Indiana Deer Outlook -- Part 1: Our Top Harvest Counties

Here's our district-by-district breakdown of Hoosierland's top-rated harvest counties from last season. Is one of more of these areas near you? (October 2007)

Photo by Kenny Bahr.

The 2005 total deer harvest of 125,529 set a new single season record, and followed a span of seven years where the annual harvest increased over the previous year. This possibly indicates a growth in the overall statewide herd. Going into the 2006 season, Indiana again seemed poised to perhaps break that record number as well, continuing the trend of an increased annual harvest.

The total number of whitetails taken statewide last year was 125,381 animals. While this number is very close to the previous season's mark, and might point to herd stabilization, but that isn't necessarily the case. As many of you are aware, a widespread case of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) hit west-central Indiana pretty hard last fall. This, no doubt, affected the overall total harvest figure, as several counties in the EHD zone posted harvest figures below their seasonal averages. If not for the disease and subsequent deer deaths, the final harvest figure would most likely have surpassed that of the 2005 season. District 6 biologist Dean Zimmerman addressed the concerns of local hunters.

"It was probably the largest outbreak of EHD in Indiana to date." However, while the disease did take its share of animals in the area, Zimmerman doesn't feel that the outbreak will negatively affect the herd there in the long-term. "Based on this fall's harvest, EHD might not have impacted the herd in west-central Indiana as much as I had expected."

Zimmerman feels that the disease may have affected the herd in a more localized fashion. In other words, while one farm might have been hit pretty hard in the zone, another farm up the road may not have seen as much damage. Some localized areas in the outbreak zone may have experienced a loss of 50 to 60 percent of the resident deer. Because of this, he has some advice for concerned landowners and hunters in those areas.

"Hunters and landowners should evaluate deer numbers on the land they hunt. If they aren't seeing the number of deer they normally see or would like to see, then I'd be conservative in the harvesting of does in those areas. We are going to drop our antlerless harvest in some of those counties that were hit harder."

Zimmerman reports that the counties of Parke, Putnam, Fountain and Vermillion were hit the hardest in that area. According to District 9 biologist Roger Stonebraker, the counties hit hardest in his district are Sullivan, Clay, Owen, Greene and Vigo.

Of the total number of deer killed last year, approximately 49,097 (39 percent) were considered adult bucks by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The number of adult females taken was approximately 45,257 (36 percent) animals. The number of fawns was estimated at 13,688 (11 percent) males and 17,339 (14 percent) females.

Of these totals, 1,175 antlerless deer were taken during the inaugural youth antlerless-only season, and 25,962 deer of both sexes were harvested during the early archery season. A total of 80,661 were taken during the firearms season, along with 16,127 taken during the December muzzleloader season, and 1,456 during the late archery season. Crossbows accounted for 721 animals compared with 520 the previous year.

The firearms season harvest of 80,661 was 5 percent lower than the 84,664 animals harvested in 2005. Of those totals, 36,095 were antlered bucks, which was a 10 percent drop from the 40,014 taken the year before. The antlerless harvest of 44,566 was nearly identical to the 2005 antlerless harvest of 44,560.

The early archery total of 25,962 represents 21 percent of the total harvest for the year and is 14 percent greater than the previous take of 22,844 (the early-season totals include those from the early Urban Deer Zone totals). The late archery harvest comprised 1 percent of the year's total, similar to the previous total. The combined archery seasons yielded 27,418 deer, an increase of 13 percent from the 24,210 harvested in 2005. Antlerless deer included 65 percent of the total archery harvest, a slight increase from the 62 percent from the year before.

The number of deer harvested in individual counties ranged from 82 in Tipton County to 3,287 in Steuben County. Harvests exceeded 1,000 deer in 62 counties, and 3,000 deer in two counties. The antlered buck harvest exceeded 1,000 in four counties last year versus seven in 2005. Antlerless deer comprised at least half of the total harvest in 89 of the state's 92 counties in 2006 versus 83 counties the previous season.

The seven northeastern counties that make up Zone 1 produce plenty of deer. This seven-county zone has one of the highest deer densities of any area in Indiana.

