Indiana Deer Outlook Part 2: Finding Trophy Bucks

Indiana Deer Outlook Part 2: Finding Trophy Bucks

Amber fields of grain and sound management of the deer resource have led to more big bucks in Hoosierland with each passing season. Read on for top counties near you. (November 2009)

Indiana continues to produce plenty of great bucks in the modern era. One noticeable trend is that some counties that never used to produce many (if any) Hoosier Record Buck Program (HRBP) entries are now providing trophy bucks in spades. The main reason is the age-class of our bucks has improved substantially. With the continued emphasis on harvesting surplus does and more hunters' understanding of the importance of backing off taking immature bucks, this trend should continue.

At the time of this writing, 234 bucks taken from the 2008 season either made the 140-inch typical, or the 160-inch non-typical minimum scores for inclusion into the all-time HRBP record book.

For information about the HRBP or questions about the program's records, call North Liberty's John Bogucki at (574) 656-4271. Bogucki is the chairman for the HRBP, and is a contact for information about the program's recent record book: Recol­lecting Nature's Miracles Hoosier Record Buck Program 2008 Edition. For a look at the state's many HRBP certified scorers, visit

Zone 1 is a seven-county area that lies in northeast Indiana's famed Natural Lakes region and consists of a variety of habitats that grow and hold many deer. Wood lots, drainages, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) fields, waterways, lakes, swamps and farm fields provide an interesting array of habitat for white­tails to flourish. Historically, this zone has produced a handful of Indiana's top all-time bucks, and 2008-09 saw no significant changes.

DeKalb County led all counties with 12 entries for the year, followed by Steuben with seven entries. LaGrange County contributed five entries, while Noble and Marshall counties each gave up three entries apiece. Kosciusko provided two entries.

The top buck for the zone is Dennis Treesh's DeKalb County trophy. This muzzleloader beauty ranks in at No. 3 for the year in the firearms typical category and scored 172 3/8 Boone and Crockett (B&C) points.

Another big typical was taken by Aaron Gray with a shotgun. This buck is also from DeKalb County and scores 168 0/8, ranking it as the No. 5 overall firearms typical for the year. Nearby Steuben County produced a 165 3/8 scoring dandy for Andrew Nichols, coming in at No. 6 for the season in the same category.

The top non-typical from the zone was actually found dead by Steuben County conservation officer John Deem earlier in the year. This monster double drop-tined buck scores 205 2/8. The top harvested non-typical from the zone was arrowed by Jason Hile. His massive buck scores 178 4/8 Pope and Young (P&Y) and came in at No. 6 for the year in the archery non-typical category.

Another noteworthy non-typical that scored 176 3/8 was taken by shotgunner Wayne Beechy in LaGrange County. Zone 1 should continue to produce many of the state's biggest bucks for years to come.

This 11-county northwestern zone has produced some of the state's best overall bucks over the years as well. The zone's excellent combination of timber, farm fields and urban fringe habitats grows some big bucks. The area's soils are diverse with sandy soils adjacent to Lake Michigan and more traditional heavy farm soils in the southern portion of Zone 2.

The zone produced 39 total entries for the year, up from the 28 it produced the previous year. The top county in the zone is St. Joseph, which produced eight entries. Lake County was next with seven entries, while Jasper, White and Pulaski counties all produced four apiece.

Starke and Cass counties kicked in three entries apiece, while LaPorte County produced two entries. Newton, Porter and Fulton all chipped in one entry apiece.

Gregory Hartley took the top buck for the zone with a pistol cartridge rifle in Cass County. His beauty scored 205 3/8 B&C and came in at No. 2 for the year in the firearms non-typical category.

Dale Husman in nearby Lake County took another B&C non-typical. The whopper scored 203 2/8 and was taken with a muzzleloader. It ranks in at No. 3 in the state in the same category.

The No. 6 overall firearms non-typical for the year was taken in Pulaski County by shotgunner Don Linback. His buck scored 193 2/8.

Bryan Busse arrowed a great P&Y non-typical in Pulaski County as well. This bruiser scored 180 5/8, good enough for the No. 4 spot in the category for the year. Trailing Bryan at the No. 5 spot for the year in the same category is Brad Hyde's 178 6/8-inch Newton County bow beauty.

