The Dirty Secret of Indiana’s Declining Deer Herd

Wonder why you aren't seeing deer?  Take a look in the mirror.

Visit any coffee shop, café or local watering hole where deer hunters gather and you’ll likely hear the same story. For the last couple years hunters have been complaining about declining deer herd. And for the most part they are right.

For me, the months of October and November are spent in treestands or still hunting though thickets and woodlots and my own personal observations back this up. It wasn’t that long ago when returning from the field the question asked was “How many deer did you see this time?” Now the question is “Did you see any deer?”  I look forward to collecting a mature buck during the early archery season but the past couple years have been different. Now the pendulum swings the other direction.

Indiana contains roughly 36,418 square miles. With this much land there are still a few “pockets of plenty” where deer populations are high, hunting pressure is low and habitat is perfect. If you are one of the fortunate to have access to these few special areas, consider yourself lucky. But for the majority of the state, deer numbers are down and numbers prove it.

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Hunters are no different and sometimes it’s easy to complain and even easier to pass blame. Some believe it’s due to outbreaks of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease and bluetongue which have decimated deer in certain, isolated areas. A few say it’s due to previous hard winters and predation. But almost everyone agrees the large increase in antlerless permits made available by our state’s fish and wildlife agency is to blame. Although all of them impact deer populations I think it’s time for hunters to take a good long look at themselves. Let me explain.

Our Division of Fish and Wildlife have been fairly open when discussing their philosophy regarding our state’s deer herd. In previous years they operated under a maintenance policy which kept our deer herd stable. But several years back they moved to a reduction philosophy in an attempt to lower deer numbers.

Today, everyone is an arm-chair quarterback. I have talked to hunters and other writers who think they are deer biologists, when in reality they know very little. These folks have the answer for everything, and interestingly enough, it never involves them.

Indiana’s deer managers have to walk a very tight-rope. They are constantly under pressure from insurance companies and the Department of Transportation to reduce the number of car-deer accidents. They get pressure from farm lobbyists to curtail crop damage caused by our state’s wild ungulates. The money trail is loud and clear.

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So what do they do? They up antlerless quotas and even create a special doe only season at the very end, at which time most does have been bred, I might add. Many hunters, including myself, would like to see antlerless deer tags reduced and the late doe season eliminated.

Now the rub. Some hunters who complain about not seeing enough deer go right along with it and are the biggest part of the problem. Does the state make you pull the trigger or finger the release?

The Quality Deer Management Association and wildlife biologists have put tons of money and time researching this very issue, not that they needed to because to me its common sense. Shooting too many does reduces deer herds. Pretty simple.

I know of several who have each taken a handful of does and continue to hunt. It was just last week a guy was telling me how he collected seven antlerless deer but wanted to get a couple more to donate. “You’re hammering the herd in your area aren’t you?” I had to ask. “Hey, it’s legal and I will take everyone I can,” he replied. I call this the “bluegill bag limit.”  Even though there is no restriction on the number of fish, is it ok for one person to keep 200? Is it legal? Yes. Is it ethical? You be the judge.

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In four counties where I have permission to hunt a total of 18 antlerless deer can be harvested and that’s not counting a buck and additional doe legal to take during the early archery season. It was only a few years back when Howard County was listed as an eight, which meant eight additional antlerless deer could be collected from this one marginal county alone. Why would anyone need to harvest that many deer? Yet some will take all they can, then they are the same ones complaining the following season when not seeing as many deer. Think about all the buck and doe yearlings you have just removed from the following year’s deer herd and the year after that.

It’s great to take a buck. If you still need more venison to make it through the year by all means take a tasty doe, maybe two. But filling every tag just because you can is destroying the herd around us. Don’t take me wrong. We should share venison with friends and of course local food pantries because we need to help the less fortunate. However using that as an excuse to wack every deer you can is wrong.

High deer numbers to me are important. They keep hunters interested, more importantly, children. Youngsters are the future of traditional hunting and we need to keep them involved. Keeping people, young and old, interested in hunting is one of the most important issues we have for generations to come.

The state manages our entire deer herd from state-line to state-line but we should manage the deer where we hunt. So the next time you don’t see as many deer, don’t look at the DNR, don’t criticize big money lobbyists for doing what they get paid to do and don’t blame it on disease and predation. Maybe it’s time to take a good, long look in the mirror.

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John Martino
Martino is a well-known outdoor writer throughout Indiana and has served as longtime outdoor columnist for the Kokomo Tribune newspaper. Martino has won numerous awards for both his writing and his service to youth, conservation and the community. He recently retired as Superintendent of Parks and Recreation for the City of Kokomo and now works as Ivy Tech Executive Director for Facilities for the Kokomo region.


    • He can’t, because the harvest data does not back his point. There are still more than enough deer left in this state. Numbers, the numbers he wants back, were way too high in the past. The herd NEEDED, reduced. There is a reason EHD hit so hard. It’s mother natures way of saying “hey, there’s way too many of you”. Hunters complain because they don’t want to hunt, they want to see deer. They consider a day without seeing anything wasted. They are spoiled by years of lands being at or above the maximum carrying capacity and deer inhabiting every woodlot and briar thicket.

      • Actually killing the same number of deer year after year is becoming increasingly difficult. Go back 10 years and look how they have added ways to harvest more deer in an easier and more effective fashion. Yet the harvest remains the same.

  1. I agree with your article. My neighbor shot one buck, 2 button bucks and 2 does. Why, because it was legal. I haven’t shot anything for two years because of dwindling population. Hunters must be proactive and work with the state biologist to help manage the deer population.

