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Near-record harvest possible for Indiana deer season

November 16, 2010 at 01:35 AM

Indiana’s annual firearms season for white-tailed deer opened Saturday, Nov. 13, with near-record harvest expected for all deer seasons combined.

The record overall deer harvest is 132,752, set last year, with roughly 83,000 being harvested during the firearms season, including almost 36,000 on opening weekend.

Department of Natural Resources biologists expect hunters to kill more than 80,000 deer again this year during the 16-day firearms season, which ends Nov. 28.

“Harvest numbers for the season will always be about the same as the previous year,” DNR deer biologist Chad Stewart said. “With the dry fall we’ve been having, the corn harvest is vastly accelerated compared to last year, which means less potential cover for deer.

“I anticipate a record or near-record harvest, and obviously, the firearms season is a major component of that harvest.”

Harvest composition on opening weekend is typically an approximate 60:40 split favoring antlered deer, but more antlerless deer are typically harvested than antlered deer by the end of the firearms season.

“Hunters will always want to go out on opening day with the hopes of harvesting a buck,” Stewart said.  “That’s what causes hunters to lie awake the night before and it’s what they think about while sitting in their hunting stand while it’s still pitch black out that opening morning. So hunters are undoubtedly selecting their bucks to harvest on that opening weekend.

“But as the season progresses, since more does are able to be killed than bucks, the numbers eventually catch and surpass the buck total.”

Biologists will again be at nearly 40 check stations across the state on opening day to collect age information and biological samples from deer checked, testing primarily for the presence of chronic wasting disease and bovine tuberculosis.

“So far, we have not detected either in free-ranging deer in Indiana,” Stewart said.

Favorable weather conditions were a factor in hunters killing 35,898 deer on the opening weekend of firearms season in 2009, an increase of more than 4,700 over the first two days of the 2008 firearms season. A weather system that went through on opening day of the 2008 season brought rain, sleet, and freezing rain to much of Indiana, reducing the harvest during opening day of that year.

The number of deer harvested in individual counties last year ranged from a low of 96 deer in Tipton County to 4,102 deer in Steuben County. Harvest exceeded 1,000 deer in 62 counties; exceeded 2,000 deer in 19 of those counties; and exceeded 3,000 deer in five of those counties.

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