ZONE 1

The seven northeastern counties that make up Zone 1 produce plenty of deer. This seven-county zone has one of the highest deer densities of any area in Indiana. Zone 1 produced 17,559 whitetails last year, up just slightly from the 17,495 deer from the previous season. Every county in the zone, with the exception of Elkhart, produced at least 1,500 animals.

Once again leading the way in the zone, and the state in particular, is Steuben County with 3,287 deer. This is down just slightly from the 3,428 deer posted there the previous year. Kosciusko County snatched the No. 2 slot from Noble with its 3,083 harvest total, which is up significantly from the 2005 harvest number of 2,680. Noble County came in at No. 3 with 2,740 deer, compared with 2,919 in 2005.

Marshall County climbed to the No. 4 spot in the zone last year with its total of 2,583 deer. This number is up from 2,376 deer taken there in 2005. LaGrange fell to No. 5 for the year with 2,562 deer, down a bit from the previous mark of 2,632. Coming in at No. 5 for the zone is DeKalb County with 1,950 deer. DeKalb produced 2,115 the previous year. Rounding out the zone is Elkhart County with 1,354 deer taken for the year, up a bit from the previous mark of 1,343.

The large stands of timber, wood lots, thickets, wetlands and abundant farm fields in this zone should continue to produce plenty of deer for years to come.

ZONE 2

Northwestern Indiana's Zone 2 harbors its share of whitetails. With a mixture of habitat types from the industrialized northern section to the suburban areas to the more agricultural and open areas to the south, the zone produces an abundance of deer. Zone 2 produced 15,344 deer last season, compared with the 14,735 in 2005. While only two of its counties produced at least 1,500 total deer, several of the other counties produced between 1,000 to just less than 1,500. The harvest in this zone was distributed fa

irly evenly within the 11 counties that exist here.

LaPorte County continues to lead the zone with its 2006 harvest of 2,421 deer. This is up significantly from the previous mark of 2,282. Fulton County remained at No. 2 for the zone with 1,757 total deer for the year, up from its previous mark of 1,694. Jasper County jumped up two spots to No. 3 with 1,438 deer, which is up from its 2005 total of 1,300 animals. Pulaski County dropped to No. 4 for the year with a total of 1,424, up slightly from its previous total of 1,385. Cass County dropped one spot to No. 5 for the year with 1,376 deer, which is up just slightly from the 1,287 deer taken there in 2005. Starke County stayed at No. 6 with a final tally of 1,361, compared with the 1,323 taken there a year ago.

ZONE 3

Zone 3 doesn't harbor as many deer as its neighboring zone to the north, but it still hosts enough whitetails to provide excellent opportunities for its residents. Highly urbanized Allen County, which continues to lead the zone, produced 1,589 deer last year, compared with 1,498 deer it gave up the season before. Wabash County climbed one spot to No. 2 for the zone with its total of 1,362 deer, down just slightly from its previous total of 1,384.

Dropping one spot to No. 3 for the year is Whitley County with 1,305 whitetails. This is down slightly from its earlier number of 1,436 deer. The following counties remained in their same spots from the 2005 season. Huntington County produced 1,159 deer compared with 1,148 in 2005, followed by Jay County with 1,022 deer for the year. Jay produced 1,084 in 2005. Adams County produced the same number of deer this past year as 2005: 561. Wells County turned out 506 total deer last year, down a bit from its former total of 538. Blackford County rounds out the zone with its 2006 total of 302 deer, compared with 368 in 2006.

ZONE 4

Stretching from the eastern and western state lines in central Indiana are the 25 counties of Zone 4. The zone tallied 15,318 total deer for the year, compared with 15,527 in 2005. This area is home to perhaps the lowest deer density in the entire state. None of the counties in the zone produced 1,500 total deer for the year.

Leading the zone, as usual, is Fountain County with its total of 1,452 deer, which is down somewhat from the 1,508 deer taken there in 2005. Miami County jumped one spot to No. 2 for the year with 1,248 deer, compared with 1,144 deer taken there the year before.

Tippecanoe dropped one place to No. 3 for the year with a total harvest figure of 1,232, which is up from its previous total of 1,184. Warren County jumped one spot to No. 4 with its total of 1,020 animals, down just a bit from the 1,056 deer harvested there the year before.