  2. Well what gets me is I have 180 acres to hunt all by my self, which I am very thankful for, but the neighboring property gets leased out to Amish. They have about 80 acres to hunt and about 10 of that is woods. They come in with a big van that holds 8 hunters. They will shoot anything brown big or small. So with 8 hunters blasting away they hurt our deer numbers significantly. With 4 bonus tags a piece that can be 32 dead deer.
    I have shot nice bucks the last 3 years but I have been passing all what little does I seen. I would have to say this year is the worst for any doe movement. I think i should just find a new state to hunt in.

  3. The state has pandered to Farm Bureau and the insurance lobby to dictate deer harvest numbers! Then they went to the one buck rule to promote trophy hunting. That in turn has brought about leasing by the rich fat cats who can afford high dollar leasing fees to get a shot at a trophy deer! Many of these guys don’t really even eat venison? They just want a trophy for their office wall! Then the fat cat farmers keep bulldozing off woodlots at a record pace, not to mention the brushy fence lines,so they can plant corn right out to the edge of the road! Meanwhile the young kid would like to try deer hunting, but he doesn’t have 24.00 for a tag and if he did he couldn’t find any ground to hunt! And if he is lucky enough to have a Grandpa or Uncle to take em some where, it would be nice for them to at least see a deer! As far as I am concerned they have ruined the deer hunting in Indiana through greed, overpriced licenses, mismanaged deer herd, and complacency by the DNR! We the hunters of Indiana, have been sold down the river!

    • I totally agree with this. I have three girls the two oldest go with me. Where we hunt we see minimal deer and have tried finding more property but havnt had any luck. Growing up as a kid I always had great places to hunt but unfort those places have been sold and new owners won’t allow any one out

    • I agree. Deer herd is way down in Owen county.
      We have decided to not buy does tags or hunt does. We are not seeing any deer.
      We are about ready to stop hunting all together.

      Think I am kidding. Keep issuing doe tags and watch.

      Opening day we hardly saw any hunters. Nothing like in 1995. We heard maybe 30 shots all day. In 1995 we would hear hundreds !

      Congratulations DNR. You and the blue tongue have decimated Indiana’s deer herd.

      In 1955 38% of the population hunted, today that number is less than 3%.

      People are loosing interest. I can’t even keep my sons interested. My oldest did get a nice buck opening day and none of us have seen a deer since. We used to see many.

      I am considering stopping hunting altogether. Along with the other 35%.

      DNR please stop issuing Doe tags for years. Michigan has over a million deer. Georgia has over a million. We used to have 300k. I am guessing that number is well below 200k today.

  4. Took out my daughter for the first time this year in hopes of her getting her first deer. We never saw 1 single deer. The neighboring farms with depradation permits have wiped them out. One guy shot 13 last year and 15 this year.

  5. There have so many hunters who just want to kill, kill, kill! Indiana definitely needs to cut the number of antlerless tags down and get rid of the extra doe season. We have had EHD in our area as well, but even those years we saw more deer than we do now. I have no problem with guys harvesting two or three deer a year. Its the five,six,seven and eight per person that is unnecessary. Lots of good points in the article, but it would be easier to limit tags than it would be trying to change the ones that ruin it for everyone else. It’s not just about now, it’s about the future. I have kids and I hope they can enjoy what I had.

  6. I think that the bonus tags is a small percentage of the problem we have trail cam photos of one coyote den taking in 17 fawns in a 3 months time this cannot continue and there be deer left to hunt opening day of gun law a buddy his brother and his dad all killed coyotes no deer I hunt across the road and we have seen more coyote than deer this year it boils down to the insurance companies need to stop paying for them to be released and we as hunters need to kill everyone we see then we will have the deer numbers return that we are custom to seeing

  7. I did an undergraduate thesis on the topic of deer herd management some time ago. The issue is that deer populations are a localized problem being managed at a statewide level. Deer/vehicle accidents go up, which forces DNR to increase antlerless tags, which results in higher harvest and lower deer sightings in areas with hunting pressure. DNR needs to perform geospatial studies and marketing campaigns to encourage landowners to allow hunting in areas with high deer/vehicle accidents.

  8. I am gonna call Bulls##T on this story. With the populations of coyote, bobcat and other predators at all time highs they are desimating the deer population. Hunters nowdays are shooting the trophy bucks, that doesn’t translate into the shrinking deer population. There are NOT that many hunters that fill “all the tags they can” I don’t think you have to be a wildlife biologist to figure this one out. There is a reason the coyotes are very fat.

    • Charles Gregory Hamilton you are partially correct, the natural predation is a good point, but the DNR need to take that info into consideration before being so liberal with bonus permits.

    • Sure predators put some pressure on the herd, but the biggest predator that is DECIMATING the population is us hunters. Very few guys are out there only hunting for trophies, our annual harvest report is actual real data to support my claim. Many, many hunters hammer every deer they see, and very few hunters actually harvest a mature buck. The majority of the deer harvest is and will always be fawns and yearlings. It is because there are more of them than mature deer, and they are so much easier to kill. Also there is absolutely no way that our predator population of coyotes and bobcats (not sure what others you are referring to) is at an all time high, unless of course you are counting hunters. Back in the old days there were wolves, bear, lions included in with this before they were wiped out and replaced by people and towns. There is absolutely no way that anyone person should have the ability to harvest 8 does in one county, not including bow and muzzleloader season. People have shown throughout history (this is actually an important class in school since it teaches us to learn from past mistakes) that most people can be a hunter and conservationist without regulations to back them up (look at Indiana’s past with wiping out deer, or this nations track record with the buffalo). We have more seasons and more weapons that are legal for use over the past few years, yet our harvest numbers have declined each year. This should be the opposite if the herd was not being hammered. I completely agree with this article, and I have to assume that you are exactly the kind he is referring to.

