Indiana hunters bagged a record deer harvest of 134,004, making it the third straight year with a record harvest.
There's a progression in states with good deer hunting, where the records come year after year, then the herd stabilizes. And harvest levels find their acceptable level, where competing interests are balanced.
Illinois reached that point about five years ago. I think Indiana is getting close.
Another deer hunting season, another record
Indiana hunters established a record for the third straight year by reporting an overall harvest of 134,004 deer taken during the 2010 seasons.
Reports submitted from 461 check stations across Indiana topped the 2009 total by 1,252 deer, a 1 percent increase, and bettered the 2008 total by more than 4,200 deer.
"We're seeing a healthy number of deer throughout much of the state, and that is translating into success by our hunters during the hunting season" DNR deer biologist Chad Stewart said.
The 2010 total was bolstered by a record 80,997 antlerless deer and 53,007 antlered deer, the second-highest antlered total in the 60-year history of regulated deer hunting in Indiana.
The results came despite a slight dip in deer hunting license sales. Hunters purchased 268,485 licenses in 2010 compared to 271,951 in 2009. Resident firearms tags again topped the list (102,626), making up 38 percent of the license sales.
The deer hunting season began in urban deer zones on Sept. 15, followed by a two-day youth only weekend (Sept. 25-26) and the early archery (Oct. 1-Nov. 28), firearms (Nov. 13-28), muzzleloader (Dec. 4-19) and late archery (Dec. 4 to Jan. 2) segments.
Hunters harvested 86,241 deer in the firearms segment; 26,342 in early archery (including urban zones); 17,400 in muzzleloader; and 1,684 in late archery. There were 2,337 deer taken during the two-day youth season.
Modern-era records were set in 29 counties, and another 20 counties showed harvest increases from the 2009 season. Thirteen counties set records for the second straight year.
"Hunters are continuing to put up high harvest numbers and see a lot of success in many northern counties" Stewart said.
The biggest year-over-year harvest increases were reported in Montgomery (up 356 over 2009), Fountain (up 289), LaGrange (up 253), Pulaski (up 184) and Putnam (up 180). The biggest year-over-year harvest declines were reported in Harrison (down 311), Brown (down 279), Perry (down 202), Steuben (down 154), and Jackson (down 141).
Harvest totals in the northeast Indiana corridor of Steuben, Noble and Kosciusko counties ranked first, fourth and second, respectively, for the second straight year despite Steuben and Kosciusko both reporting declines from their 2009 totals.
Hunters bagged 3,948 deer in Steuben, down from 4,102 the year before but still enough to make Steuben the top harvest county in Indiana for the sixth straight year. Hunters reported 3,578 deer in Kosciusko, followed by Switzerland (3,400), Noble (3,323), and Franklin (3,054).
The male to female ratio of the overall harvest was 50:50 for the third straight year. Male deer (antlered deer and button bucks) made up 50 percent of the total harvest.
The complete report of the 2010 season is online at www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/2717.htm along with reports from 2000 through 2009.
Compiling deer harvest records is a thorough process that begins in October when check stations are supplied with report forms, metal tags and envelopes for submitting carbon copies of hunter-reported deer.
"The deer check process takes a while to unfold, but it has been done the same way for years, allowing us to look back and compare this year's data with previous years, which is extremely valuable," Stewart said. "It may be frustrating not to receive updates throughout the year, but that is the trade-off we make by using the current system."
Some check stations submit reports on a weekly basis as requested; a few wait until the end of the season to return the information at one time. Sometimes, DNR personnel visit individual check stations to retrieve harvest records that have not been turned in.
The DNR makes every attempt to collect harvest records from each check station in order to accurately compile and analyze data before announcing a total deer harvest figure.
As check station reports are received at the DNR Bloomington field office, staff begins to enter data. The volume increases dramatically once the firearms season begins. Additional staff from other locations is called upon to assist in entering everything from tag numbers assigned to reported deer to the sex of the deer, equipment used by the hunter, and the county where the deer was taken.
The information is merged into one data base in early to mid-February. The pink carbon copies are sorted by county and stored in Bloomington for three years. The data base is then checked for accurate spelling and to ensure there are no duplicate tag entries.