Those hunters who are looking to fill their freezers with great-tasting venison need look no farther than the counties highlighted here. (October 2009)
The Indiana single season deer harvest record of 125,526 was set during the 2005 season. Since then, the total harvest figures have hovered very close to that same ballpark range. However, in 2008 with a higher antlerless quota being allocated in many counties of our state, the "old" 2005 record was significantly raised.
During the 2008-09 deer season, 129,748 whitetails were officially harvested throughout Indiana. Many counties produced harvest increases. These counties included Steuben, Kosciusko, Noble, Marshall, Switzerland, Franklin, Parke, LaGrange, Harrison and Dearborn.
The antlered buck harvest exceeded 1,000 deer in five counties, while the antlerless harvest exceeded 1,000 deer in 29 counties, compared with 25 in 2007. The age and sex structure of the 2008 deer harvest was 39 percent adult males (antlered bucks), 36 percent adult females, 11 percent male fawns (button bucks) and 15 percent female fawns.
These percentages are nearly identical to the harvest in 2007. About 40 percent of the antlered bucks and 38 percent of the adult does harvested during 2008 were yearlings (1.5-year-olds).
Again, epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) was confirmed in select counties; however, overall deer loss is believed to be much less than the previous two years. EHD was confirmed in Tippecanoe, Fountain, Owen, Brown, Bartholomew, Jennings and Switzerland counties. It was also reported, but unconfirmed, in LaGrange, Montgomery, Parke, Vigo, Clay, Sullivan, Greene, Martin, Harrison, Morgan, Johnson, Shelby and Henry counties.
Chad Stewart is the Deer Research biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). Stewart had this to say about the recent bouts with EHD in our state.
"EHD has probably always been around Indiana, and likely will continue to be around. It is predictable seasonally, but little is understood about its emergence annually. There is recent information out of Virginia that high summer and winter temperatures, and drought-like conditions in June, promote EHD outbreaks. As long as conditions are right for the midges that transmit the disease, EHD can and will occur, no matter where the location. The important thing to keep in mind regarding EHD is that individual properties can be affected for several years, but the likelihood of it affecting a countywide area for more than a year is minimal.
Speaking of Steuben County, it led the zone and the entire state again last year -- even though 82 fewer deer were harvested last season there.
"The Indiana deer herd is as strong as ever. Deer in Indiana, like every other state, suffer from some places where there are too many deer, in others, there are not enough, and in the rest, the numbers are just right."
Are there going to be similar numbers of antlerless tags available this year? "There will be an increase in some of the antlerless quotas this year, particularly up north, where an increase was probably overdue," he explained.
With all that said, here is how the season shapes up in the state's seven Indiana Deer Zones.
Indiana's seven-county northeastern-most zone is located within the famous natural lakes region of the state. With diverse habitat types and plentiful agricultural holdings throughout this area, Zone 1 produces lots of deer for hunters.
The northern portion of the zone offers sandier soils and more topographical features, while the central portion of the zone is generally flatter with larger agricultural fields. There are many drainages throughout the zone and whitetails thrive here.
This zone has historically maintained a very large deer population and continues to do so. With a high deer density, Zone 1 cranks them out. The zone tallied 20,003 whitetails in 2008, up from 18,602 during the previous campaign. In fact, every county except Steuben produced more deer last year than in 2007.
Speaking of Steuben County, it led the zone and the entire state again last year -- even though 82 fewer deer were harvested last season there. Steuben produced 3,672 deer compared with 3,754 the previous year. Kosciusko produced 2,362 deer last year, which is up from the 3,003 it produced in 2007. Coming in at No. 3 in the zone is Noble County with its 3,229 deer. This is up from the 2,792 hunters bagged in 2007.
Marshall County produced 3,024 in 2008, while LaGrange (2,733), DeKalb (2,437) and Elkhart (1,546) round out the rest of the zone. Zone 1 should continue to produce plenty of deer for hunters in that area of the state.
In the northwestern corner of the state lies 11-county Zone 2. This area of Indiana holds plenty of deer and great diversity of habitats. Much of the zone is in urban areas, but not all of it. Traditionally, this area of the state has been thought of as having more of an urban flavor, but this isn't necessarily the case throughout.
The zone's northern areas tend to have sandier soils, while the southern areas have a more traditional agricultural look. There is plenty of timber in the zone despite what area you're in and the deer are in good shape. Zone 2 produced 17,455 deer last year, which is up from the 16,047 deer hunters bagged during the previous season.
LaPorte County continues to lead the zone with its 2008 figure of 2,527 deer. This is up from the 2,285 deer taken there the previous year. Fulton County produced 2,055 deer last year, up just a bit from the 2,046 taken there in 2007.
Starke County produced 1,727 deer last season, while giving up 1,530 the previous campaign. Coming in right behind Starke is Jasper County with its total harvest figure of 1,631 deer.
Pulaski (1,588), Cass (1,511), St. Joseph (1,450), Porter (1,391), White (1,229), Lake (1,188) and Newton (1,158) counties round out the rest of the zone. Look for this zone to continue to produce good numbers of deer this season as well.
Zone 3 also lies in the northeastern corner of the state and consists of eight counties. This area of Indiana has its share of deer in a cornucopia of various deer habitats.
In the northern part of the zone is \ Ft. Wayne. The zone stretches all the way south and west and actually extends into a small portion of the Wabash Valley. Zone 3's habitat ranges from wet, thick, timbered wood lots in the north to rolling, river bottom, ridged habitat in the south and west.
This zone doesn't hold quite the numbers of deer that its northern sister zone does, but there are plenty of whitetails in many areas. The city of Ft. Wayne's Urban Zone, in particular, holds scads of deer.
