Indiana Deer Season Outlook
Favorable weather and a few other factors could combine to produce a record harvest this deer firearm season, which opens Nov. 15.
"We continue to have a healthy deer herd in Indiana," said DNR deer management biologist Chad Stewart. "Hunters can expect to have a tremendous season in 2008. I wouldn't be surprised if we produced a record harvest this year."
Stewart noted that the weather so far this year has been cooler than in recent years past, which should increase deer movement and get more hunters in the field because the weather will be more comfortable for hunting. He said he expects that these two factors could lead to an increased number of deer taken this year.
He also emphasized that EHD (Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease), a deer disease that was detected in many parts of the state last year, will hardly be a factor this season.
"The number of counties (with reports of EHD) is down drastically from last year, as are the total number of reports," Stewart said. "In most of those counties, only one or two reports were received. Counties affected over the past two years should recover somewhat this year, and should contribute to more deer harvested by hunters this upcoming season. More deer 'on the hoof' in many areas compared to last year should again contribute to a successful year by hunters."
Helping the Hungry
An increased harvest this year could benefit not only hunters but also Hoosiers who need help feeding themselves and their family. Harvesting more deer means a possible increase in donations of venison to organizations that help feed Indiana's needy.
One such group, Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH), provided more than 200,000 individual meals last year. To donate a deer, hunters should contact a participating nearby meat processor, as listed in the 2008-09 DNR Hunting/Trapping Guide (also available at wildlife.IN.gov, under Hunting Guide), then take the deer to that location. FHFH pays the processing fees. It's also possible for hunters to donate only a portion of a deer.
Stewart said there are additional benefits besides helping feed the hungry.
"First and foremost, the meat is being used by those who need it the most," he said. "But it also provides hunters the opportunity to hunt longer because they can harvest more deer than they need, yet not waste the meat. This has the potential for hunters to show goodwill toward their fellow Hoosiers while effectively managing the deer population."
The Sportsman's Benevolence Fund is raising money to support statewide deer donation programs through partnerships with non-profit organizations like FHFH.
The Department of Natural Resources supports the fund by selling metallic pins sporting the image of a deer. This year, 25,000 pins were purchased by the DNR Division of Law Enforcement and are being sold for $5, which can potentially generate $125,000 to help feed the hungry.
Indiana Deer Harvest Trends
Deer hunters harvested 124,427 Indiana deer during the '07 season, slightly fewer than the 125,381 deer harvested during the '06 season.
Stewart said that the overall deer harvest for the last three years has averaged around 124,400 to 125,500, numbers he expects to be met or exceeded this year.
Stewart predicted Indiana's overall deer harvest numbers will remain steady; Indiana's '07 antlered deer harvest (49,375) was nearly identical to the 49,097 harvested in '06. The antlerless harvest of 76,052 in '07 was nearly identical to the 76,284 from '06.
The combined '06 archery seasons yielded 26,723 deer, an increase of 38 percent from the 18,911 deer harvested by bow in '02. Hunters using muzzleloader rifles killed 30,740 deer last year, about 56 percent more than in '02.
The '07 firearm season harvest of 80,662 deer was nearly identical to the 80,661 deer harvested in '06.
The number of deer harvested in individual counties ranged from a low of 134 deer in Benton County to 3,754 deer in Steuben County. Harvest exceeded 1,000 deer in 62 counties; exceeded 2,000 deer in 16 counties; and exceeded 3,000 deer in three counties.
Did you know?
-Since 1951, Indiana's wild deer herd has supplied Hoosier kitchens with more than 138 million pounds of venison.
- Last year 49 percent of the Indiana deer firearm season harvest was during the opening weekend.
Indiana's Top 10 deer harvest counties in 2007 (2006 rank)
- 1-Steuben (1)
- 2-Switzerland (5)
- 3-Kosciusko (2)
- 4-Franklin (6)
- 5-Marshall (10)
- 6-Dearborn (8)
- 7-Noble (7)
- 8-Parke (3)
- 9-LaGrange (11)
- 10-Washington (4)
Bottom 10 deer harvest counties in 2007
- 92-Benton (91)
- 91-Tipton (92)
- 90-Hancock (88)
- 89-Marion (90)
- 88-Blackford (87)
- 87-Rush (89)
- 86-Clinton (86)
- 85-Shelby (85)
- 84-Boone (84)
- 83-Hamilton (83)
Turns out hunters, like some holiday shoppers, like to buy late. But that can be risky.
According to DNR wildlife information specialist Kevin Hoffman, approximately 30 percent (about 55,000) of all licenses sold in November of last year were sold on the Friday before firearm season opening day. He hopes that those numbers change this season.
"You shouldn't wait until the last minute to buy your firearm license," he said, "It's a good idea to purchase them a few days in advance to avoid any problems."
Computer-related glitches from too many people buying at the same time can be one such setback.
License sales number crunching
The fact that so many people wait to buy a license makes 2008 numbers nearly meaningless right now. Combining that trend with the various types of deer licenses available makes comparing sales from year to year challenging.
Using data from the DNR's license sales system, the most recent meaningful numbers indicate that, overall, numbers for the last three years are similar, with 2007 and 2005 sales slightly less, in general, than those from 2006.
Fewer deer firearm resident licenses were sold last year than in 2006, but more than in 2005. Last year's figure was 98,925. In 2006, the number was 100,182, with 2005 at 94,916.
Muzzleloader licenses followed the same pattern as firearm licenses. The number of deer muzzleloader resident licenses sold in 2007 was 19,670, which falls between a high of 20,020 sold in 2006 and 18,735 in 2005.
Deer archery resident licenses stood at 46,254 last year, down from 47,567 in 2006, but more than the 42,826 sold in 2005.
Deer bonus antlerless resident license sales last year stood at 61,389, down from 64,701 in 2006, but better than 2005's figure of 54,889.
For the same period, deer extra archery resident licenses were at a three-year high of 4,984 in 2007, compared with 4,752 in 2006, and 4,206 in 2005.
In terms of non-resident sales, deer firearm license sales were 4,961 last year, 4,858 the year before, and 4,737 in 2005.
Non-resident deer muzzleloader numbers showed 604 in 2005, 592 in 2006 and 608 last year. The number of non-resident deer archery licenses sold last year was 2,586, compared with 2,531 in 2006, and 2,032 in 2005.
Deer extra archery non-resident licenses trends are fluctuating. A three-year high of 126 was registered last year, compared with 43 sold in 2006, and 72 sold the previous year.
A total of 1,062 nonresident bonus anterless deer licenses were sold last year compared with 1,432 in 2006, and with 594 in 2005.