Less than 100 years ago, seeing a wild deer in Indiana was about as common as catching a glimpse of a mountain lion today.
There were a few around, but there wasn’t a good chance you’d ever see one.
Fast-forward to today, and deer are seemingly everywhere. Even in urban areas where they are causing some problems.
To deal with the growing number of white-tailed deer taking up residence in urban areas around the state, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has introduced an innovative program to help control urban deer numbers and reduce the number of conflicts they cause.
The Urban Deer Hunting Access Program was designed to assist communities experiencing problems with overabundant deer to manage those deer through hunting.
Communities will be eligible to apply for funding to open public land for access by licensed deer hunters to resolve documented conflicts.
“Hunting is a highly favored form of management for deer by hunters and many non-hunters alike,” DNR deer biologist Chad Stewart said. “It is incredibly safe, cost-effective and efficient. However, it is difficult for communities to take that leap into allowing public hunting because of the perception and opposition of hunting by small and vocal groups of people.”
The DNR is actually going to pay communities or public entities to participate in the program. They are eligible to enter into a contract with the DNR for up to three years with a maximum of $15,000 available per year.
The funds for the project are provided jointly by the DNR and the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Don Cranfill is a Bloomington resident and city water department employee. His job requires him to spend many hours a day driving around Bloomington. Cranfill is also an avid hunter.
“There are white-tailed deer all over the city of Bloomington. People enjoy seeing them, myself included, but they cause problems. They damage people’s gardens and flowers and often run into traffic. They can also pose a risk to people who venture too close to these wild animals,” Cranfill said. “As a hunter, I know that responsible, ethical hunting is the best answer for how to reduce the population of urban deer in Bloomington and other communities around Indiana.”
The use of sharpshooters, trapping and relocating, and wildlife contraceptives are sometimes used or considered as means of reducing urban deer numbers. None of these systems is as scientifically sound as allowing for urban hunting by ethical sportsmen.
“Hopefully by providing a financial incentive to open up or expand hunting in their community, we can show that hunting is a logical option to solving deer problems,” Stewart said. “And hopefully it will lead to a resolution of conflicts and the start of a long-term management program.”
As deer continue to expand into urban areas across Indiana, hunters have to do their part as stewards of the resource to help manage deer numbers. Hopefully, many communities will take part in this opportunity created by the DNR to use hunters as game managers.
For more information, call Stewart at 812-334-1137.
See you down the trail.
Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears Saturdays in the Daily Journal. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.