By GARY POPP
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources recently reported that hunters across the state killed fewer deer in the 2013 season than in each of the previous five seasons.
The reported harvest of 125,635 deer was about 10,600 fewer deer than the record harvest of 136,248 in 2012, a decline of 8 percent.
The 2013 season still ranks the sixth-highest harvest season since regulated deer hunting began in 1951.
Bloomington-based DNR deer biologist Chad Lewis contributed to a detailed summary of the 2013 deer season that helps officials dictate changes in deer populations.
“We consider the deer herd an important resource,” Lewis said. “What we are doing when we tally these numbers — we try to monitor what effect the hunting season has on the population and how it changes over time.”
Lewis said the state’s lowest harvest in six years could be attributed to a number of factors.
According to DNR, the factors are a carryover from a widespread outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease [EHD] in 2012 and more in 2013, a record antlerless-deer harvest in 2012 and the second season of new hunting regulations aimed at lowering deer densities in some areas of the state.
Lewis said EHD is transmitted to deer by midges, a flying insect, also known as “no-see-ums.”
“It causes flu-like or feverish symptoms that in a lot of cases are lethal to the deer,” Lewis said, adding that the spread of EHD can kill deer quickly and in very large numbers.
Lewis said officials found one the largest outbreaks of EHD in deer during 2012.
“It [EHD] hit a lot of counties that it had never hit before, particularly, in the north,” he said.
Lewis is not only a scientist, but also an avid deer hunter and said counties in the area comprise one of the premiere deer hunting areas in the state.
Harrison and Washington counties were the top two counties in Indiana for deer harvest last year.
“There is a ton of areas for hunters to go hunting,” Lewis said of surrounding counties. “They also support very healthy and abundant deer populations. That area of South Central Indiana is really blessed with having really good habitat, really good cover for deer and really good numbers for deer.”
Deer hunting in Indiana last year was comprised by four seasons: archery (Oct. 1 to Jan. 5), firearms (Nov. 16 to Dec. 1), muzzleloader (Dec. 7 to 22), and late antlerless (Dec. 26 to Jan. 5) in selected counties. Six types of equipment were deemed legal last year for deer hunting in Indiana: archery, shotguns, muzzleloaders, handguns, crossbows and rifles.
Additionally, there was a youth-only season (Sept. 28 to 29) that was open to youths age 17 or younger who were accompanied by an adult at least 18 years old.
Firearms season accounted for 57 percent of the harvest total, followed by archery at 27 percent. The muzzleloader season accounted for 8 percent with late antlerless at 5 percent and youth season 2 percent.
According to DNR in 2013, youth season harvested 2,603 deer; archery harvested 34,477; firearms harvested 71,772; muzzleloader harvested 10,347; late antlerless accounted for 6,435 harvests.
The reported antlered deer harvest of 46,240 in 2013, the 16th highest ever, was nearly identical to the 45,936 reported harvested in 2012.
The antlerless harvest of 79,395 in 2013, fifth-highest in Indiana history, was 12 percent lower than the 90,312 harvested in 2012.
Approximately 3.25 million deer have been reported harvested during the past 62 deer hunting seasons in Indiana.
ON THE WEB
• Indiana Department of Natural Resources — www.in.gov/dnr