  9. The deer population is down.thats a fact . Killing all the does to reduce population is a fact.inthe 70s. If you saw a deer you were lucky .this is no conspiracy. They want to reduce numbers because of auto accident with deer.its not about herd control. It’s about money

  10. When I started deer hunting in southern Indiana in 1978 the only place you could find deer was in the state and national forest in Harrison and Perry counties. If you seen a deer in Floyd County it was unusual and very seldom. Same for turkey but worse. Now that there are deer and turkey everywhere it is the DNR’S cash cow. We pay for every deer we kill not like other states where you can kill several off one tag. If the state would use some of this money to help manage the herd and habitat and listen to the hunters we would have a lot more quality deer herd. And they just keep raising the park entry fee’s and tag prices. Where is this money going? Just my point a view.

  11. The youth have no bag limit on doe`s and adults with youths are taking advantage or over harvesting by going with youth people and harvesting to many deer. Families with several youth can devestate deer, i haveseen as manny as 6 bucks and several doe taken by just 1 family For a total of 12 or more deer.there needs to be a household limit. To many people are killing just o be killing giving away meat or leaving carcases behind taking just the head. This is food for us dont get greedy or abuse the priviledge to hunt.

  12. I heard a statistic a few years ago that 94% of all deer hunters in Indiana will only take 3 deer or less in a season. It takes too much time and money for most people to kill up to 8 per county. I’m not sure the liberal bag limits are having the major effect people think it does. The liberal limits were started back in the 90’s – I remember killing 4 deer one year back then – because I could. Why would the population be down in the last 2 years when the bag limits have been high for the last 20?

    • Even if that statistic you heard is real, there is no way that the other 6 percent should be able to take as many as they want to shoot. There were not 8 doe counties back in the 90’s either, and the bag limits have not been this high since the 90’s either, that is false. You say it best when you said that you killed 4 deer one year back then “because I could”. That is the exact reason that some people will kill 8 in one county and 8 in the next. Some guys will still only shoot what they need but many will shoot everything that they can (it’s brown it’s down). The limits are too high. I personally don’t understand what you mean about taking too much time or money to kill 8 deer in a county. I am sure that I am not the only hunter who hunts more days than not during the entire 3 plus month season (I’m putting in a lot of time), and no ammo is that expensive or freezer tape and paper to make it too expensive. It is not time or money that keep me from decimating the deer herd, it is self control and being an ethical hunter and conservationist.

  13. I use to live in Indiana and have had good and bad hunting seasons. Now I live in Minnesota and by no means does Indiana hunters want the regulations I have to put up with. Similar complaints were waged here and the DNR stepped in. Then the disaster started. Now we can only shoot 2 does and a buck must have 4 points on one side or its an illegal hunt. Now hunters mistake the points and leave the deer in the field so they don’t get in trouble. Once the public took a step back and laid off the DNR. The DNR did a study and found out that coyotes were the major factor for the dwindling deer population. I lived in Indiana from 1976 to 2004. During the early years I never heard or saw a coyote. The last few years I was there I would see coyotes in the corn fields I could hear them yelping at night and every year I would pic up 10- 20 coyotes on my trail cams in a 4 week period. I believe you start taking out the large number of coyotes and everything will return to normal. Save The Deer Kill The Coyote

  14. Hey QDM why don’t you campaign on this issue as hard as you did with antler point restrictions? You guys are the ones that helped the DNR with this needless slaughter by promoting this 1to1 buck to doe ratio for a healthy herd and to many deer are destroying the forest by over browsing due to high density. There has never been a deer in Indiana that has starved to death. We get 200″ of snow on average where I live in Michigan and we have never had starving deer. Joe stupid public bought into your hype with QDM, so why not change course. Deer Hunting will never get back to its roots until “biologists” and political interests groups get out of the Deer business. I like seeing and killing deer, if there are to many car deer accidents, CHANGE the speed limit. If the deer eat to much of the Farmers corn, CHARGE more for what he less.

  15. I am in total agreement with you john.and also the depordation tags need to be severly restricted. der do not destroy half the corn that coons do and not as much beans as a person would think.we are our own worst enemiey.

  16. Deer management should be based on how many deer can be sustained on a given property. A healthy herd puts one mature buck to max of two does. Let any buck walk under 4 years old. I know its tempting with some of the 3 1/2 running around. But what i hate is to hear a guy say he shot a young buck to fill his tags cause he dont have any big bucks on his property. Or my favorite is a guy with a young buck with potential that asks, “wonder what this buck would look like in a year or two”. Nothing, cause you killed him before he could truely mature.

  17. Sounds like we have far too many spoiled deer hunters in Indiana. How many deer do you need to see before you harvest one? If you are complaining, I can only assume you are a bad shot.

  18. Rusty, i can speech only for my hunting area in washington co.. 5 years ago i would see 10 to 20 deer feeding in the fields on the 2 mile trip from my hunting area back to my hunting cabin after coming from the woods in the evenings. Now i am lucky to see 2, sometimes 0. Coyotes are everywhere. I shoot them every chance i can, but in my area deprevation tags i think is the majory of our problem. The 1500,acre farm beside my camp took 50 deer on the average the last 4 years.. ours herds simply cant stand kind of pressure year after year. I saw only what i call a mature doe this year. This has to be curtailed for the populations to recover

  19. Its all about the money!! I think we should go back to getting drawn for doe tags thats the way it was when i was growing up still remember putting #88 down that was for washington county. Another thing that dont help is doing away with check stations what the fuck is purpose of that? Guys are killin 2 and 3 bucks no problem. If you do get caught poachin they need to actually punish you instead of slappin your hand. Cut down gun and muzzleloader seasons 2 weeks instead of 3

  20. I saw a decent amount of deer this season, but never saw a deer I wanted to shoot. 1 less coyote though. Too many coyotes, and too many if it’s brown it’s down deer hunters.
    Too many hawks wiping out the rabbit population also.