Zone 3 produced 8,356 whitetails last season, which is up slightly from the 8,246 it produced the previous season. Wabash County once again lead the entire zone with a harvest figure of 1,752 deer, compared with 1,717 in 2007.
Allen County produced 1,721 deer in 2008, while giving up 1,666 the previous year. Whitley County is next with its total of 1,384 in 2008, which is up a bit from the 1,308 it produced the year prior.
Huntington (1,226), Jay (906), Adams (519), Wells (540) and Blackford (308) counties round out the zone for the 2008 season.
Zone 4 lies in the central Indiana Corn Belt. This 25-county region is a relatively flat, prairie-like area of Indiana. While much of the zone consists of some of Indiana's largest overall farm fields, the entire zone is not as open.
Some of the zone has a great mixture of drainage systems and some of those areas are heavily timbered. With huge farm fields, the area provides plentiful food sources for the deer that reside there. Traditionally, the area hasn't produced as many deer as the neighboring northern and southern zones, but there are some pockets where larger deer densities do exist.
The zone produced 16,349 whitetails in 2008 compared with 16,621 in 2007. Fountain County once again leads the way for Zone 4 with its 1,442 whitetails in 2008. This was actually down a bit from the 1,455 produced there the previous year.
Trailing Fountain very closely is Miami County with its 1,405 deer, which was also down just a bit from the 1,434 it gave up in 2007. Tippecanoe County is No. 3 in the Zone with its 1,167 total deer produced. This is also down a bit from the 1,339 it cranked out the previous year.
Warren County came in at No. 4 for the year in the zone with its overall total of 1,284 deer. The remainder of the counties in the zone ranged from 130 deer (Tipton County) to 931 deer (Carroll County). Zone 4 should continue to produce similar numbers of deer in the future.
The nine counties that make up southeastern Indiana's Zone 5 have traditionally produced plenty of whitetails, thanks in large part to some excellent deer habitat. This area is noted for its thick stands of timber and its many hills and hollows, which help whitetails better escape hunting pressure.
Also, like most other areas of the state, agricultural production plays a huge part in the production of deer. Zone 5 produced 16,354 deer in 2008, which is down just a bit from the 16,783 it produced the previous campaign. Although most counties showed a decrease in the overall numbers of deer taken, this is probably due to the effect EHD had on the area the previous year.
This zone traditionally has had a large deer herd, and should rebound from the earlier losses due to the disease. Switzerland County once again leads the way with 2,955 deer. This is down from its 2007 total of 3,259. Franklin County once again holds down the No. 2 spot with 2,852 deer, compared with 2,950 taken during the previous season.
Dearborn County comes in at 2,568 deer for 2008, which is down a bit from the 2,840 in produced the previous year. Jefferson County produced 2,176 deer in 2008, while Jennings produced 1,874.
Rounding out the rest of the zone are Ripley (1,678), Ohio (1,018), Fayette (712) and Union (521). Look for Zone 5 to continue to produce similar numbers of deer in the next few years as the herd rebuilds there.
Twenty-county Zone 6 lies in the south-central region of Indiana and encompasses some huge stands of timber, big hills and valleys, hollows and intermixed agricultural areas. All support a tremendous number of deer.
The Hoosier National Forest makes up a big part of the zone and this area holds lots of whitetails. The zone rebounded with a total harvest of 35,514 deer in 2008, which is up from the 33,439 it cranked out in 2007.
Parke County leads the zone again with a total harvest number of 2,804. This is up from the 2007 total of 2,698. Coming in right behind is Harrison County with its 2,701 deer produced. This county gave up 2,350 the previous year.
Washington County tallied 2,517 deer for 2008, which is up from 2,414 the year before. Next in line is Greene County, which produced 2,153 deer; followed by Jackson County with its 1,988 deer. Orange County produced 1,934 deer, and Lawrence County kicked in 1,905 deer.
Other heavy producers in the zone were Brown (1,895), Putnam (1,828), Dubois (1,763), Crawford (1,767), Clark (1,694) and Owen (1,684). Zone 6 should continue to produce loads of deer for years to come.
Southwestern Indiana's Zone 7 is a 12-county zone that also has excellent deer habitat throughout. Like other southern areas it has many timbered hills, hollows and rich river bottom agricultural areas that help it produce plenty of deer.
The zone produced 15,717 total whitetails in 2008 compared with the 14,684 it yielded in 2007. Sullivan County was again tops for the zone with 1,648 deer, compared with 1,638 it produced the previous season.
Gibson County hunters harvested 1,588 deer last year, which is up significantly from the 1,385 they tallied in 2007. Posey County produced 1,580 deer, which is up from its previous total of 1,464.
Warrick County produced 1,526, while Vigo followed closely with 1,462. Pike County is next in line with 1,459 deer, while Spencer (1,374), Vermillion (1,207), Daviess (1,166) and Clay (1,001) counties round out the zone's top 10.
Zone 7 is another area that was hit fairly hard by EHD two seasons ago and should slowly rebound to harvest numbers it showed in the years leading up to the 2007 and 2008 figures. Like all zones in the state, there are plenty of whitetails for hunting enthusiasts in each zone to enjoy.
And that wraps up the 2008-09 deer season harvest report. Although we've had some issues with EHD in the past few years, Indiana as a whole still holds lots of white-tailed deer. They provide Indiana hunters with plenty of recreational opportunities.
Visit www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/ files/fw-deerseasonsummary.pdf to see biologist Chad Stewart's 2008 Indiana Deer Season Summary for a closer look at the statistic involving the 2008-09 season. Next month, in Part 2 of this annual series, we'll take a look at where the true giant Indiana bucks of 2008 were harvested.