Indiana's Deer Outlook -- Part 2: Finding Trophy Bucks

No matter where you live in Hoosierland, chances are that fine trophy buck hunting is possible near where you live. Read on for top buck areas! (Nov 2006)

Some hunters generally define a "trophy" buck as one with antlers that are larger than normal for a given region. Yet, another person may define a "trophy" buck as a wallhanger, or one that is large enough to take to the local taxidermist to have mounted. To others, a true trophy is one that exceeds one's own personal best. Therefore, the term "trophy" then is a relative term and means different things to different deer hunters.

In the modern age with so much emphasis put on large-racked bucks, many hunters are passing on immature bucks in hopes that a larger racked buck will present itself during the season. Some hunters go home empty-handed as a result. Yet, others are happy to harvest a surplus doe instead, providing excellent venison, while at the same time doing their part to manage the deer herd in their area of the state.

The one-buck rule is entering its fifth and final season this year. Some hunters didn't want to see it implemented in the first place; others are very glad that it is in place and would love to see it kept indefinitely. Other hunters would also like to see the firearms season closed during the rut, when bucks are the most vulnerable.

As in any trial period, there has to be some kind of way to measure the results (if any) of the enforced rule. Empirical evidence is perhaps the only way to measure the successfulness of the effects that the one-buck rule is having on the age structure of our herd. You couldn't convince any one of the volunteer measurers of the Hoosier Record Buck Program (HRBP) it isn't working.

To be eligible for entry in the HRBP record book, a typical rack must measure a minimum of 140 inches, while a non-typical must measure at least 160 inches. As of this writing, 266 total racks have been entered into the program's record book from 2005. To be eligible for the coveted Boone and Crockett (B&C) record book, a rack must measure at least 170 inches for a typical, and 195 inches as a non-typical. This organization has accepted more Indiana bucks in recent years.

As this issue goes to press, 17 B&C Club bucks have already been measured for the program from last season.

Never in the history of deer hunting in the state, has this number been so high at this stage. The overall single season record of 20 was set during the 2004 season. As in seasons past, not all B&C or HRBP bucks taken last season have been scored at press time.

Not only are we seeing an increase in the number of eligible racks in the Hoosier Record Buck Program, but we're also seeing a steady improvement in the quality of racks as well. Simply put, more bucks are living past their third and fourth birthdays, so the average rack score is going up.

Joe Bacon is president of the Indiana Deer Hunters' Association (IDHA) and a known mature buck enthusiast. "We have seen a definite improvement in the age structure as evidenced in the antlered age structure in DNR's age data collected during the first weekend of general gun seasons. Never before have we recorded 50 percent or fewer 1 1/2- year-old bucks. Trend data would have predicted 60 percent-plus 1 1/2- year-old harvests, yet Hoosier hunters have embraced the 'Let 'em go so they can grow' mentality. Hoosier deer hunters have embraced the one-buck rule, like Kentucky hunters. And after a few short years, they have seen the benefit, as has the record keeping of the HRBP."

But Dr. Jim Mitchell, head deer biologist for the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), doesn't necessarily agree with the effectiveness of the one-buck rule. "We don't know the answer. The age structure of our bucks has increased at a steady rate for the last eight to 10 years. It's either a change in the deer herd, the selectivity of our hunters or the one-buck rule." Mitchell cites an increase in the herd and hunter experience and discrimination as the main reasons for the increase in age structure of our bucks.


Northeastern Indiana's Zone 1 traditionally produces some outstanding bucks, and usually several of them. It produced 42 entries into the HRBP program last year, which surpassed its 2004 production of 26.

Kosciusko County produced 12 entries last season, followed closely by Steuben (10) and Noble (8) counties. Rounding out the top counties are Marshall (6), DeKalb (5) and LaGrange (1).

As has happened in recent years, this zone produced a couple of real "gagger" bucks last season. Brad Thurman harvested his 176 3/8 B&C monster in DeKalb County while hunting with a muzzleloader. His trophy comes in at No. 3 for the year in its category. The No. 9 typical in the same category for the year is Jason Lutter's 166 6/8 trophy, which was taken during muzzleloader season in nearby Noble County.

The No. 2 archery typical for the season was arrowed by Chad Hartman near Warsaw in Kosciusko County. This 175 6/8 B&C brute is also Kosciusko's new overall typical record. This county also produced the No. 9 firearms non-typical for Louis Reimer Jr., a 189 3/8 bruiser taken with a handgun.


