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Deer Management

Many deer management myths have surfaced and resurfaced over the years. Some are based on a small bit of truth. Others are completely false.

One common thread is they’re often shared from person to person and rarely based on facts.

So, if myths lack truth, why do they continue to be told and believed?

Shankar Vedantam, a reporter for the Washington Post, explored that question a few years ago and cited several studies that show the more people hear false rumors the more likely they are to believe them.

“The research also highlights the disturbing reality that once an idea has been implanted in people’s minds, it can be difficult to dislodge,” Vedantam reported. “Denials inherently require repeating the bad information, which may be one reason they can paradoxically reinforce it.”

In other words, the harder you try to set the record straight with facts, the more some people think myths are truths.

Regardless, let’s bust 10 myths about deer management in Indiana.

Myth 1: The DNR manages deer for deer hunters only.

Indiana law mandates that the DNR manage deer and all wildlife for everyone in Indiana. The goal of the white-tailed deer management and research program is to maximize hunting and viewing opportunities while maintaining a deer population at a level consistent with ecological, social, and economic values of all Indiana citizens.

Myth 2: The DNR does not take input from the public.

The DNR listens to feedback and input through our Got INput process on possible rule changes, and through phone calls, emails and social media. Before any rule changes are adopted, the public has opportunities to provide additional comment either online or at public hearings. The Division of Fish & Wildlife also sends out regular surveys to hunters and landowners to collect input, opinions, and hunter-effort information. The survey results are important tools used to help decide deer management at the county and state level.

Myth 3: The DNR is trying to reduce the deer herd across the state.

The DNR’s deer management program is currently working to reduce conflicts between Indiana residents and deer where they are most problematic. This is being done in a strategic and targeted manner (through bonus antlerless quotas), not statewide. Currently, many counties have regulations set up to maintain or even increase deer numbers within the county.

Myth 4: The DNR needs an accurate count of deer to effectively manage them across the state.

Wildlife biologists and statisticians have recognized that population estimates are not necessary for effective deer management. Many states do not conduct population estimates for their deer herds. Rather, the DNR manages deer by evaluating trends over time. From those trends we’re able to estimate whether the deer herd is increasing, stable, or decreasing. These trends, along with public surveys, are used to determine deer management objectives.

Myth 5: Antler-point restrictions would improve the quality of genetics in Indiana’s deer.

Restricting buck harvest to only animals with a certain antler configuration (for example: 8 points or more, or 16-inch spreads or more) has often been proposed to improve the quality of bucks in an area. The thought is that by only focusing efforts on older deer, more yearling bucks will survive and grow to older ages and produce larger antlers. The intended result will likely fall short, especially in the Midwest, where yearling animals may produce 8 points in their first year of growth. Point restrictions would instead focus harvest on large antlered bucks, protect only the smallest-antlered deer and cause high levels of accidental or illegal kills. Point restrictions will not change the genetic characteristics of a population as it relates to antler size, meaning only certain bucks would have these large antlers regardless of restrictions.

Myth 6: High antlerless quotas are solely responsible for reducing the deer herd.

Indiana historically has had high antlerless limits available to all hunters. Hunters have been allowed to harvest eight antlerless deer in many counties. These limits are high to allow individuals experiencing deer problems the opportunity to solve their problems in the hunting season. It is not meant to be a limit that is reached by all hunters, and it rarely is reached. Despite high quotas in some counties, surveys repeatedly show the vast majority of hunters (85 percent) take three or fewer deer, and less than 1 percent ever take eight deer in a season.

Myth 7: Indiana cannot produce trophy and record-book deer.

Although the DNR does not specifically manage for trophy deer, the agency recognizes this is a desirable byproduct of deer management. The comparatively smaller number of deer from Indiana in current record books is likely a result of the small size of the state, not a result of management. The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) looked at the estimated number of record book bucks submitted per thousand miles of land area from 1999 to 2009. QDMA found that during this period, Indiana ranked third in the country in submissions per thousand square miles to Pope & Young (archery-harvested deer) and sixth in Boone & Crockett (gun-harvested deer) record books. On a mile-by-mile basis, Indiana compares favorably with many other reputable states that produce record-book-quality white-tailed deer.

Myth 8: The DNR is bringing back mountain lions to help manage the deer herd.

The DNR has never reintroduced mountain lions or any other predator to manage white-tailed deer. Reintroduction of these predators into areas where people live would likely not be tolerated by residents or a majority of citizens in the state. Although the DNR did confirm the sighting of a mountain lion in Greene County several years ago, it is unknown whether that animal was an escaped animal or a nomadic individual.

Myth 9: Insurance companies are to blame for the lack of deer in Indiana.

A common myth is that insurance companies are behind many directives to reduce the number of deer on the landscape. This is not true. Refer to Myth 4 on how the DNR determines deer management goals.

Myth 10: The summer deer damage program is hurting deer hunting across the state.

Qualifying farmers and landowners can get summer damage permits that allow them or their designated shooter to remove deer during the summer months when their crops are growing. The program is designed to help these individuals protect their agricultural investment during a time in the growing season when it is most vulnerable. It is not meant to be a population control method or to replace hunting. Over the past several years, approximately 2,400 deer or fewer have been reported annually on these permits, or less than 2 percent of the total reported harvest during the hunting season.

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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