The new set of changes was intended to both appease the majority of the state's outdoorsmen and accomplish the DNR's goal of systematically reducing Indiana's population of whitetail deer. After three straight record-setting harvests, the DNR received pressure from lawmakers, insurance companies and farmers to take steps to thin the herd.
Hunters should take note that the new guidelines will not take effect until next year.
“The Indiana Natural Resources Commission on Tuesday approved a package of changes to deer hunting rules that will go into effect in the 2012 season,” a DNR press release stated.
“None of the changes will be in effect this year.
“The final adoption vote came after preliminary approval by the NRC in January and a six-month public comment period that included hundreds of written comments and two public hearings.”
The new rules keep the firearms and muzzleloader seasons at their traditional 16 days each. In its first proposal, the NRC recommended cutting each of those seasons in half to eight days, but that proposal received overwhelming opposition, forcing the DNR to dump it.
The biggest changes included extending the archery season and allowing crossbows throughout the archery season, creating a deer license bundle and implementing the so-called “earn-a-buck” rule in the urban zones, including the Fort Wayne urban zone.
The new archery season will last from Oct. 1 through the first Sunday in January without the traditional one-week break that separated early and late seasons. The hotly contested crossbow rule will allow hunters who were previously limited to using that equipment only in the late archery season to enjoy the full archery season.
Many hunters complained about the cost of purchasing separate deer licenses for each season in the original proposal. They suggested a license that would be good across the different seasons, similar to the lifetime license, and the DNR listened. The new license bundle will allow for the taking of up to three deer in various seasons for one reduced cost. The price has not been set, but it should be considerably less than the cost of purchasing three licenses (currently $72 for residents).
The urban-zone season will also be extended to run from Sept. 15 through Jan. 31. Hunters in those areas will be forced to harvest an antlerless deer before being able to take an antlered deer.
Other changes include the addition of a non-resident youth license, requiring that hunters display at least 144 square inches (12 inches by 12 inches) of hunter orange on occupied ground blinds, and increasing the maximum rifle cartridge length to 1.8 inches, which means hunters would be able to use the S&W .460 caliber.
While there are still a couple of hurdles to clear before the new rules go into effect next year, they are considered by many to be largely ceremonial.
“These changes must still be approved by the Attorney General's Office and Governor's Office and published in the Indiana Register before taking effect,” the release stated.
For more information, check Indiana DNR's Fish and Wildlife website at http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/.