  21. It all goes back to management, that includes farming practices, tag quotas, seasons, EHD and this states seemingly interest in fluffing budgets with more license sales. Although their own report for the 2015-2016 season shows a 12% decrease in license sales. Now why is that? Well more hunters are now not hunting because of the declining numbers and access issues most hunters run into. Good luck finding some where to hunt these days. Permission is almost unheard of. Leasing now will cost you some serious cash as some ground is going upwards of $17-25 an acre. Now let’s talk neighboring states. Iowa, Illinois, Ohio and Kansas are states that push back gun and rifle seasons so they don’t start at the earliest until the tail end of the rut. Why does Indiana keep a 16 day gun season when their own data shows that 35% of the harvest is shot opening day and almost 20% the 2nd day. Thats over 1/2 in 2 days now add 14 more days to hunt and that’s the killer. Split it like illinois and iowa do drop the late anterless and bonus quotas and then we would see a dramatic change on overall herd quality. But now you have state legislatures pushing in their own agenda over the voices of the hunters who with the purchase of license sales pay for everything. Is there any new land being purchased for public access? No. Do we have PLOTS, WIHA or any type of state subsidized land lease like they do in some of the other great Midwestern states, the answer is no. So like most hunters who depend on public access we are seeing diminishing returns on our investment.

  22. I guess the bottom line is the so called Trophy as turned into anything that’s brown. Big ones small ones. What ever! If you happen to see a deer out there, consider it a trophy!!!!!

  23. Washington county deer numbers are definitely down over the last ten years I used to see over 100 deer in the same field almost any night of the week now maybe five I agree should reduce the doe limit and do away with deprivation permits if farmers are having too much crop damage ( and as I grew up farming they do) then they should allow hunters to harvest those deer during the season ! My grandpa used to sit in the living room watching over the fields and say well their eating my money but he enjoyed watching them we never got permits we always just tried to control the herd during season not deplete it and I don’t think the high powered rifle law will change anything hunters have been taking unethical shots all along now they have the equipment to make those shots

  24. Where there’s smoke there’s fire. I’ve had permission to hunt in four counties for the past 15 years. During that time crossbows became legal, doe tag limits were increased, firearms seasons were extended & large caliber rifles were legalized. In every county the number of deer that I see has been significantly reduced. Now I’m more likely to get skunked than to actually see deer let alone harvest anything….

  25. I agree alot with the herds being down alot..I believe they ought to get rid of the deprivation permits,let the hunters take the deer,more deer more tags more money. I’ve seen where they just killed the deer and threw them in a hole,i also believe people with lifetime license.should be limited to how many deer they can take. I don’t think they thought that one thru. I know people who shoots 15-20 deer a year and they donate most of it, not saying not to help the less fortunate but there is other ways.I will shoot 5 deer a year but that’s what my family eats a year. Last few years not been like that cause where herds were plenty 20-30 a herd now lucky to see 2-3 together.a and this on line tagging has did nothing but open it up for the poachers take what you want..As hunters we need to regulate ourselves in what we take…

  26. I actually agree… But I know its sure not us hunting on my property… We’ve got 1 doe in 3 yrs… Coyotes are part of our problem too, I saw one chasing down 3 deer just a week ago… Kinda scary.

  27. With 36 years of deer hunting Indiana and seeing the ups and downs of Herd population I`m not inclined to completely buy that our herd is declining in numbers as a Whole ! When i was on Mossy Oaks pro staff I was fortunate enough to meet and work with some extremely educated biologists and management specialists. Yes in SOME areas due to Disease the herds have been reduced and most that is left are the young deer, as far as Doe or Antlerless permits being way to high I don`t agree with that at all. yes there are hunters that will take the max because it is ” Legal ” , but that doesn`t account for every hunter in that county. The Majority of hunters I talk to or have talked to at seminars or afield will proudly say they are Buck Only hunters, I am not sure if they feel there is a Prestige that goes along with saying that or what. Any biologist will tell you in order to build or maintain a herd you HAVE to manage Both Bucks and Does Equally ! With so many hunters statewide being Buck Only that in itself is a big part of the problem, the management on a field level isn`t being handled to its potential. An over population of Does can do more damage to the Buck population than hunters ever will, rather than splitting hairs as to how many does taken out of every county is justified or not Indiana would fair well with a Earn a Buck program. Taking 1 Doe before they harvest a Buck has been implemented in several states with great success in controlling population numbers as well as Boosting Mature Buck populations and Trophy Potentials. Another factor for the Seemed reduced deer sightings is our Season Openers ! Since the allowance of Crossbows for anyone in the early archery season that has taken the overall numbers of hunters in the woods Oct.1st to higher numbers than ever, that in itself will push the deer both Buck and Doe to a more Nocturnal State ! Indiana would do well to initiate a new Opener Date for Crossbows, Leave Traditional and Compound Archery at Oct. 1st and put Crossbow at Nov 1st. Yes guys will complain they are getting short changed on the season, but they will fail to see they are getting put into the woods when things are heating up and deer movement is at a higher rate ! ! It has been well known for many many years that more hunters in the woods at 1 time will impact the deer movement drastically, if Indiana will sit down and look at the overall picture here they can straighten out this Proverbial Mess they have created and within 2 years get the Deer and the Hunters back on track !

    • There is hardly any deer in my area at all and your telling me to shoot does ! That’s absurd ! You kill a doe and that’s at least 2 less deer next year one of wich could be a buck. How in the hell is removing 2 or 3 deer from the herd 2 of wich could be bucks going to increase the population or as you say create more bucks . Got to be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. If there is an out of balance herd or over populated herd yes . But killing does REDUCES the population period. That is the goal of indiana DNR and it’s been overly successful. Stop the BS with you got to shoot more does to have more bucks that’s stupid and some people will listen to you and keep reducing our dwindling herd.

