Indiana DNR Unveils New Package of Deer Hunting Rules

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has unveiled a new package of recommended changes to deer hunting rules that will be presented to the Natural Resources Commission at its January 11th meeting at Ft. Harrison State Park in Indianapolis.

The Natural Resources Commission withdrew its preliminary approval of an earlier plan because overwhelming public comment opposed shortening some segments of the deer hunting seasons.

“The new proposal has the same objective – to focus deer herd reduction in a strategically-targeted manner to more adequately balance ecological, recreational and economic needs of the citizens of Indiana,” said Mark Reiter, director of the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife. “Our responsibility is to manage wildlife for all Hoosiers. Some pointed to the previous proposal as an effort to manage the herd for trophy animals or increase license revenue. That was not the case.”

The new recommendations maintain the focus but leave the firearms and muzzleloader seasons at their traditional 16-day lengths and drop a proposed two-day October season.

“This new proposal was created by staff within the DNR, using historic data gathered for deer management in Indiana, feedback from comments received during the initial proposal, and data from surrounding states,” said Mitch Marcus, wildlife section chief for the Division of Fish and Wildlife. “We can’t emphasize enough that the goal is to reduce deer numbers in a strategic manner; not everywhere, but certainly in areas of the state where it’s needed to address the balance we’re trying to achieve.”

Three key points of the new recommendation are carryovers from the previous proposal:
–Adding a special antlerless only firearms season from Dec. 26 through the first Sunday in January of the following year in counties with a bonus antlerless quota of four or more deer;
–Extending the urban zone season through Jan. 31 of the following year;
–Requiring hunters hunting in an urban zone during the urban zone season to take at least one antlerless deer before taking an antlered deer.

New components include:
–Changing the current split archery season to a single season from Oct. 1 through the first Sunday in January;
–Allowing a crossbow to be used by any hunter during the archery season and establishes a special crossbow license;
–Adding two new licenses (a crossbow license for use in the archery season, and an urban zone license) and offering a license bundle at a reduced price that would allow one antlered deer and two antlerless deer to be taken during the special youth, archery, firearms, muzzleloader and special antlerless seasons combined.

The full text of the recommended rules package can be found in the January meeting agenda on the NRC website. Additional information from the DNR is available on the Division of Fish and Wildlife web pages (click on the “Rule/Regulation Changes” link in the left column).

“The Division of Fish and Wildlife recognizes that modifying regulations is only part of a larger effort that must be addressed,” said Gary Langell, private lands program manager for the Division of Fish and Wildlife. “Simply changing regulations will not achieve our objective.”

“Although we continue to depend on deer hunters to help us manage our deer herd, we also believe that landowners will need to be more actively involved in providing hunter access and encouraging more intensive antlerless harvest on their properties. Likewise, urban communities will need to recognize the importance of balanced, regulated deer management.”

If the NRC grants preliminary adoption at its Jan. 11 meeting, it would be only the fifth step in a 34-step checklist that can take as much as a year to complete.

A vote for preliminary adoption would be followed by a public comment period overseen by the NRC Division of Hearings. The recommended rule changes and a convenient online comment link would be posted here. The NRC also would accept written comments mailed to Division of Hearings, Indiana Government Center North, 100 North Senate Avenue, Room N501, Indianapolis, IN, 46204-2200.

State law sets a minimum period for receiving public comments, and the period may be extended by the NRC hearing officer assigned to the topic. The hearing officer also presides over at least one public hearing and prepares a report for the NRC to use in its consideration of final adoption of the proposed rule changes.