Deer Numbers Down Due to Management, ‘External Forces’

Whitetail deer numbers are down in one state due to what state wildlife officials say is a combination of hunting via management programs and an uncontrollable disease that hit the population hard in some areas a couple of years ago.

doeIndiana deer hunters should expect another productive season in 2014, although they may see fewer deer than in previous years when the firearms season begins Nov. 15.

“There are several factors contributing to reduced deer numbers in certain areas of the state,” DNR deer management biologist Chad Stewart said. “Some are by design and some are by external forces.”

The DNR is in the third year of a management effort to reduce deer numbers in targeted areas. Another reason for fewer deer was a serious 2012 outbreak of hemorrhagic disease – an often lethal virus transmitted by small flies known as biting midges.

“These numbers are more in line with what should be seen on the landscape,” Stewart said. “We recognize these declines and have been responsive in our management by reducing our antlerless quotas in many areas and dropping some counties from the special late antlerless season. In many cases, these are the levels at which we are trying to manage our herd.”

In addition to basic bag limits, hunters can purchase bonus licenses to take additional antlerless deer based on a county’s assigned quota. Bonus licenses can be used in any season, except the Urban Deer Zone Season, using the equipment that is legal for that season.

The bonus antlerless quota was reduced this year for 19 counties. As a result of those reductions, six fewer counties are eligible for the special late antlerless season (Dec. 26 through Jan. 4, 2015) than a year ago.

With no hemorrhagic disease reported in 2014 and few reports of deer being affected by last year’s hard winter, Stewart anticipates a deer harvest similar to that of 2013 (126,635 deer) but short of the record set in 2012 of 136,248 deer.

The firearms season runs Nov. 15-30. Hunters with a firearms license may take one antlered deer. Bonus licenses are required to take additional deer with firearms.

“Hunters in the north are likely to see deer numbers at lower levels than they are accustomed to seeing,” he said. “Historically, deer herds tend to rebound quickly from outbreaks of hemorrhagic disease, but that hasn’t been the case in northern Indiana.”

Stewart sees a different picture in southern Indiana.

“Hunters there should continue to see good numbers of deer,” he said. “The balance of deer cover and the absence of lingering effects from any disease outbreak have produced ample opportunities for hunters to be successful.”

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