  28. As a 35yr hunter is this state, and oh by the way I do love it, I think the problem is two fold. Part is the predation problem, YES there is a major problem considering my trail cam pics of coyotes and bobcats have quadrupled in the last five years. Although I do not believe a Bobcat is a threat to an adult deer, they certainly will take fawns if they can. Coyotes are the bigger issue and unless they are controlled the deer population will get worse.
    Part is the DNR and the over harvest of does, YES there is an over harvest of antlerless deer. I have watched does/fawns walk of my property and gunshots quickly ensue. Legal yes, however by my estimation, the people hunting around me are probably taking 4-6 each year per person….. and yes I have seen them hauling them out. This is not an isolated incident either, I make it a habit to watch and listen and the braggers of the state tell all.
    It comes down to this, nothing will change until we do……. that includes every person who sets foot in the field each year.
    – Take only what you can use, for most that is a few deer at the very best…..
    – Discourage those who overharvest, peer pressure can be a very effective tool.
    – Encourage/ pressure DNR and lawmakers to change the thought process, money is not everything!!!!
    – Take part in predator control, hunt/trap or let others in to do so with your help!!!!! We have done so the last few years and the numbers of coyotes are dropping on our property….
    We can all take ownership in some way, and the problems will always be there but if we can all find a way to do a little more instead of talking about it it will pay dividends in the years to come.

  29. I have zero interest in a trophy buck. I’ve never found a good recipe for antlers and I do not need to make powder out of the antlers for love purposes. And I can’t afford taxidermy fees. I would just like to shoot 2 deer a year for meat. What I feel needs changed:
    – Stop shooting deer and trying to make yourself feel good by donating them to food pantries. Take up other kinds of hunting or other outdoor pursuits. Or travel to new areas to hunt new species.
    – If you need deer reduced on your property allow others to hunt. Having more hunters will help protect your hunting rights. That, and the license fees will help the DNR.
    – If you feel predation is a problem, then take up predator hunting. It’s a good excuse to buy cool new equipment. Also, either take up trapping or find someone else to trap your area. Talk to the people you take your deer hides to about trappers. Not only will trapping the bigger predators help but the smaller predators play heck with pheasants, turkeys and other small game. I know a trapper who doesn’t hunt. Ok, so you may have to come to a gentleman’s agreement on when to check traps so as not to disturb your hunting.
    – Do not let your dogs run free. They will chase deer. They will kill for fun. And, even if they don’t catch them. they will stress out the deer or run them off.
    – Raccoons will tear up a corn field much worse than deer.

  30. If Indiana was interested in Keeping a great deer herd they would not have passed rifles as a legal hunting implement. They would lower the amount of antler less tags and shorten the gun season. They may want to look at neighboring Illinois for management ideas.

  31. If one is of low income, then popping whatever comes along might be justified.
    40K trucks, 3 small does and a $1500 bow or firearm setup……….nah, aint buyin’ the “need”.
    Think about the sport and not rationalizing with the wife.

  32. There are areas in Indiana where there are good numbers of deer and areas with low numbers.The bigger properties with seas of corn and beans,cover and restricted hunting pressure will always have more deer.The problem is there are many small properties which are bunched together that have the same bag limits.It doesn’t hurt the big properties to remove deer but small properties hunters are depleting the herd.Too use the same bag limit numbers for each is a mistake that the IDNR needs to consider. If a more even distribution of deer is desired by hunters then the bag limits need to be lowered on the smaller properties as well as the larger ones.The big private tracts and leases will only get better(there problem to deal with) but so will the smaller acreage areas.

  33. I agree totally in the large scheme of things. But in Montgomery co, most of the deer hunters in my circle recognized this two years ago and agreed amongst ourselves to voluntarily cut back on our doe harvest. What we are seeing is the the increase of deprivation tags being filled by our local farming community. One neighbor of mine was heard saying they killed 62 this year. And has killed over 50 the year before. I’m not sure if this is actually legal but I’ve been told it is. And that’s only one land owner. I have heard several examples of this in my county. I know deer management is necessary, and don’t have a problem with deprivation tags IF it’s done responsably. So as far as my neck of the woods, it’s a two way mirror.

  34. With Q. 1 regarding the state constitution passing, I’m afraid it’ll only get worse. Hunting is now a constitutional right that is put above all else regarding the hunt. So animal population aren’t a consideration anymore. Are they going to get rid of licenses? I’m worried. Hunting is a great experience, but our future generations won’t get to enjoy it if they’re all dead.

  35. The bonus tags are a big problem . The man and his son took 14 dear 2 seasons ago they know complain they can’t find any dear to shoot . People like that drive me nuts .

  36. I’ve taken 2 deer off my property since 2006 both mature bucks , I’ve let everything else walk. You are lucky to see a deer on a hunt where before the DNR eradication program you would see 2 or 3 or 15 and your telling me to look in the mirror . The state has been bought by special interest groups. That along with a very small portion of hunters who have no ethics and are greedy bloodthirsty jerks have ruined our hunting in Indiana . The state needs to stop selling out to special interest and get rid of the eradication program . Our wild life is not an endless resource. The DNR should be ashamed . They have encouraged the mindset and made it legal to kill everything you can. Seems the only enforcement is trying to catch out of states not paying for nonresident tags. Even there tagging system encourages cheating . The DNR is to blame they are pathetic

  37. Naturally most hunters are the greatest of ethical sportsmen and conservationists. I was referring to those few who take everything they can, only because they can, then complain about not seeing many deer.

    • Spot on. We hunters are our own worst enemy, either shooting more than our fair share, or by not wanting to stand up to special interest groups. Meantime we complain about hunting fees and not willing to invest in our resource.

