FORT WAYNE – New rules equaled a new record for Indiana deer hunters this season.
Taking advantage of new equipment regulations and extra hunting dates, outdoorsmen harvested a record 136,248 deer during the 2012 season, according to the DNR.
That is a 6 percent increase over the 2011 harvest and topped the previous record of 134,004 deer set in 2010.
We started down the path to strategically reduce the deer herd in order to balance the ecological, recreational, and economic needs of all Indiana citizens, said Mitch Marcus, wildlife chief for the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife in a news release. To meet that strategy, we initiated several regulation changes to make it easier to take antlerless deer. It appears the regulations may be working.
Key included making crossbows legal equipment for all licensed hunters during archery season; adding a special late antlerless season in designated counties from Dec. 26 to Jan. 6; extending the urban zone season to run continuously from Sept. 15 to the end of January; and allowing youth hunters in the two-day youth season to take whatever the bonus antlerless quota was in the county where they hunted. Archery season also increased by seven days with elimination of the traditional one-week break between early and late segments.
Crossbow hunters took 8,452 deer, or 6 percent of the overall total. That was an increase from 1,091 deer, or 1 percent, reported in 2011.
Hunters using archery equipment tagged more deer in 2012 (27,580) than they did in 2011 (26,715) or 2010 (27,186).
Youth hunters bagged 3,587 deer, up 55 percent from 2011, and the new special late antlerless season accounted for 10,091 deer.
The total harvest was made up of 45,936 antlered deer and 90,312 antlerless deer. The proportion of reported antlered deer in the harvest (34 percent) is the lowest in Indianas history while the antlerless total was the highest.
Despite the record harvest, trends within the harvest data showed that deer numbers were down this year, Marcus said. The number of antlered deer in the harvest was at its lowest point since 2000, an indicator of a reduced deer herd.
Switzerland County had the highest reported harvest at 3,506 deer, leading the state for the first time since 2004 and ending a seven-year run by Steuben as the top county. Steuben dropped to fifth with a reported harvest of 3,076 deer, the fewest for that county since 2003.