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Deer Hunting

Hunting Regulations Icon Indiana Hunting

 

License Requirements

Unless exempt, an individual must have a signed or digital deer hunting, resident youth hunt/trap, lifetime comprehensive hunting, or lifetime comprehensive hunting/fishing license when hunting deer on public or private land. See the table for a summary of deer seasons, licenses, bag limits and equipment requirements.

  • Archery Season: an archery, deer license bundle, bonus antlerless, resident youth hunt/trap, lifetime comprehensive hunting, or lifetime comprehensive hunting/fishing license is required. To use a crossbow during the archery season, an individual must have a crossbow license, deer license bundle, bonus antlerless, resident youth hunt/trap, lifetime comprehensive hunting, or lifetime comprehensive hunting/fishing license.
  • Firearms Season: a deer firearms, deer license bundle, bonus antlerless, resident youth hunt/trap, lifetime comprehensive hunting, or lifetime comprehensive hunting/fishing license is required. (Note: a muzzleloader license is not valid during the deer firearms season). A deer firearms license is only valid for the harvest of one antlered deer during the firearms season.
  • Muzzleloader Season: a muzzleloader, deer license bundle, bonus antlerless, resident youth hunt/trap, lifetime comprehensive hunting, or lifetime comprehensive hunting/fishing license is required. (Note: a firearms license is not valid during the deer muzzleloader season).

Deer License Bundle

The deer license bundle is valid for all deer seasons except for the Reduction Zone Season.

The deer license bundle allows an individual to harvest up to three deer (two antlerless and one of either sex) with only one license. An antlered deer harvested with the deer license bundle counts toward an individual’s one antlered deer limit for statewide seasons.

The bundle can be used to take a deer with equipment legal during the archery (this includes crossbows), firearm, and muzzleloader seasons, and in counties open to the special anterless-only season.

Antlerless deer harvested with the deer license bundle can be used toward the bag limit for bonus antlerless deer in that county as well as the archery, muzzleloader, and special antlerless-only bag limits. If used toward the bonus antlerless deer county quota, the county quota applies.

The bundle may not be used toward the bag limit for bonus antlerless deer on DNR properties where the bonus antlerless license cannot be used. Contact the property or go to www.wildlife.IN.gov for details.

Legal Hunting Hours

Legal hunting hours for all deer seasons are from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

Hunter Orange Requirements

Hunters, including those using archery equipment, must meet hunter orange requirements while hunting for deer during firearms (Nov. 18–Dec. 3, 2017), muzzleloader (Dec. 9–24, 2017) and special antlerless firearm (Dec. 26, 2017–Jan. 7, 2018) seasons.

Hunter orange must be worn during the special youth deer season (Sept. 23–24, 2017).

See description of hunter orange requirements.

An occupied ground blind must display hunter orange of at least 144 square inches on each side so that it is visible from any direction while deer hunting during any deer season in which a hunter is already required to wear hunter orange.

Hunter orange is required only on ground blinds constructed of manmade or synthetic materials and placed on or within 4 feet of the ground that conceal a hunter so the hunter orange is visible from one or more directions and is required on public and private land. A flag placed on top of a blind does not satisfy this hunter orange requirement.

Infrared Sensors/Electronic Calls

The use of infrared sensors or electronic deer calls to locate or take deer is illegal.
It is also illegal to hunt or to retrieve deer with the aid of an infrared sensor or to hunt deer while possessing an electronic deer call.

Antlered Deer

An antlered deer must have at least one antler that is at least 3 inches long.

Tree Stands

Tree stands may be used for hunting deer during all deer hunting seasons. It is illegal to erect or hunt from a permanent tree blind on state-owned or state-leased lands. Portable tree stands may be used on state-owned or state-leased lands, U.S. Forest Service lands and lands of the Muscatatuck, Patoka River and Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuges and may be left overnight only from noon Sept. 15 through Jan. 10.

Fasteners that penetrate a tree more than 1/2 inch are prohibited on these lands.

A tree stand placed on public land must be legibly marked in English with the owner’s name, address and telephone number, or DNR Customer Identification Number.

