Riding along with IDNR Conservation Police - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Riding along with IDNR Conservation Police

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WSIL -- Firearms deer season keeps Illinois Conservation Police Officers very busy.

"This is when the real game warden work begins," said CPO Chris Johnson. "Starting November 1st, we can't even keep our voicemails empty."

Johnson is the newest CPO to patrol Williamson County. Deer season for him, means a lot of hours behind the wheel of his truck and even more walking through the woods.

"You've got to get out and you've got to stomp through the weeds. That's how you find stuff," explained Johnson.

During deer season, some of the time is spent conducting routine hunter safety checks, but also chasing down those committing some of the bigger infractions.

"We're having people call us and tell us they're hearing rifle shots, seeing multiple untagged deer, people hunting from the road," said Johnson.

Poaching is something Johnson became very familiar with patrolling Pope County and other more rural counties in previous years. At one time, Pope County had been without a game warden for nearly a decade, and Johnson says when he arrived, poaching and spotlighting had gotten way out of hand. After a crack down on illegal hunting practices, landowners started to note an increase in the return of bigger deer.

Years later, it's still an ongoing battle, especially with out of state hunters. Johnson talks about a friend who spent the night in Pope County during the first firearms season.

"Between 10PM and 2AM, he heard over 20 shots. So, I do think we have a BIG poaching problem," explained Johnson.

Conservation Police have a unique job in protecting the state's natural resources, but the results have paid off.

"That's one of the most satisfying things about this job. You can actually see a difference," said Johnson.

Over the years, the state's financial mess has cut the amount of CPOs and they're relying on the public more than ever.

"We need the public to let us know. We like those calls. We like to help people," said Johnson.

There are multiple ways to contact Conservation Police.

1) Citizens who want to report violations can call the toll-free telephone number, 1-877-2DNRLAW (1-877-236-7529)

2) A list of CPOs and the county they patrol can be found here.

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