    • Before my husbands twin past away Jerry we decided that we was only going to kill 2 does and 1 buck and then we put stipulations on both
      The does had to be 1yr to 1and a half and the bucks 4 to 5 yrs
      The reason behind the doe age is it gives them a chance to have at least 1 baby but under no Scercumstances did we kill the older ones
      You have to stop and think the older that doe is the more babies she’s going to have in a litter
      So if you want to repopulate your heard quit killing those big old does

  38. Few of use even see them but there everyware the coyotes there a major threat to deer.they dont care they chase the little deer at night till they cant run know more and have dinner.while mamma deer has to bite the bullit.its wrong happens everynight will were at home the deer a big favor guys and hunt them dogs this winter.kill as many as you can there know good for nothin and thats that.

  39. The cars kill some but its cyotes that do the most harm yes its true.they pack up at night and chase the little deer down and kill them.will momma deer has to bite the bullet.chances are they kill a lot more deer then use people do the whole deer season.the cyotes are a major threat to deer .they thrive in warm dry areas and hunt and extermanate small the deer a favor and take up predator hunting please.

  40. I agree with John. It is up to us as hunters to protect the deer herd population. I have been just taking one doe and a buck if I get the opportunity and letting everything else walk and if you have a buddy or something that is taking everything that walks past speak up and try to make them realize what they are doing.

  41. AMEN BROTHER! Except that we need to stop shooting does completely! Even taking one is too many, we are in danger of completely wiping out the herd. We all need to pledge to not shoot a doe! THOSE OF YOU THAT SAY YOU WILL TAKE JUST ONE MATURE DOE – NEVER SHOOT A MATURE DOE. THEY ARE THE PRODUCERS AND KNOW HOW TO SURVIVE. I am here to help any one who still does not understand.
    Eric – 260-226-5381.

  42. In our area we used to see deer about every time out. Now the area is down and maybe you will see a deer or two a whole week hunting. I reason why we had a family move in and during deer season they bring their whole family (18 to 25) and kill everything. So we know why our area is lower and lower, you can talk to them they says each one of us are allow one Buck and three does and they are right, but now after four years of this and we know why are numbers are down. I think that only around three percent of hunters kills move than three. I say if we the hunters don’t start let’s does walk, our kids and grandkids will not be able to enjoy what we love to do. DNR and Hunters must change there attitude on killing so many deer. Blame can be said that its because of hunters, DNR and thousand others things but stop and think before we pull the trigger. Please let some of the deer walk for our kids. The IWDHM was form to help save our Doe herd. I know there is other clubs that have ideas to, but nothing will work until we join together and do a mind change on killing does. My two cents

  43. Until Indiana tightens its regulations down all the way around it will continue to be a lack luster season. They need to go to a straight Doe tag, no Anterless permits period. To many hunters are taking advantage of this and taking buttons, and small spikes just because the ” Permit Says I can Can ” . They need to go to a 6 point minimum, no doe period after the opener of Firearms Season. In 3 years we would notice a change, in 5 years we would see more deer and better bucks. Taking Does after they have breed is just taking 2 and possibly 3 deer out of the herd at a time, and continuing to take the small bucks leaves nothing to grow to a mature deer.

  44. Everyone should be concerned about the referendum in the last election.

    I’m not a lawyer, and I’m not opposed to hunting, but I noticed the implications behind the referendum and voted “NO” while knowing that it was certain to pass. It did.

    This sneaky new law was intended to make it illegal for the state to enforce laws that place restrictions on hunting. Now “hunting” is listed as a fundamental citizen right that cannot be revoked, just like the right to free speech, religion, etc.

    Examples: Some guy enters state protected conservation lands with “No Hunting” signs posted and shoots prize bucks that were alive this long only because they have been off limits until the referendum passed. The game warden chases the guy down and hauls him to jail. Through his slick-talking attorney, he pleads innocent, arguing that the state has no constitutional authority to infringe upon the right to hunt. The judge gives the hunter a moral reprimand, but throws the state’s case out. The state loses. The hunter wins. Everyone else loses protected wildlife.

    The hunter celebrates his courtroom victory by going right back to the protected hunting lands, decorates the “No Hunting” sign with holes, shoots every last living buck, doe, fawn that remained on the land, drives away with a flatbed trailer loaded with deer. The warden tracks him down. Knowing that the guy already proved in court that hunting cannot be infringed, the most he can charge him for is the misdemeanor fine for vandalizing the “No Hunting” sign, except that he wasn’t there to see it happen. The so-called “hunter” drives away and makes a killing selling deer skins and venison. The most the state can do is try to get him for food-related violations.

    Of course, I’m making all of that up. I just HOPE I’m not right. I hope that the referendum that is now law in Indiana and 20 other states does not render laws intended to protect species from becoming officially “unconstitutional”.

  45. The impact of deer on the landscape is undeniable. I’m a forester and see the impact on hardwoods and crops every day. You all have been spoiled and don’t understand what a healthy deer herd is and what the resources can support. I am a deer hunter and can say there are way too many deer. Hunting is a wildlife management tool, PERIOD. Harvest more does folks!!!

  46. Mr. Perry what part of the state are you from ? I hunt from northern Indiana to southern Indiana …and have only seen this in 1 area only ever in my 45 yrs of life .. one southern county in Indiana .. You could spotlight and see 300 deer in this county now you are lucky to see 30 .. I have logging buddies and they have never spoke of what you are saying . I have a ton of farm buddies and have only seen one field I would say was over eaten . So where did you see this dessimation ?

  47. How does the state take a count to know what the statewide deer herd numbers are? It’s impossible. Are they simply guessing by years past and deer taken?

  48. Too many deer taken under the regulation that permits farmers to eliminate deer regardless of any state hunting restrictions.

