The talk among Hoosier deer hunters late in the summer revolves around
new regulations which will install a season limit of one antlered deer.
Two antlered deer--one with bow and one with gun--have been allowed
for several years.
The burning questions: "What will this new setup do to the harvest
of antlered deer? What will it do to the total deer bag? Will it impact
on the deer herd one way or another?
A segment of the deer-hunting community (probably about half) has lobbied
the DFW for the last few years to change the annual limit on antlered deer
from two to one--the idea being that this would bring about more and larger
Dr. James "Jim" Mitchell, deer biologist for the Division of Fish and
Wildlife, puts those questions into perspective in three paragraphs of
a statement issued by the DFW:
"The 'one buck' rule change was not initiated by DNR officials. The
change has been proposed by deer hunters and DNR wildlife managers have
responded to that request . . .
"I believe that this rule will not appreciably change the antlered age
structure, but also will not appreciably reduce hunting opportunity (very
few hunters currently take two antlered deer.
"The primary effect of the one buck rule will not be to change the antlered
age structure of the antlered harvest, but rather to spread the antlered
harvest across more hunters. Where the previous bag limit system resulted
in some hunters taking two antlered bucks and others taking none, the one
buck system will have fewer hunters taking no antlered bucks and more taking
one antlered buck."
Frankly, I do not know a hunter who took two antlered deer in any recent
year, nor do I feel any sufferance from the slight. From the catbird seat
I have occupied for some 50 years of outdoors columning, it seems to me
that that the aforementioned Mitchell hit the nail squarely on its head
a few years back when he told me " . . . any deer you bag is a trophy."
With the above assemblage of fact, fiction and fuzzy thinking at hand,
we can but conclude that the five-year trial-and-error one-buck-per-year
plan (and the proponents thereof) have their work cut out for them if they
are to produce more and heftier racks on Hoosierland's corn-fed deer.
In the 2001-02 seasons just past, a preliminary count of of "heads"
indicated that Hoosiers bagged no fewer than--and very probably more--deer
that wore racks of Boone and Crockett proportions.
John Bogucki, head of the Indiana Deer Hunters Association's Hoosier
Record Buck Program, could not recall a year that produced such an outstanding
array of trophy racks.
So what can Hoosier deer hunters--and those who have eyes for monster
racks only--have in store for the coming seasons?
It will be very similar to last year's seasons, Mitchell says. Incidentally,
Mitchell and his predecessors have never been far off on their total-bag
Mitchell does point out that last year's total antlered deer bag of
48,357 was second in all-time annals only to a bag of 50,812 in 1954.
It would make sense to believe that a larger bag of antlered deer would
tend to make more racks of B&C proportions a possibility, if not a
Ordinarily Indiana's deer herd is about 35 percent antlered, Mitchell
So what can a hunter do to improve his/her chances of seeing a big rack
when he looks past that broadhead or the post on the business end of a
Cardinal prescriptions for deer-hunting success are simple: (A) hunt
as close to home as possible; (B) spend as much time as possible at pre-season
scouting so you will know the habits of deer you will be hunting.
Sure, over the years, I have heard (and written) many stories
about hunters who quit a warm bed in the middle of the night, drove madly
for hours to get to a place never before seen. Having no notion as to where
to go, the hunter walks 100 yards from the car at daylight and sits down
on a log just in time to have a mammoth buck walk up and demand to be shot.
But I also have heard (and written) many, many others stories in which
the hunters bagged home-county deer a few minutes from home.
Phil Hawkins, the Franklin hunter who pioneered Hoosier deer hunting
with both longbow and muzzleloading rifle, is a strong advocate of hunting
close to home because it allows the hunter to be in his/her stand more
often and stay longer.
Hawkins emphasizes that "staying longer" is important because it keeps
hunters in their stands when other hunters grow impatient and either call
it a day or at least move.
"When other hunters start moving they often chase deer right to the
hunter who has stayed put," Phil says.
[Note: This contribution
appears in the special 2002 deer-hunting issue of the Raghorn