Numbers down, but deer harvest remains bountiful

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources reported deer numbers are down

this year.

This fact could make deer hunting more difficult as the season progresses, but thanks to the cold weather during the rut, deer hunters may find more deer than normal this time of year bunched up on food sources.

“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.”

In certain parts of the state, DNR was working through liberal seasons and bag limits to bring down deer populations, especially in urban zones. These efforts, coupled with severe outbreaks of EHD in 2012 and 2013, actually led to the numbers DNR wanted sooner than expected, or even fewer deer than desired, in certain regions.

“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.”

EHD did have a significant impact on deer numbers, but thankfully there were no reports of the disease in 2014. This means we are expecting to see a rebound.

“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 expects things to be even better in the southern part of the state.

“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.”

Deer hunters still holding their tag after this week should still feel confident for the remainder of the season. Cold weather has pushed deer from cover into agricultural feeding areas earlier in the year than normally expected. Cold weather requires deer to add more calories to their diet to stay warm, so they are feeding more.

When you consider the bucks are still rutting, you should plan to see more deer out in the open, where they are more susceptible to being shot.

Now is the time for deer hunters to position themselves on the edges of fields, especially harvested agricultural fields, where you expect deer to be feeding. The does should pile out into the picked fields to stuff themselves full of corn and beans. Where

you find does, you’re going to

find bucks.

More mature deer are still likely to hold back in the timber or cover until last light, but they also are not going to let the younger bucks head out into to the fields to chase all the ladies alone. They’ll be out there, too, defending their turf from intruders. You need to be waiting for them.

See you down the trail.