Jason Harper killed a 168 1/8 dandy in Lake County. This shotgun buck tied another buck for the No. 4 spot in the firearms typical category for the year. Muzzleloader hunter Charles Hershman killed the No. 10 firearms typical. This Jasper County mega-buck scored 164 0/8. The zone should continue to produce its share of giant bucks in the near future.

This eight-county zone lies just south of Zone 1 in the east-central part of the state. Traditionally, this zone hasn't produced as many of the top bucks in the state; however, it has produced an occasional giant buck.

There is some excellent habitat found throughout the zone with a mixture of timber, ridges, draws and river bottom habitats.

Overall, Zone 3 produced 15 total entries for the year, compared with eight during the previous campaign. Whitley, Wells and Huntington counties tied for first place in the zone with three entries each. Blackford and Wabash counties produced two entries apiece, while Allen and Jay produced one each to round out the zone.

Archer Lynn Gray took the top buck in the zone. His 168 3/8 beauty is the No. 4 archery typical for the year and was taken in Huntington County.

The No. 10 archery typical for the season was taken by Josh Light. This dandy of a buck was arrowed in Blackford County and scored 161 0/8.

Crossbow hunter Bill Zahm took the top non-typical for the year in the zone. This 171 1/8 whopper was taken in Huntington County and ranks as the top crossbow buck for the year. Muzzleloader hunter Bryce Ball took another great non-typical. His Whitley County buck scored 167 4/8.

Zone 3 should continue to crank out similar numbers of big bucks for years to come. And occasionally, the zone can contribute one of the state's top bucks for the year in any g

iven category.

Central Indiana's huge 25-county Zone 4 has really come on in recent years with its production of true giants. While much of the zone lies in the Midwest Corn Belt, there are pockets of outstanding habitat scattered throughout the zone. While noted for its huge, rich farm fields, the zone actually has more timbered regions than many folks realize.

Zone 4 contributed 49 entries to the HRBP last year, up from the 47 it produced the previous season. Decatur County leads all counties in the zone with six entries. Hendricks and Randolph counties contributed four entries apiece to the program.

Howard, Johnson, Delaware and Hancock counties all provided three entries each, while Rush, Henry, Tippecanoe, Miami, Grant, Warren, Carroll and Hamilton counties all kicked in with two apiece. Madison, Fountain, Wayne, Montgomery, Tipton, Shelby and Boone counties all chipped in a single entry each.

Rick Holcomb arrowed the No. 5 archery typical in the zone. His 167 0/8 bruiser was taken in Hendricks County. Following Holcomb at No. 7 for the year in the same category was Clint Van Natter, who arrowed his 164 4/8 scoring dandy in Howard County.

Coming in at No. 9 in the same category is William McKinney with his Randolph County monster that net scores 162 5/8. The top archery non-typical is William Walters' 175 2/8-inch Hendricks County beauty, which ranks No. 7 for the season.

The top overall firearms typical in the state for the year, and ranking in as a new No. 1 overall as the handgun typical state record is Verlin Hale's monstrous 186 2/8 Randolph County buck.

Zone 4 also produced two other fine firearms typicals as well for the year. Lewis Tichenor took his 163 3/8 bruiser with a muzzleloader in Decatur County, while Jeff Erwin killed his 162 5/8 dandy in Rush County with a shotgun.

The top non-typical taken in the zone is Gary Crank's 197 0/8 monster. This Decatur County shotgun buck ranks in at No. 5 for the year in that same category. Levi Huddleston took the No. 7 non-typical firearms buck for the year. His Miami County dandy scores 190 5/8 and was also taken with a shotgun.

As mentioned, Zone 4 has really come into its own the last several years and will continue to produce some outstanding bucks, and plenty of them, in the future seasons.

Southeastern Indiana's nine-county Zone 5 has historically produced many of the top bucks throughout the history of deer hunting in our state. Its awesome mixture of timber, hills, hollows, draws, ridges and good farm ground help grow and protect many bucks from hunting pressure there.

The southern boundary of the zone is the Ohio River. Soils adjacent to the Big River are rich with minerals that help the soils there grow nutrient-rich plants for deer to eat.

The zone produced 18 record-book entries for the year at the time of this writing, compared with 44 the year prior. The difference in deer numbers can probably be attributed to the widespread case of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) experienced there recently.

