By ERIC BRADNER
Evansville Courier & Press
Hundreds of Indiana hunters will get to try their sport in a normally-prohibited area — state parks — during four scheduled days of an annual effort to keep the deer population down in those parks.
It’s the 20th year of the program, which is run by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and will bring in hunters, including to Charlestown State Park in Clark County.
The goal: Reduce the population of deer enough to protect the parks’ ecosystem — which takes hunters to accomplish, since deer do not have natural predators in those parks.
The first round of hunting is Nov. 18 and 19, and the second round is Dec. 2 and 3. Applications are available at IndianaOutdoor.IN.gov, and more details about the program — which the DNR said participants should read first — can be found here. The application deadline is Aug. 25.
Brad Young, the property manager at Lincoln State Park, said the program has helped “ensure that our vegetation stays healthy” and isn’t overeaten by deer.
“If they’re overgrazing the understory, then a lot of our native plants are in danger of going away and we lose that biodiversity — and one of the reasons we’re here is to help preserve that biodiversity for future generations,” he said.
When the program was launched, a state park in Brown County had suffered so much overgrazing that a “browse line” — at the height of deer — had developed, with all of the growth underneath the trees and up to that line gone.
DNR officials said even though the problems are not nearly as severe, the program remains necessary.
“Though browse lines and skinny deer remain in the past, less obvious damage persists and requires our close attention and management,” said Mike Mycroft, chief of natural resources for DNR State Parks and Reservoirs.
Young said Lincoln State Park typically draws about 80 hunters who spread out across the park. They’re limited to three deer each — and just one buck. Those deer do not count against hunters’ licensing limits.
The state parks will close down the Sunday night before the program starts, and then reopen Wednesday morning.
“I can definitely see a difference over the times we’ve been doing it,” Young said.