Thursday, September 19, 1996
The Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, IL)
By Craig Woker
When deer hunters disperse next month through a state preserve in southern Illinois, there is little doubt a lot of them would prefer to see Steve Hindi behind bars.
After all, the outspoken leader of the Chicago Animal Rights Coalition all but ruined the first year of a deer hunt at the southern Illinois Rend Lake Wildlife Refuge in December 1995.
Hindi claims he and his follower scared away as many as 95 percent of the migrating deer.
“We’re going to destroy their Rend Lake hunt again,” Hindi said.
Because of the plan, some Hindi supporters believe his arrest in Woodstock last week was politically motivated to stop him from being at the hunt.
Hindi was arrested last Sunday for flying his small ultralight aircraft near the Woodstock Hunt Club, protesting a Canada goose hunt and scaring geese away.
He was charged with three counts of hunter interference and one count of endangering geese.
The arrest could have been made to keep Hindi and his flying machine out of the air at Rend Lake, said Bob Nixon, co-director of the humane Political Action Committee and a Hindi supporter. Department of Natural Resources Director Brent manning dislikes how Hindi used the machine to scare off animals at last year’s hunt, Nixon said.
A spokesperson from the Department of Natural Resources called the accusations “silly.”
“Mr. Hindi is in charge of his own destiny,” spokesperson Carol Knowles said. “If he goes out and gets arrested and charged for something illegal, that’s his choice.”
Ironically, of the many state officials and hunters who disagree with Hindi, hundreds of local hunters near Rend Lake united last year with the so-called enemy.
“I don’t agree with their hunting and they don’t agree with my anti-hunting,” Hindi said. “We agreed to disagree and got a kick out of it.”
The two sides joined forces because the hunters didn’t believe that a hunt should take place on a state wildlife refuge when almost 7,000 acres of public hunting grounds surround it, said Jeff Johnson, a local hunter who organized and got more than 1,000 signatures in a petition drive against the hunt.
Last year, the natural resources department allowed a lottery-selected group of hunters into a small 500-acre section of the 1,500-acre preserve to bow hunt for three days.
A couple of large bucks have been spotted this year in the vicinity of the grounds, johnson said. if one of these trophy animals were killed, it would increase the clout of the Department of Natural Resources and draw out-of-state hunters, Hindi said.
For years, many large bucks and other deer naturally have headed for the park during hunting season, which swells the population from October to january, Johnson said.
“Anybody around here for the hunt or against the hunt will tell you what it’s for,” said Johnson, who hunts deer and game birds. “The hunters who are going in there are going for a trophy and they know it. I’m morally opposed to it because it’s a sanctuary.”
The wildlife area is a state-managed refuge where no hunting had been allowed for about 25 years, Johnson said.
“There’s no reason for it,” Johnson said. ”It was created as a refuge and there’s no management problem around here.”
Despite the fact Johnson rallied the local state senator and representative against the hunt last year, the hunt has been expanded to the full month of October this year.
Even though one of Hindi’s ultralights still is in police custody over the Woodstock case, animal rights supporters said that it’s not going to deter them.
“They figured we can’t be there for a full month,” said Greg Campbell, Chicago Animal Rights Coalition spokesperson. “They are in for a surprise.”