Fair Chase

It is illegal to use bait, salt, snares, dogs or other domesticated animals to take deer. Bait is considered any product that is transported into a hunting area and placed there for animal consumption. Baits can be in the form of salt, mineral blocks, prepared solid or liquid, or piles of apples or other food that is intended for the animal to eat. An area is considered to be baited for 10 days after the removal of the bait and any affected soil.

Dogs may be used while on a leash only to track or trail wounded deer.

Artificial deer decoys are legal for deer hunting.

Deer Reduction Zones

In addition to statewide bag limits, deer reduction zones, previously called urban deer zones, give hunters opportunities to harvest deer in defined urban areas with high deer densities.

The Reduction Zone season is Sept. 15, 2017 through Jan. 31, 2018. The bag limit for the Reduction Zones is 10 deer, of which only one can be antlered. Individuals hunting in a designated Reduction Zone who are attempting to satisfy the Reduction Zone bag limit must harvest an antlerless deer before harvesting an antlered deer (a.k.a. earn-a-buck). The earn-a-buck requirement only applies to the Reduction Zone bag limit. The Reduction Zone bag limit is in addition to all other bag limits.

A Reduction Zone license has been established to replace previous requirements to possess a regular archery, extra archery or bonus antlerless license. The Reduction Zone license allows an individual to harvest one deer per license in a defined Reduction Zone.

Hunters attempting to satisfy the Reduction Zone bag limits must have a Reduction Zone, resident youth hunt/trap, lifetime comprehensive hunting, or lifetime comprehensive hunting/fishing license, or meet a license exemption. The bundle license is not valid when working toward the Reduction Zone bag limit. A valid license is required for each deer taken.

The season does not override any local ordinances restricting shooting of firearms and bows.

Where allowed by local ordinances, firearms legal for deer hunting can be used in Reduction Zones from Nov. 18 to Jan. 31, 2018.

Hunter orange clothing requirements must be followed to hunt deer with a firearm in a Reduction Zone. Hunters must obtain permission from landowners to hunt on their property.

Reduction Zone licenses are not permitted on Division of Fish & Wildlife properties.

Deer Reduction Zones may be altered annually at the DNR director’s discretion based on deer population management needs. Please visit wildlife.IN.gov/8367.htm to see a current map and zone descriptions.

Tagging Requirements

Immediately upon killing a deer, the hunter must complete a temporary tag on paper that states the hunter’s name, address, sex of the deer, license number (if applicable) of the individual who took the deer, and the day and month of the kill. A hunter is not required to place the tag on the deer while dragging it out of the field as long as the hunter has filled out and is carrying the required information. A hunter must maintain immediate custody of and visual contact with the deer carcass unless the completed temporary transportation tag is attached. The tag must be attached to the deer before the hunter leaves the deer or loads the deer in a vehicle.

Reporting Requirements

Hunters are required to register their harvested deer within 48 hours of the kill. This can be done one of three ways:

Self reporting online through the DNR’s CheckIN Game system (CheckINGame.dnr.IN.gov)

  • Calling 800-419-1326 (a $3 fee applies)
  • Finding a check station, or license retailer who will enter the information for you through CheckIN Game.

Once the deer is registered with the CheckIN Game system, a confirmation number will be generated. The number must be recorded on a temporary transportation tag and kept with the deer until processing begins.

The deer head must remain attached to the carcass until the deer is registered with CheckIN Game and a confirmation number is issued.

Hunting Equipment

Legal Firearms

Shotguns, handguns, rifles with legal cartridges, muzzleloading long guns and muzzleloading handguns are legal during the firearms and special antlerless seasons. Only muzzleloading firearms are legal during the muzzleloader season.

Hunters may carry more than one type of legal firearm when hunting during the firearms, youth, reduction zone (in zones where local ordinances allow the use of a firearm), and special antlerless seasons only.

Shotguns

Shotguns must be 10-, 12-, 16-, 20- or 28-gauge or .410 bore loaded with slugs or saboted bullets. Rifled slug barrels are permitted. Combination rifle-shotguns are allowed.

