The Hoosier State is generally not widely known as a hunter's paradise, but that's a misconception. There are plenty of great opportunities for hunters, and what struck us immediately is the excellent access hunters have to all needed information, and assistance. This is particularly true of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of fish & Wildlife (DNR), which oversees all hunting in the state. Then there is the wide panoply of this website's guide-partners who can fill in the blanks for specifics regarding any particular type of hunting, area and regs that may affect your planning. So, we'd suggest that you first visit the excellent Indiana DNR website (http://www.in.gov/dnr/), get your general info from that, and then dovetail that with contacting one of our guide-partners. That way you'll get the "best of both worlds." Also, as we always do there is a complete and detailed listing of all the Indiana DNR offices, with contact information for each. So wherever you want to hunt, you'll be able to get the info you need quickly and easily.
We commend the staff of the Indiana DNR for their cooperation in providing the info. And you'll note that this article is relatively short and concise, because there are no arduous regulations or special complex caveats. Everything is pretty straightforward.
So, let's get after those whitetails.
We were unable to get even any guesstimate from the Indiana DNR as to the state's deer population. We note that out of all the states we've thus far covered, Indiana was the first who wouldn't provide us with any type of deer population estimate. In all fairness we were told this would happen by senior staff of the Indiana DNR before this article was written. Having said that, here is the exact answer to our deer population questions we received from a deer research biologist of the Indiana DNR We'll let you decide what it means.
"Indiana, like several other states, has long realized that statewide population estimates, though popular are not a requirement for proper deer management. Specific deer densities do not define our management goals. Rather, specific goals are set within each management unit and harvest recommendations are prescribed to meet these goals. Trends, such as harvest composition, hunter and landowner attitudes, deer vehicle collisions and rate of collisions, and damage reports, are all measured to reflect the efficiency of these prescriptions and adjusted annually if trends are not proceeding towards goal."
All we can say is "huh?"
So, here's what we're going to do. Rather than delving into too deeply about the quote from the Indiana DNR, we are going to "go in harm's way," and based on OUR research and comparison of deer population(s) and harvest(s) of other Midwestern states, will come up with our own "wild guesstimate" - and that's all it is. But it's better than nothing, and we believe deer hunters should be able to gauge some type of statewide deer population in whatever state they want to hunt. Our "wild guesstimate" would be between 350,000-450,000 deer - -maybe a bit more. This estimate of ours may be way off, but if it is, let the Indiana DNR correct us, if they have the statistics and studies to prove it. We'll be happy to make any valid correction with thanks.
The 2011 Indiana statewide harvest was 129,018. This was down about four percent from 2010. These are still good numbers, and should be encouraging to whitetail hunters.
Indiana has very generous deer hunting seasons. Archery (including crossbows) runs from October 1, through the first Sunday in January. The actual number of days depends on the calendar year. Firearms season runs from the first Saturday after November 11, and concludes 16 days later (always on a Sunday). Muzzleloader season opens the Saturday after firearms season ends and runs for 16 days (always on a Sunday). Starting in 2012, a Late Anterless season is certain designated counties begins on December 26, and runs through the first Sunday in January.
Indiana has a Youth Deer Season and for 2011 was September 24 and 25. Youth age 17 and younger on the date of the hunt, and accompanied by an adult of at least 18 years of age, can take either an antlered or antlerless deer. If the youth hunter takes an antlered deer during the youth deer season, the youth cannot take another antlered deer during the normal deer seasons (i.e., firearm, archery or muzzleloader seasons). The youth hunter must possess a valid license to take deer (resident youth hunt/trap, non-resident youth deer, or lifetime comprehensive), and the accompanying adult must also possess a valid hunting license of any type while in the field with the youth hunter. The youth hunter must comply with all deer hunting regulations; including tagging and checking it in at a deer check station within 48 hours of the take. The youth hunter and accompanying adult must wear hunter orange. The youth hunter may use a legal firearm, bow and arrow, or crossbow to take the deer. The accompanying adult cannot take a deer and may not possess a firearm, muzzleloader, bow and arrow or crossbow while in the field with the youth hunter.
Hunters should note that Indiana has a "one buck rule" that applies for all seasons. That means hunters can only take one buck for the entire deer-hunting season.
Indiana also has some really unique deer hunting regs, one of which is that it allows the use of rifles of certain cartridge lengths, dubbed Pistol Cartridge Rifles (PCR). Only rifles firing a bullet of .357 diameter or larger, with cartridge length between 1.16 and 1.8 inches may be used during the firearm season. Otherwise, shotguns, muzzleloaders, and handguns are allowed.