Montgomery County dropped one slot to No. 5 for the year with 988 deer taken, compared with the 1,107 taken there in 2005. Wayne County remained at No. 6 in the zone with 943 whitetails taken, which is down only slightly from the 951 deer taken there the year before.

ZONE 5

Southeastern Indiana's Zone 5 is a nine-county area that is known to produce plenty of deer with its excellent habitat, and higher deer density. The zone produced 15,784 deer in 2006, compared with the 16,786 deer it produced the previous year. Six of the zone's counties produced at least 1,500 deer in 2006.

Leading the way again is Switzerland County, which produced 2,821 deer for the season. This county produced 3,135 total deer the previous year. Remaining in the No. 2 slot in the zone is Franklin County, which generated 2,766 deer for the year, compared with 2,988 the previous season.

Dearborn County again claimed the No. 3 spot with 2,670 deer, down just a bit from the earlier total of 2,791. At No. 4 for the zone again is Jefferson County, which produced 2,195 total animals in 2006, compared with the 2,387 it turned out in 2005. Jennings County jumped one slot to No. 5 for the year with 1,670 deer, which is up from the former total of 1,577.

Ripley County dropped one spot to No. 6 for the year with 1,553 deer, down a bit from the 1,663 it produced the year before. Next up is Ohio County with its 968 deer, down from its earlier mark of 1,091 animals. Fayette County followed with a total of 656 total deer in 2006, compared with 628 in 2005. Finishing up is Union County with 485 total deer taken, which is down somewhat from the previous mark of 526.

Although the zone turned out less deer last year than the two previous years, there are still plenty of deer for its residents to hunt.

ZONE 6

The huge south-central Indiana swath of real estate consists of 20 counties that are home to plenty of whitetails. Zone 6 produced 36,826 deer in 2006, compared with its take of 36,153 in 2005. Fourteen of the zone's counties produced at least 1,500 deer during the 2006 season.

Parke County once again leads the way with a harvest figure of 2,905. This is down slightly from its total of 3,160 the past year. Washington County again follows at No. 2 with 2,882 deer, up from the previous mark of 2,608. Harrison County remains at No. 3 for the zone with 2,650 total whitetails, compared with 2,454 in 2005. Perry County jumped up three slots to No. 4 for the year with 2,297 deer, which is up quite a bit from the 2,098 deer taken there the year before. Orange County jumped up to the No. 5 spot with 2,276 deer compared with 2,105 in 2006. Greene County dropped two spots to No. 6 for the year with 2,139 total deer. It produced 2,239 deer the previous year. Also dropping two spots for the year is Jackson County, where 2,047 deer were harvested. Jackson turned out 2,171 the previous year.

ZONE 7

Southwestern Indiana's Zone 7 is another one of the areas in the state with higher deer densities. This 12- county area is home to some fantastic deer habitat, which in turn helps it produce plenty of whitetails. This zone is expected to produce many deer for years to come. Zone 7 hunters harvested 16,697 deer for the 2006 season, which is down only slightly from the previous total of 16,817. Four of the zone's counties produced at least 1,500 deer, while most of the other ones turned out between 1,000 and 1,497 deer.

Pike County continues its reign supreme in the zone with 2,042 total deer for the year. This compares with 1,954 taken in 2005. Warrick County jumped two spots to No. 2 for the year with a total of 1,611 deer. It produced 1,540 in 2006. Spencer County remained at No. 3 for the zone with a total of 1,604 deer, which is down only slightly from 1,612 the past season.

Posey County jumped two spots to No. 4 for the year with 1,526 deer, which is up from its 2005 take of 1,468. Sullivan County dropped to the No. 5 spot with 1,497 deer taken, which is down quite a bit from the earlier total of 1,694. Daviess County jumped one spot to No. 6 for 2006 with 1,485 deer taken, compared with its previous total of 1,465.

There you have it, your listing of the top deer-producing counties statewide. While hunters in and around the EHD outbreak zone should conscientiously make an effort to stop shooting does in some of those areas, hunters in other areas of the state are reminded to keep harves

ting does, especially in those areas with high deer densities. Regardless of where they reside, whitetails are prolific breeders, and can repopulate areas where they exist in short order, if they're not kept in check by effective management.

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