While the overall numbers might be down somewhat, the quality of the animals taken there is not. Leading the zone is Dearborn County with four entries. Union, Jennings and Franklin counties all contributed three entries apiece, while Ripley kicked in two entries. Jefferson and Switzerland both chipped in one entry apiece.

The top buck from the zone is Jeremy Eaton's 234 2/8 behemoth taken in Ripley County. As mentioned, it was the top firearms non-typical for the year and ties the No. 5 spot all-time in the HRBP book.

The top firearms typical from the zone is Kevin Sizemore's 175 2/8 B&C bruiser. This buck was taken with a muzzleloader in Union County and ranks No. 2 for the year in its category. The largest archery non-typical from the zone came in at No. 2 for the year in its category. Bowman Jason Caudill killed his 185 6/8 brute in Ripley County.

Another great archery buck is Jimmy Hoffman's 171 1/8 non-typical trophy. This buck ranks No. 8 for the year in its category, and was also taken in Union County.

Michael McMahon took his 166 7/8 typical beauty with a bow in nearby Dearborn County and ranks No. 6 for the year in its category.

While the numbers are down in Zone 5, look for this trend to change slowly over time as the area recovers from EHD in the next several years.

This south-central zone consists of 20 counties that feature massive stands of timber, hills and hollows intermixed with great farms. The zone continues to feature some of the best bucks that the state produces on an annual basis, and 2008 saw no exception to this rule.

In all, 53 entries were produced in the zone for 2008, compared with 75 the year before. While these numbers are down somewhat, it is worth noting that this area has also seen losses from EHD in recent seasons. I look for this number to slowly rise over the next few years.

Greene County leads the zone with seven entries, followed by Parke County that produced six entries for the year. Morgan, Lawrence, Owen, Monroe, Perry and Orange counties all produced three apiece.

Clark, Martin, Harrison, Putnam, Dubois and Washington provided two book bucks apiece. Scott, Jackson, Crawford and Brown counties all chipped in a single entry each.

Michael Ikemire arrowed the No. 1 archery typical for the year in Morgan County, a 170 5/8 trophy. The zone also produced the No. 3 and No. 8 archery typicals as well in Jerald Green's 169 0/8 Washington County brute, and Jonathon Chadd's 163 3/8 Putnam County buck.

The No. 1 archery non-typical was also harvested in the zone. Brent Irelan arrowed his monstrous 199 6/8 buck in Parke County. Danny Schulz also arrowed the No. 3 buck in that same category. His Owen County brute scored 183 1/8.

Ryan Morton killed the No. 4 firearms typical with a shotgun in the zone too. The 168 1/8 bruiser was taken in Dubois County. Zone 6 should continue to produce quality deer for years to come.

The 12 counties that represent southwestern Indiana's Zone 7 have traditionally yielded some of the state's biggest bucks. The overall habitat in this zone is some of the best in the entire state with a mixture of heavy stands of timber, wooded ridges and, of course, intermixed with excellent farmland. The zone is bordered to the south by the Ohio River.

The best typical in the zone is Paul Murray's 169 3/8 archery take. This buck was killed in Posey County and ranks at No. 2 for the year in its category. The top firearms typical, a 165 2/8 trophy, is from Vermillion County. Shotgunner Frank Turchi bagged the big buck and it ranks No. 7 for the year in that category.

The No. 4 firearms non-typical for the year was taken in the zone as well. Shotgunner Mark Lueder killed his 199 1/8 trophy in Posey County.

The No. 8, 9 and 10 firearms non-typicals were taken in the zone as well. Perry Shaw bagged his 188 6/8 scoring buck in Clay County with a shotgun; John Fritz took his 187 4/8 three-beamed brute in Clay County; Jeremy Cook downed his 186 0/8 bruiser with shotgun in Vermillion County.

And there you have the listing of the entire group of top bucks killed statewide for the 2008-09 season at press time. As we speak, somewhere out there in Hoosierland is a mature buck eating soybeans, young corn plants, alfalfa, hay, or one of the specialized food plots on the market right now, gaining antler growth daily. Once the fall arrives, his rack will be completely grown, calcified and ready to take on all comers.

Here's hoping that you will be the one who harvests one of the giants of Indiana this coming season. If so, your name will likely grace the pages of this article next year. Hope to see you out in the deer woods this season!

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