    How many deer are taken and not reported? I know there are “hunters” who will only report their kill if they are afraid of being reported.

    I’ve given up deer hunting because the deer just aren’t there anymore. Couldn’t convince my grandson to hunt with me because we just weren’t see the deer like I used to see them.

  49. I get tired of hearing it’s the hunters fault….BS. If the bag limit on rabbits is 5, who doesn’t try to get there limit. It’s up to our DNR to set bag limits on game based on populations. They have the control. They should have cut back on doe permits about 5 years ago, but instead they have have done the opposite. I’m just about to the point of going out of state to hunt deer. I own two different farms that are in two different countys. Deer populations are down to the point where you are lucky to see a deer during the entire season. On opening weekend I don’t even hear shots. It’s a shame! I know a number of guys that don’t hunt in Indiana anymore. This is going to backfire on the dnr with lack of license sales. It already effecting retails sales like Gander Mountain going under.

  50. I too believe the harvesting of so many does is the biggest cause of low deer populations in our county. I’ve always been happy with 1 deer in my freezer but this year haven’t even seen one in our woods. Some of my neighbors kill all they can wether they use the meat or not! Stupid can’t be fixed! If the game commission can’t see where this is headed, we will all lose in a couple of years!

  51. Need to go back to being drawn for a doe tag. Doe season needs to be taken completely out. I hunt in Sullivan and Vigo counties, and I see atleast 3 bucks to every doe around here. In the 80’s and 90’s it was like 8 doe’s to every buck.

  52. When Dr Jim Mitchell was deer biologists he estimated herd at 450000. Where does DNR come up w 700,000. No way in the world does In have that number of deer. We have been on reduction not management since 1990. IDNR Idiots doing nothing right!!

  53. I realize this is an older post but things have obviously not changed here since. My wife and i just moved here from Texas and it is a beautiful state that we are enjoying. We moved here in May and were both originally very excited at the opportunity to hunt a new state…that excitement is gone.

    I have been on several scouting trips this summer to survey public land and mark some areas to focus. Most of them have ended in disappointment. I have seen some deer and even some nice bucks but the deer population here is hurting. There is habitat loss…but that is EVERYWHERE. The problem I notice here is over harvesting and especially does. 90% of the deer I’ve seen here are bucks. This is NOT a healthy population. Even more so, the state is “earn a buck” it seems. We need the does to have babies to keep the population up. 10 does and one buck can produce 10 fawns at the least….1 doe and 10 bucks is one fawn by the same estimation.

    It’s a simple concept Indiana. We need to get onboard to correct it. It’s no wonder why liscence sales are down…there’s no deer out there!

    • But that one buck can breed 4 does easily. That’s 4 to 8 fawns. No 1 doe is gonna have that many fawns. Also the state is not “earn a buck” the reduction zone is.

      • being new to the state he probably meant the state is a “one buck state” which is pretty much correct except for the urban areas where the earn a buck rule is the exception

  54. i was an Indiana resident all my life and moved to Michigan for family matters. I agree totally with what is said in this article . but it shouldn’t surprise anyone. Man destroys anything they touch. greed is the problem .
    all states are suffering this same thing once you put a price tag on something it is taken at the first opportunity
    In my days of hunting you would hear off the Pope and young club they had rules of harvesting a record book deer including equipment used to do so. it went from draw let off limits to pray and spray attitudes.
    Self control is needed to bring the deer numbers back up each and everyone of us. Let that macho man shit at home , take care of the resource and it will be there for all, keep going like we are going and its gone tomorrow. enjoy the woods learn your game remove the price tag from your hunt and leave the seed for tomorrow.

  55. I agree deer numbers have definitely decreased in the past 10 years Steadily I personally believe we should do away with the late doe season if anything use that time for Folks who have not filled their buck tags to have one last opportunity with a gun to do so as far as antler restrictions I myself would like to get a big buck as much as anybody but you cannot eat antlers I think antler restrictions is something that most grown men do on their own anyhow but if a child wants to shoot a six pointer or the someone who only gets a few days to hunt or an old man who may not have many years or seasons left should have that opportunity. I’m glad they cut antlerless quota down to where it should be It wouldn’t have a mean if they re-introduced the one book in archery and one buck with a gun rule the way it used to be yes that may cut down on the number of boon and Crockett bucks running around but I know my family Counts on so many deer to eat each year


  57. Deer number will keep going down when they keep running almost 2 full months of some kind of fire arm season. They need to run like Illinois or even Iowa. And Indiana would be one of the great s5ates to hunt in.

  58. DNR is part of the problem. The turkey seasons are too late. Bobcats are reducing the the turkey population but are protected. Crows which once had a bounty on them are protected with seasons. It’s as if you do not really own your land and what the king says is what really matters like in medieval times.

    • Nate, of all the comments I have read on this thread, yours is the one that strikes me. Now, I will give it that DNR is in a bad spot with Insurance companies and Famers on one side and hunters on the other. BUT, the rest of your post is spot on! I have tried to turkey hunt for the last two seasons and hit it pretty hard this year. But, even though I have been hunting for over 40 years, I have never been turkey hunting with an experienced hunter. That said, I have called turkeys before but it is ALWAYS before the season starts. On my little place that is mostly woods, I have lots of turkeys and have even got one breeding a hen right in front of one of my camera last year. This year, MORE than once, I got videos of FIVE toms in one shot. Thing is, by the time the season comes in, NO MORE GOBBLING! The stop a few days before and will NOT come into a call. BOBCATS???….I can show you videos on my place of no less than four and one of them is huge! Got plenty of coyotes too but less since the bobcats have moved in a couple years ago. I don’t know what the numbers are like but I have seen less does on my trailcams this year and and a lot more bucks and it has been one of the worst seasons I have had in my 40 years of deer hunting. I have put it down to some habitat changes that neighbors have made and the fact that there is so much human disturbance around me this year. But, reading all this has got me thinking that deer number may be down more than I had been thinking.

