.
In the second case, a large buck has been spotted by several Moliners, wandering ravine areas with an arrow protruding from its bloody shoulder. Some say the buck was the target of a poacher, but they have no way of knowing who the archer was. It sounds better to say, "It wasn't one of the city's licensed hunters. No, ma'am."
Alderman Sonia Berg, at-large, has been opposed to the city hunt from the get-go. She objects for the same reason I do: The city has no clue what the actual deer population is, even though the ordinance that allows hunting states that it is intended to reduce the population. There's also the claim that fewer deer will mean fewer deer-vehicle collisions. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support the claim, either.
The fact is, a handful of people have complained bitterly to the council about the *&^%$#@! deer that have been eating their plants. You can't expect people to tolerate wild animals chewing on their hostas (which come back every year), so the obvious answer was to kill them. Or, more accurately, ask an experienced hunter to do your dirty work.
In light of the recent wounded-deer sightings (and photos to prove it), Berg asked the council this week to reconsider the urban hunt. Maybe the ordinance should be tweaked? Maybe the city made a mistake?
But the five out of eight aldermen who approved the hunt weren't budging. If even one of them had a change of heart, Mayor Stephanie Acri was prepared to cast the tie vote.
"I'd be an advocate for discontinuing the hunt," she said Wednesday. "To eliminate accidents (with vehicles), the deer head count would have to go to zero, and I don't think that's anyone's intent. To hunt them to protect vegetation — the DNR has already said you can't do that.
"I have a lot of respect for hunters. If I had an opportunity to vote on it, I would vote against it, though," Acri said.
Even those of us who would prefer that people not kill our deer in Moline have to admit that it's tough to argue with history.
Rock Island, Davenport and Bettendorf archers have been hunting deer on public and private land within city limits for years and years. And very few problems have been reported. Some years yield high numbers of deer tags and, in other years, the number of deer that are killed shrinks. This suggests that hunting is contributing to a population balance.
No one, especially hunters, wants to see wounded deer wandering our neighborhoods. But Moline requires property owners to have just three acres on which to hunt. That's not a lot of space for tracking an animal that has been hit but didn't fall.
Moline has lots of ravines, but it doesn't have a lot of big-acre lots. You can see how this sort of thing might happen.
Or can you?
In mid-October, I filed a public records request with the city, asking for a copy of a hunting permit application. Several days later, the city legal department sent their response. Every detail, except the date, was redacted (blacked out) on the application forms.
Moline was not going to allow the public to know where deer hunting is underway. Also off limits is the age and identity of hunters, the identity of the neighbors who must sign city forms to say they approve of the hunts — even the city employees who approve the permits.
I went to the Illinois Attorney General with an objection. And, on Wednesday, I received partially unredacted documents from Moline, which now include the address of a permitted hunting property. The not-so-funny thing about it was: I'd used the address of the property in asking for a copy of the permit. I already knew, and the city knew I already knew.
The remainder of the details surrounding the city deer hunts will remain private, for now. Unless your home directly borders a property that has been OK'd for hunting in Moline, you may never know your neighbors are killing our deer.
You'll just have to wait until a half-dead animal stumbles into your yard.