The urban deer zone season provides another hunting opportunity, but it also has a management purpose — reduce deer numbers in communities where a deer’s biggest threat is a vehicle bumper.
“That’s the one threat deer in urban areas have that’s a little bit greater than they have in a rural landscape,” said Chad Stewart, the DNR’s deer management biologist. “In suburban areas, vehicles can be the most significant mortality source for deer; far greater than a rural area, where hunting is the likeliest mortality factor. If you’re a deer, that’s a gamble that’s probably well worth it.”
Urban deer zones were established in 1996 in four cities — Evansville, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and Lafayette. Hunters were given the incentive to take two extra antlerless deer with archery equipment, beginning with the traditional archery season opener on Oct. 1.
The intent was to address expanding urban areas that inadvertently created refuge areas or safety zones for deer.
“It creates great habitat,” Stewart said. “There’s nothing better than a little city garden or someone’s house lined with hostas. Once deer figure out that it’s safe and they have a lot of food, they just incorporate that into their daily or yearly patterns.”
Other communities have been designated as urban deer zones since, and in 2002 the bag limit and dates were expanded. Hunters can now take four deer (three antlerless, one antlered) in urban zones from Sept. 15 through Jan. 31.
Three rule changes were made last year:
To understand these new rules, start with the fact that urban zone bag limits are separate from bag limits for all other segments of the deer hunting season.
Also, a person with an urban zone license can begin hunting in an urban zone on Sept. 15 and continue through Jan. 31. But a person with an archery license can’t begin hunting the same area until Oct. 1 and not beyond Jan. 5.
Finally, a hunter attempting to fill the urban zone bag limit must take an antlerless deer first before taking a buck.
Earn-a-buck does not apply to any other license or season.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.