Indiana's Deer Harvest Drops

Indiana's Deer Harvest Drops
Photo by Ron Sinfelt

Sometimes, lower is still pretty high.


That's the case with Indiana's most recent deer harvest figures. While the just-announced tally of 129,018 deer for the 2011-12 hunting season is down 3.7 percent from the previous season's record total of 134,004, it's still the fourth-highest ever recorded in the Hoosier State.



Of course, in wildlife management, broad trends matter more than actual numbers do. And the trend in Indiana, as in most other places, is for the whitetail harvest to be fairly stable, if not down a bit from a recent peak. Gone are the days of it being reasonable to expect a record harvest every year.


Why is that the case? Most whitetail habitat is saturated'┬Žand not by rain. We've now restocked nearly every area that has decent potential. After a few generations of rapid population growth, we're starting to go the other way a bit. In some places, a recent decline in timber cutting has reduced the carrying capacity. In others, a good bit of CRP acreage has been converted back to farmland. And for sure, in some regions we're seeing the recent impact of higher number of deer predators, including wolves, coyotes, black bears, cougars and bobcats. Put it all together, and it's no shock we're starting to see a drop in the hunter harvest.


This isn't true everywhere, mind you, and it doesn't mean we'll never see another record whitetail harvest anywhere. But joyful DNR announcements of "biggest kill ever" will come less and less often, regardless of the acorn crop, corn harvest timing, weather during gun season or any other variables that tend to cause big yearly swings in the kill.

If you ask a number of experts in various parts of North America -- as I do every year -- you'll find few of them calling 2011-12 a good overall whitetail season. The reasons for this viewpoint are many, and as always, no single factor likely explains it. We just didn't have a great year for daytime deer movement in general.

My own thought is that warm weather -- in Indiana, 21 of the 30 days in November were above average in temperature -- caused most of the problem. A full moon around the gun opener didn't help anything either. Delayed corn harvest certainly wasn't an issue, as it was back in the disastrously soggy fall of 2009. Nor did Indiana "suffer" from a huge mast crop last fall, as it did in 2010. A lot of acorns on the ground can translate to tough hunting, especially in early bow season.

Whatever the reason(s) for Indiana's lower harvest last fall, the big picture is what hunters there and everywhere else should keep squarely in mind. As my good friend Dr. James Kroll often reminds me, these are "the good old days" of whitetail hunting. It's just that deer numbers aren't likely to keep getting higher in many places. Then again, do they need to?

Recommended for You

Land Management

No Matter the Season, Deer Orchard Work Brings Big Benefits to Whitetails

Lynn Burkhead - June 27, 2019

Sponsored By
Chestnut Hill Outdoors
Other

Real-Time Intel: Moultrie Mobile

Gordon Whittington - July 22, 2019

Who says you can't be in two places at once?

Early Season

3 Types of Late-Summer Bucks & How to Hunt Them

Garrett Tucker

Here's how to crack the summer code.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

North American Whitetail - South of the Border

Dr. James Kroll and Pat Hogan head south of the border in pursuit of whitetails in old Mexico.

Deer Dog: Shed Conditioning

Jeremy Moore talks about the importance of your deer dog's physical conditioning.

Creating Warm-Season Food Plots

On this edition of "Deer Factory," Dr. James Kroll and Pat Hogan discuss tactics for establishing warm-season food plots.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Bowhunting

The Best Arrows for Deer Hunting

Tony J. Peterson - June 10, 2019

Fill your quiver with the right ammo this season.

Scouting

The Best Summer Trail Camera Strategy

Tony J. Peterson

Good location is just part of the equation.

Early Season

3 Types of Late-Summer Bucks & How to Hunt Them

Garrett Tucker

Here's how to crack the summer code.

See More Stories

More Conservation

Conservation

Confirmed: CWD Reduces Deer Population

David Hart - October 11, 2016

Chronic wasting disease was first discovered in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado. It has...

Conservation

Is Non-Lead Ammo the Future of Hunting?

David Hart - March 10, 2016

Say goodbye to lead ammo, California. Effective July 1, 2019, the use of any lead ammo for...

Conservation

Major Changes For South Carolina Hunting

Gordon Whittington - November 15, 2017

South Carolina had been the last holdout against a statewide season bag limit on whitetail...

See More Conservation

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×