Centerfire Rifles

Rifles chambered for cartridges that fire a bullet of .357-inch diameter or larger, have a minimum case length of 1.16 inches, and have a maximum case length of 1.8 inches are legal to use only during the deer firearms, youth, reduction zones from Nov. 18-Jan. 31 (in zones where local ordinances allow the use of a firearm), and special antlerless seasons. These rifle cartridges can be used on public and private land.

Some cartridges legal for deer hunting include the .357 Magnum, .38-.40 Winchester, .41 Magnum, .41 Special, .44 Magnum, .44 Special, .44-.40 Winchester, .45 Colt, .454 Casull, .458 SOCOM, .475 Linebaugh, .480 Ruger, .50 Action Express, .500 S&W, .460 Smith & Wesson, .450 Bushmaster, and .50 Beowulf. Full metal jacketed bullets are illegal.

High-Powered Rifles

A state law passed in 2016 that allowed certain rifle cartridges to be used for deer hunting on private land was amended earlier this year to allow additional cartridges. During the firearms, reduction zone from Nov. 18-Jan. 31 (in zones where local ordinances allow the use of firearms) and youth seasons, rifles with a minimum 16-inch barrel that fire cartridges meeting the following requirements may be used to hunt deer on private land only: cartridges that meet the following requirements may now be used to hunt deer on private land only seasons:

  • The cartridge must have a minimum case length of 1.16 inches and a maximum case length of 3 inches
  • The cartridge must fire a bullet with a minimum diameter of .243 inches (same as 6 mm)
  • A hunter must not possess more than 10 of these cartridges while hunting deer
  • Full metal jacketed bullets are illegal

Handguns

Legal handguns can be used to hunt deer during the firearms, reduction zone from Nov. 18-Jan. 31 (in zones where local ordinances allow the use of a firearm), and special antlerless seasons.

Handguns, other than muzzleloading handguns, must have a barrel at least 4 inches long and mustfire a bullet of .243-inch diameter or larger. The handgun cartridge case, without the bullet, must be at least 1.16 inches long. There is no maximum cartridge length for those used in handguns. Full metal-jacketed bullets are not permitted. The handgun must not be a rifle that has a barrel less than 18 inches. (A rifle with a barrel less than 18 inches is not considered a handgun.)

Handguns are not permitted for hunting on any military areas.

Some handgun cartridges that are legal for deer hunting include .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .44 Special, .45 Colt, .45 Long Colt, .45 Winchester Magnum, .35 Remington and .357 Herrett.

A new state law also legalizes a handgun that fires the 10mm Auto and 40 Smith & Wesson cartridge.

Some handgun cartridges that are illegal for deer hunting are .38 Special, .38 Smith and Wesson, .38 Colt New Police, .38/200, .38 Long Colt, .38 Super, .38 ACP, .38 Colt Auto, .45 ACP, .45 Automatic and .45 Auto Rim. All .25/.20, .32/.20 and .30 carbine ammunition is prohibited.

Muzzleloaders

Legal muzzleloaders can be used to hunt deer during the firearms, youth, reduction zone (in zones where local ordinances allow the use of a firearm), muzzleloader, and special antlerless seasons. Only muzzleloading firearms (including muzzleloading handguns) are legal during the muzzleloader season.

Muzzleloading firearms must be .44 caliber or larger, loaded with a single bullet of at least .357 caliber. Saboted bullets are allowed, provided the bullet is .357 caliber or larger. A muzzleloading firearm must be capable of being loaded from only the muzzle. Multiple barrel muzzleloading long guns are allowed.

Muzzleloading handguns are allowed. The muzzleloading handgun must be single shot, .50 caliber or larger, loaded with bullets at least .44 caliber and have a barrel at least 12 inches long, measured from the base of the breech plug excluding tangs and other projections to the end of the barrel, including the muzzle crown.

Carrying Handguns

While hunting, an individual may carry a handgun without a handgun license in accordance with Indiana Code 35-47-2-1 at
iga.IN.gov.

Deer can be taken with a handgun when in compliance with DNR regulations and only during the firearms and special antlerless seasons, and with muzzleloading handguns only in the muzzleloader seasons, or in deer reduction zones when and where local ordinances allow.

Legal Archery Equipment

Legal equipment includes long bows, compound bows or recurve bows and arrows.

