Indiana Deer Hunting Rule Changes Receive Preliminary Approval

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The Indiana Natural Resources Commission gave preliminary approval to a comprehensive package of proposed changes to deer-hunting rules in Indiana.

The DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife developed the rules proposal to focus deer-herd reduction in a strategically targeted manner to more adequately balance the ecological, recreational and economic needs of the state's citizens.

Key points of the proposal include:

  • Changing the deer firearms season to nine days beginning the Saturday before Thanksgiving
  • Adding a two-day antlerless-only firearms season in October in designated counties
  • Adding a statewide antlerless-only firearms season from Dec. 25 to Jan. 1
  • Shortening the muzzleloader season to nine days
  • Adding a statewide antlerless-only firearms season from Dec. 25 to Jan. 1
  • Shortening the muzzleloader season to nine days
  • Extending the urban zone season through Jan. 31
  • Expanding the use of crossbows
  • Requiring hunters to take at least one antlerless deer prior to taking an antlered deer in an urban deer zone

"For the last several years, Indiana deer management and associated deer rules were designed to stabilize or slightly grow the deer herd," said Mitch Marcus, wildlife section chief for the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife. "We are now experiencing record-setting harvests, record numbers of deer damage complaints, constituent complaints to legislators, and record numbers of deer-vehicle collisions. The intent of this deer rule proposal is to move Indiana toward a focused, strategically targeted deer-herd reduction."

Hunters have harvested more than 100,000 deer in the state in 15 of the last 17 years, topping 125,000 in four of the last five years, including a record 132,752 in 2009.

Further changes would add a new nonresident youth deer license, add license requirements for the new special antlerless seasons, add requirements to the use of ground blinds, allow a rifle cartridge to have a maximum case length of 1.8 inches instead of l.625 inches, and require youth hunters to wear hunter orange during the youth special season.

A complete summary of the proposed changes is at http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/2362.htm

The NRC's preliminary approval moves the proposed changes into the public input phase of the rules-making process. Comments on the proposal can be submitted online at www.IN.gov/nrc; by mail to Division of Hearings, Indiana Government Center North, 100 North Senate Ave., Indianapolis, IN, 46204; or at public hearings. Dates and locations for a minimum two hearings will be announced at a later date.

After the public input process is complete, the NRC will consider final adoption of the rule package.

If adopted, the new rules would take effect in 2011 and would be evaluated over a five-year period to determine if the intended result of reducing the deer herd is being achieved. Success will be measured through maintaining an annual deer harvest sex ratio of 60/40 (females/males), landowner and deer-hunter survey responses, reduction in county antlerless quotas, and reduction in deer-vehicle accident rates.

The proposed changes to deer-hunting rules are a result of the NRC Advisory Council's Comprehensive Fish and Wildlife Rules Enhancement Project and a DNR review of Indiana deer management. The NRAC project drew more than 1,000 suggestions from the public, and the DNR review included discussions with representatives from several stakeholder groups-Indiana Sportsman's Roundtable, Indiana Wildlife Federation, Indiana Deer Hunters Association, Indiana Bowhunters Association, Quality Deer Management Association, The Nature Conservancy, Indiana Farm Bureau, Bloomington City Council, Indiana Forestry and Woodland Owners Association, and a sporting goods retailer.

Leaders or representatives of the Roundtable, IWF, IDHA, IBA, QDMA, The Nature Conservancy and Indiana Farm Bureau spoke in support of the proposed rule changes at Tuesday's NRC meeting.

"We are pleased with the amount of public input given through the Comprehensive Fish and Wildlife Rule Enhancement Project and the agency review of deer management with stakeholder groups," Marcus said. "We look forward to additional public input as part of the rule-making process."