Deer hunting in Indiana is managed on the county level, so there are 92 different management units. Each unit varies in the number of bonus antlerless licenses that can be used. Some units have within them an urban deer zone, which extends the time archery equipment, can be used (beginning September 15, and ending January 31), the latter of which was new in 2011. These urban deer zones are now restrictive as of 2012, and require individuals hunting under an urban deer zone license to harvest an anterless deer, prior to harvesting an antlered deer. This shows the extent to which Indiana is closely and positively managing its deer herd. And it's the "same old, same old" as in every other state- - lots and lots of different management units, with lots and lots of different specific regs. There's nothing at all wrong with that, and is another reason why our readers should contact one of our website's local guide-partners in the specific management zone they intend to deer hunt.
Hunter education in Indiana is required for anyone born after December 31, 1986 (this date is in force as of the date that this is written in 2012, and probably may vary yearly, so make sure you contact the Indiana DNR to find out the effective date as of the time you are going to hunt), with the exception of an Apprentice License. Indiana offers an Apprentice License to allow someone to try hunting without having to first complete a hunter Ed class. If a person is required to take a hunter Ed based on date of birth, he/she may buy up to three Apprentice Licenses before having to meet the hunter ed requirement to obtain a regular license.
Indiana is to be applauded for its regs, which make it easier for the disabled to hunt. There are special permits required, and the DNR website can be consulted for the procedures. The three most common persons with disabilities hunting permits issued are: Hunting from a vehicle, using a vehicle for access (no hunting from a vehicle) and using a crossbow or draw-loc for deer hunting during archery season. There are also special licenses available for disabled vets at reduced rates.
The Indiana DNR estimates that about 5% of the land in the state is publicly owned. That means about 95% is privately owned. Deer hunting is available on most of the state's fish and wildlife areas, state forests, and the Hoosier National Forest. Special hunts are available on state parks, military bases and national wildlife refuges. Sadly, the Indiana DNR noted: "We have no co-op programs to speak of." That refers to the programs that states like Texas and New York have which provide certain additional rights and perks to private landowners who opt to offer enhanced hunting opportunities for the public on their land. We believe these programs are absolutely terrific and have been extremely successful in providing greatly enhanced hunting opportunities in the states that have them.
As for trophies, our research shows there are some real nice deer to be had in Indiana. According to the Indiana DNR the Indiana Hunters Association keeps a record book. And as far as infrastructure - -The Hoosier state offers it all - - in all areas, both privately and publicly. You'll want for nothing in Indiana, and the people (we know, we've been there) are extremely hospitable, warm, and gracious. There is a long hunting tradition in Indiana, and it is alive and well and every improving.
Indiana DNR contact information:
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Division of Fish & Wildlife
402 W. Washington St., Room W273
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
Bob Porch 8163 Oak Tree Dr. Rensselaer, IN 47978 (219) 285-2704 Email: bporch@dnr.IN.gov
Linda Byer Kankakee FWA 4320 W. Toto Rd. PO Box 77 North Judson, IN 46366 (574) 896-3572 Email: lbyer@dnr.IN.gov
Jason Wade J. Edward Roush Lake 517 N. Warren Rd. Huntington, IN 46750 (260) 468-2515 Email: jwade@dnr.IN.gov
Tom Hewitt North Region Headquarters 1124 N. Mexico Road Peru, IN 46970 (765) 473-9324 Email: thewitt@dnr.IN.gov
Kent Hanauer Wilbur Wright FWA 2239 N. SR 103 New Castle, IN 47362 (765) 529-6319 Email: khanauer@dnr.IN.gov
Dean Zimmerman Prophetstown State Park 4112 E. SR 225 West Lafayette, IN 47906 (765) 567-2152 Email: dzimmerman@dnr.IN.gov
Rick Peercy Prophetstown State Park 4112 E. SR 225 West Lafayette, IN 47906 (765) 567-2152 Email: rpeercy@dnr.IN.gov
Josh Griffin Atterbury FWA PO Box 3000 7970 S. Rowe St. Edinburgh, IN 46124-3000 (812) 526-4891 Email: jgriffin@dnr.IN.gov
Randy Millar 14619 W. State Rd. 48 Jasonville, IN 47438 (812) 665-9384 Email: rmillar@dnr.IN.gov
Shannon Winks Driftwood Fish Hatchery 4931 S. – 250 W. Vallonia, IN 47281 (812) 358-2253 Email: swinks@dnr.IN.gov
Nate Yazel Wilbur Wright FWA 2239 N. SR 103 New Castle, IN 47362 (765) 529-6319 Email: nyazel@dnr.IN.gov
Bob Montgomery Glendale FWA 6001 E. – 600 S. Montgomery, IN 47558 (812) 644-7382
Email: bmontgomery@dnr.IN.gov District 13
Mark Bennett 562 DNR Rd. Mitchell, IN 47446 (812) 849-4586 Email: mbennett@dnr.IN.gov