Northwestern Indiana's Zone 2 produced 25 overall entries for the program in 2005, which is up slightly from its overall number of 23 the previous year. This zone has produced some fine bucks in the past, and has the potential to produce the occasional eye-opener as well.

The top-scoring buck from the zone last fall was a 192 1/8 shotgun non-typical taken by Tony Runkle in Fulton County. His deer is the No. 6 firearms non-typical for 2005. This county also produced the No. 9 archery non-typical in Greg Ault's 170 6/8 trophy. The No. 5 overall non-typical taken by bow is John Babe's 185 1/8, which hails from Jasper County.

On the typical side of things, Zone 2 turned out two 160-class dandies by firearms hunters. Rodney Varnell killed his 169 5/8 buck with a muzzleloader in Cass County, while Dennis Rigney downed his 167 6/8 beauty with a shotgun in Fulton County. These bucks rank No. 6 and No. 7 in their category, respectively.

The No. 8 archery typical, a very respectable 158 6/8 buck, was arrowed by Kevin Richard in LaPorte County.


The other northeastern area, Zone 3, produced 14 entries for the season. This is down slightly from 2004's production of 16. Allen County led all counties there with five entries, followed by Jay, Wabash and Huntington counties, which produced two entries each. Whitley, Wells, Adams and Blackford counties all produced a single entry each.

What this zone might lack in overall numbers is made up for in the quality of so

me of the racks that are produced there. Tops for Zone 2 in 2005 include Wayne Leazier Jr.'s impressive 192 3/8 bow kill, which is the No. 4 buck in its category for the year. It also ranks as Allen County's new overall archery non-typical record.

Brandt Barnett took the No. 6 archery typical, a 161 1/8 thumper, in Whitley County. Thomas Stoffel also scored on a good bow typical, a 157 6/8, coming in at a tie for No. 9 last year in Wabash County.


Central Indiana's huge Zone 4 produced 57 total entries for the program in 2005, up significantly from its previous total of 42. This zone seems to be coming on strong in recent years. Zone 4 produced some very impressive bucks for the season.

The top county for the zone, and Indiana as a whole for 2005 is Tippecanoe with its 13 total entries, followed by Warren (8) and Decatur (5). Carroll, Hamilton, Johnson and Henry all produced three entries apiece. Miami and Hancock counties each produced two entries apiece; Clinton, Boone, Howard, Marion, Shelby, Randolph and Wayne counties all chipped in one entry each.

The buck of all bucks harvested last fall was Jack Keihn's 234 2/8 non-typical taken with a 20-gauge in Decatur County. This B&C monster was the top hunter-taken buck of its kind last fall, and ranks as Indiana's No. 3 shotgun non-typical of all time.

Another awesome non-typical was harvested by Randy Spence with a .44 Magnum pistol in Henry County. This B&C brute scored 202 7/8 and registered in as the No. 2 buck in the firearms non-typical category.

The zone also produced two giant B&C archery non-typicals as well. Sam Brooks arrowed his 202 0/8 No. 1 for the year in the archery non-typical category while hunting in Tippecanoe County. Following right behind him at No. 2 for the year is James Rogers Jr.'s Montgomery County beauty, which scores 195 1/8, just nudging into the all-time B&C record book.

Another noteworthy archery non-typical is Ryan Mounts' 174 2/8 trophy, coming in at No. 8 and also taken in Tippecanoe County. Trailing two places behind it is Michael Justice's 167 7/8 buck at No. 10 from Warren County.

On the typical side of things the zone also shined. Tops for the zone, and coming in at No. 2 for the season in its category, is Gerald Sheets' 177 6/8 B&C bruiser. He harvested this buck with a muzzleloader in Warren County. Following closely behind it at No. 4 for the year is Matt Stevens' Miami County B&C brute, which scores 172 5/8.


Southeastern Indiana's Zone 5 normally produces several of the top racks in the state annually, but was surprisingly absent from the top of any of the categories for 2005. However, it is worth noting that a middle 240-class non-typical was found dead in Switzerland County in early November during the bow season.

Zone 5 did produce 37 entries compared with 39 a year ago. Jennings County was tops with eight entries, followed closely by Ripley and Franklin counties, which both produced seven trophy bucks. Fayette (5), Dearborn (3), Switzerland (3), Union (2) and Jefferson (2) rounded out the zone.

