Monday, May 03, 2010

INDIANA NEWS: DNR Plans to Reduce Deer Numbers

There will be some significant changes to Indiana's white-tailed deer hunting seasons, along with rules and regulations that govern the hunts.

The state's Department of Natural Resources is hedging on when those changes will be made, but they could come as early as this fall.

"It remains to be seen," DNR deer management biologist Chad Stewart said about a timeline. If not this year, it's almost certain that the changes will be made for the 2011 deer seasons.

The proposed changes include an antlerless quota system, bag limits, licensing, hunting equipment, special deer control permits, hunter access and restructuring hunting season dates.

Those are some major changes and Stewart has a quick answer for why they are needed.

"Bottom line? To reduce the deer population," he said.

That population continues to increase despite record numbers killed by hunters during five various deer seasons from September through January.

A month after hunters killed 132,752 deer during the last season, changes looked imminent when Stewart said, "It's kind of predictable any more. We're going to have a record or near-record harvest every year unless things change."

For several months, the DNR has met with what it calls "stakeholders" to plan a strategy for how to reduce the state's deer herd.

The size of that herd is anybody's guess, and that includes Stewart, who has a good handle on deer numbers despite admitting "we don't know in actual numbers."

What he does know is that as the annual deer harvest increases, so does the deer damage to state park ecosystems and private property, along with vehicle-deer collision reports.

So the state once again turns primarily to hunters for help.

The DNR got advice from members of organizations who understand the problem, including the Indiana Wildlife Federation, Indiana Sportsman's Roundtable, Indiana Bow Hunters Association, Indiana Deer Hunters Association, Indiana Farm Bureau, The Nature Conservancy, Quality Deer Management Association, Indiana Woodland Owner's Association and the DNR's fish and wildlife and law enforcement divisions.

The department also consulted sporting goods retailers and solicited advice from individual hunters through a survey that was posted on its free wild bulletin online site.

The survey left little doubt that there would be changes. It stated that the DNR's fish and wildlife division would use the information it gathered to gauge interest in season structure and equipment use "for upcoming changes" to the deer season.

So where is the fly in this ointment?

The hunters I talked with said they are not interested in killing more deer; their freezers are filled with deer meat. Nor are they interested in harvesting deer for deer donation programs.

Source: IndyStar