  59. Illinois is dealing with the same issue. I wish we would get check stations back too. 1 tag = 6 deer just cut zip tie and keep hunting. Heard that too many times. And woods getting mined in to feilds. And farmers taking out all tree lines.

  60. Don’t know what part of Indiana most of u r from. But I’m my area one reason to my belief I don’t see as many deer is because to many farmers have taken out all the fence rows and ditch lines and little couple acre plots. If deer don’t have a couple safe stops between one woods to another than why would they leave an area if there not pushed out. 20 years ago it was nothing to drive my area in a 3 mile radius and see 100 deer. Now times lucky to see 10. I feel the firearm season should b shortened. I feel the antlerless numbers should b changed. And I feel u should have to take a doe before u can take a buck. And then one more doe and ur done. I also feel that takin out all these trees for a little more farm ground or so there irrigation can make a circle needs to stop. It’s hurting all the wildlife numbers. That’s my opinion and how it’s been working in my area. Agree or don’t agree I really don’t care. I know my area for 30 years and u will never convince me otherwise.

  61. Quit buying the late-season cool-aide and stop shooting does that have babies inside them!

    I have a philosophy I teach my 13-year-old son:

    Rule #1 and the most important:
    If it does not have antlers, you have to wait to shoot it until you kill a deer with antlers.(button bucks are not included)(if you shoot a button buck on my lease, you do not hunt here anymore)
    You can Shoot:
    All severely wounded bucks or does will be shot before a trophy. (Animal cruelty is horrible)
    Spikes/Cull bucks
    Racks past ears as long as they seem to be older than 4 years old
    Racks within the ears as long as they are 4 years old (going downhill)
    A doe that does not have fawns and you have 100% sure made sure you have not seen her with fawns. This can be tricky, but trail cameras help a lot.

    You Cant Shoot:
    Does after Bow Season due multiple factors.
    Bucks not within the above information.

    My Reasoning:
    1. Bucks know where does congregate
    2. Not shooting does will bring in more does during pre-rut and post-rut as they are “safe” in your area leading to more buck competition and a better hunt in your woods. (within reason and balance)
    3. Bedding in your woods/thicket(aligns with #2 above)
    4. If you do shoot the big buck/fighting buck out of your woods, another one will show up as competition just went down. These (what I like to call them) “replacement dominant bucks” instantly go on the shoot list if they are not of good herd management bucks. You have to keep your herd strong and away from bad genetics.

    All of this is almost impossible to do on public land, but just the shooting rules would help Indiana out immensely.

  62. Where I live is in southeast Indiana Ohio county for the last 4 or 5 years we’ve had a buck to doe ratio of 4 & sometime 5 to 1 which is not good at all, we have the first two weeks
    November & the bucks are gone because everything has been bread. No hot does no bucks!!
    Lower your bag limits would help, I know all about blue tongue but we also don’t need the Bobcats and the coyotes either we have enough of them to raise the limit on them that would help Also. & checking in deer on line, how many people are honest about doing that?? Just me venting!!

  63. This is a great artical, I hunt in north central Indiana, on my own property, and my son and I take just what we eat. What this artical doesnt address, is Deperdation tags. I know guys that shoot 8-10 deer, just because they can. And they are not required to consume them. I understand farmers, I have friends that farm, but allowing the slaughter doesnt help the numbers either. The other issue here, is out of state hunters on leased property, do they all hunt legal? Do they all report what they kill? Do they abide by the same rules as everyone who lives here? Not saying they dont, but is this all considered in the DNR numbers.

  64. This is such a good writing ! I have just finished talking with our deer project manager here in Vermont. Our deer herd is all but destroyed due to antlerless hunting ! We have a 16 day rifle season and it used to be that if you had time to hunt, you always knew that at some point you would probably get a chance to bag a buck. Now since instituting antlerless seasons and extending bow season,, youth weekend,, and increasing antlerless permits for muzzleloading season, you would be lucky to see a couple of deer during the entire season. I just do not understand the logic behind killing off our breeding does. It makes no sense to me or to the large majority of serious hunters in Vermont. My talks with the so called deer expert was useless. In spite of meetings held all around the state where hunters by a huge margin were against shooting doe, the department is instituting new laws allowing more antlerless deer to be killed. They wonder why deer hunting is dying here in Vermont!

  65. There are a lot of complaints and criticisms of Indiana DNR and farmers and land owners, etc. in these comments.. I get it. Hunters and wildlife ARE under a lot of pressure from a lot of different sources. However, deer hunting the last couple years in my area has NEVER been better (IMHO). I have also seen more big nice mature Hoosier bucks (4 to 5 year old) harvested the last 3 years than I EVER remember in my life. Now, consider another game. When was the last time you saw a single grouse in Indiana? When was the last time you flushed a decent sized covey of quail? When was the last time you heard of anyone limiting out on wild Indiana pheasants? Deer hunters may have legit concerns and complaints but, reading article and the comments, all I could think about was how much better Indiana deer hunting is now and how much worse the the Indiana wild upland bird hunting has become s in the last 10 years. Just a

  66. In our area there no shortage of deer one night I took my grandson’s and they counted 176 deer on a nine mile ride and I know we didn’t count them all. Where deer are not it’s not predators nor dogs chasing deer it’s the pressure of hunters. I keep cattle nine miles north of not alot of deer but one or two I have seen in every woods when I go to check cows

  67. All fine and good, but if there’s too many does and not enough bucks (buck doe ratio) the bucks wear themselves down. If there’s a hard winter, many die of starvation because they don’t have any fat reserves to carry them through.


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