The top typical harvested is Jonathan Harsh's 167 5/8 trophy, which was taken in Franklin County with a muzzleloader. This buck came in at No. 8 in the firearms typical category. On the archery side of things, Boyd Lunsford's Fayette County typical scored 161 0/8, good for No. 7 in its category.

The top non-typical harvested in the zone was Gregory Shroyer's 183 0/8 brute taken with shotgun in Switzerland County. Jeremy Mullins killed a 176 0/8 non-typical with a shotgun in Fayette County, and Phil Layman followed this buck very closely with a Jenning's County 175 1/8 shotgun non-typical. Ironically, Russell Campbell harvested a twin scoring 175 1/8 non-typical shotgun buck in nearby Franklin County.


South-central Indiana's Zone 6 continues to produce many excellent bucks each season. While the overall number of entries was down somewhat from last season, the zone produced 62 entries in 2005 compared with 79 from the previous year. Also, the overall quality of bucks it produces continues to be very impressive. In fact, 12 of the top 39 bucks from the year were produced there.

Parke County continues to lead the zone with 11 entries for the season, followed by Greene (7), Scott (5), Putnam (4), Brown (4) and Jackson (4) counties. Other counties in the zone and their total entries are: Monroe (3), Owen (3), Lawrence (3), Dubois (3), Crawford (3), Washington (3), Perry (2), Bartholomew (2), Martin (1), Orange (1), Harrison (1), Floyd (1) and Clark (1).

Mike Vore's 170 6/8 P&Y behemoth was taken in Parke County with a bow, good for the No. 3 slot for the year in the category. Coming in right behind this buck is Kevin Stailey's 170 4/8 archery buck taken in Lawrence County.

Christopher Miller's No. 5 firearms typical is also a B&C bruiser; it scores 170 2/8. He shot it in Floyd County with a muzzleloader. The No. 10 firearms typical, a 166 4/8 dandy, was taken by Jerry Liggett with a shotgun in Crawford County.

Two Zone 6 shotgun bucks tied for No. 3 in the firearms non-typical category. Henry Miller's 196 1/8 brute hails from Owen County, while Kenny Short's 196 1/8 monster buck is from nearby Putnam County.

The zone also claimed the No. 4 and No. 5 firearms non-typical bucks from last season as well. Thomas Egnew edged into the B&C book with his 195 5/8-point muzzleloader buck, taken in Greene County; and Michael Fisher took his 193 7/8 bruiser, also with a muzzleloader, in Parke County.

Zone 6 also claimed the No. 6 archery non-typical in Steve Lancaster's 177 7/8 Parke County buck, and the No. 7 buck in the same category, a 176 1/8 Greene County buck taken by Timothy Neal.


Southwestern Indiana's Zone 7 tallied 29 entries for the program for 2005, down just slightly from its 2004 total of 30. Posey County totaled four record racks to lead all counties, followed by Vermillion, Vigo, Sullivan, Knox, Gibson and Pike, which produced three entries apiece. Rounding out the zone are Clay (2), Daviess (2), Spencer (2) and Vanderburgh (1).

While the zone may not have produced as many top bucks as it has in the past, it produced two top racks for the 2005 season. One of the most talked about racks of 2005 is Sheri Mueller's No. 1 overall firearms typical kill. Sheri was in her third trimester of pregnancy when she downed a 179 7/8 B&C monster typical in Posey County. This buck was just a few sticker points short of shattering the state-record typical record; it actually gross scored right at 200 0/8 as a main-framed 12-pointer!

John Griswold arrowed a 182 2/8 typical in Sullivan County, which places it at the No.1 buck for the season in that category. It also takes over as the top overall typical ever harvested in Sullivan County, and will find a home in the top 10 all time in the state in that category.

Other great bucks harvested in the zone

include Jared Avelis' 163 4/8 typical Vigo County shotgun buck, Teresa Stewart's 182 7/8 Vigo County shotgun non-typical, and Randy Willis' 169 5/8 Vermillion County shotgun non-typical.

And there is your list of Indiana's best bucks for the 2005 season. Any county in our state is capable of producing a true giant at any given time. Since the inception of the one-buck rule, along with hunters' willingness to harvest surplus does, more bucks are reaching full maturity now than ever before in the history of deer hunting in our state. Maybe you'll be one of the lucky hunters who will find your name mentioned in this article next year. Good luck to everyone for the 2006 deer season.

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