The bow must have a pull of at least 35 pounds.

Arrows must be tipped with broadheads that are metal, metal-edged, or napped flint, chert or obsidian. Poisoned or exploding arrows are illegal.

Bows drawn, held or released by means other than by hand or hand-held releases may be used.

No portion of the bow’s riser or any track, trough, channel, arrow rest or other device that attaches to the bow’s riser can guide the arrow from a point back beyond the bow’s brace height.

The common overdraw is still allowed as long as it does not extend beyond the string when the bow is relaxed.

Crossbows are legal hunting equipment during the archery deer season and in Deer Reduction Zones.

A crossbow means a device for propelling an arrow by means of limbs mounted on a stock and a string and having a working safety that may be drawn, held, and released by a mechanical device. It has to have a mechanical safety and a pull of at least 125 pounds.

Archer Survey

Since the early 1990s, bowhunters have teamed with DNR biologists to record wildlife observations during the archery deer season. This annual tally of wildlife sightings is a valuable way to monitor many species across the state.

If you plan to bowhunt for deer between Oct. 1 and Nov. 17 and want to participate in the survey, send your name and address to:

Archer Survey

Division of Fish & Wildlife

5596 E State Road 46

Bloomington, IN 47401.

The deadline to register is Sept. 15, 2017. If you’ve previously participated, there is no need to resend your contact information. Send corrections or changes to the above address.

Disposition of Carcasses

Carcasses of deer and other wild animals that are lawfully taken cannot be dumped in streams or other bodies of water or left in the open for scavengers and others to see without permission from the landowner. Dumping dead deer and other wild animals in a waterway is considered littering and is a criminal offense punishable by a fine. Rotting carcasses in a waterway can also affect water quality for those downstream.

Deer Hotline

If you have questions about deer hunting regulations, call (812) 334-3795, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. This is not a toll-free call. See wildlife.IN.gov/7389.htm for Deer Hunting FAQs.

Deer Seasons, Licenses,
and Equipment

Bag Limit

Archery

Crossbow

Handgun

Muzzleloading Handgun

Muzzleloading
Long Gun

Shotgun

Rifle

* Youth Season – Sept. 23 and 24, 2017 1 antlered deer AND the number of bonus antlerless deer per county quota
Resident Youth Hunt/Trap License
Nonresident Youth Deer License (incl. Deer License Bundle)
Reduction Zone Season – Sept. 15, 2017–Jan. 31, 2018 1 antlered deer (see “earn-a-buck” req.) AND 9 antlerless deer OR 10 antlerless deer
Reduction Deer Zone License
Lifetime Comprehensive Hunting License
Lifetime Comprehensive Hunting/Fishing License
Youth License
* Archery Season – Oct. 1, 2017–Jan. 7, 2018 2 antlerless deer OR 1 antlered and 1 antlerless deer (AND bonus antlerless county quota)
Archery License
Crossbow License
Lifetime Comprehensive Hunting License
Lifetime Comprehensive Hunting/Fishing License
Deer License Bundle
Bonus Antlerless License
Youth License
* Firearms Season – Nov. 18–Dec. 3, 2017 1 antlered deer (AND bonus antlerless county quota)
Firearms License (antlered deer only)
Lifetime Comprehensive Hunting License
Lifetime Comprehensive Hunting/Fishing License
Deer License Bundle
Bonus Antlerless License
Youth License
* Muzzleloader Season – Dec. 9–24, 2017 1 antlered deer OR 1 antlerless deer (AND bonus antlerless county quota)
Muzzleloader License
Lifetime Comprehensive Hunting License
Lifetime Comprehensive Hunting/Fishing License
Deer License Bundle
Bonus Antlerless License
Youth License
Special Antlerless Firearms Season – Dec. 26, 2017 – Jan. 7, 2018 the number of bonus antlerless deer per county with a quota of 4 or more
Lifetime Comprehensive Hunting License
Lifetime Comprehensive Hunting/Fishing License
Deer License Bundle
Bonus Antlerless Deer License
Youth License

A separate deer license is required prior to taking each deer (exceptions: deer license bundle, youth hunt/trap, lifetime license, landowner exemption)