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Special Antlerless Firearms Season

Need to Know

  • 2020-2021 season dates: Dec. 26, 2020, to Jan. 3, 2021
  • Open in all counties, except in those counties with a county bonus antlerless quota designation of “A.”
  • County bonus antlerless quotas still apply for each participating county.
  • Changes to this season for 2020-2021 are temporary. DNR will assess the effects of opening the season statewide before making permanent changes to this season.

Justification for Special Antlerless Firearms Season Change

Background

Before the 2019-2020 deer hunting season began, Indiana DNR lowered all county bonus antlerless quotas to 2 or less to mitigate the effects of the epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) outbreak in southern Indiana. As a result of this change, the Special Antlerless Firearms season was no longer available in any county because Indiana Administrative Code (312 IAC 9-3-4) establishes that the season occurs only in counties with a bonus antlerless quota of 4 or more. Faced with this issue, Indiana DNR made a temporary emergency regulation change to allow counties that had a quota of 4 or more immediately prior to the EHD outbreak to retain the late season.

For the 2020-2021 deer hunting season, the county bonus antlerless quotas are 3 or less in continued response to the impact EHD had on the deer population in 2019.  The lowered quotas would again mean the Special Antlerless Firearms season would not be available for hunters across the state. As a result, Indiana DNR began evaluating the effect of the Special Antlerless Firearms season on the deer population and hunters’ opinions of this season to identify potential new criteria for allowing the season in Indiana that did not depend on the county bonus antlerless quota number.

Effect on Deer Harvest

In the 2019 Indiana White-tailed Deer Report, Indiana DNR examined the impact the Special Antlerless Firearms season has had on the deer harvest. The analysis examined the difference in harvest between counties that had dropped from a county quota of 4 to a county quota of 3, and it accounted for the expected drop in harvest due to the reduced quotas. Results showed that the expected change in harvest from closing this season was likely between 6% and 7%, which is often about the same variation that occurs in the harvest from year to year in the absence of any regulation change.

Hunter Opinion

In the 2013 and 2016 deer hunter surveys, Indiana DNR asked hunters their opinions on the Special Antlerless Firearms season (see the 2017 Indiana White-tailed Deer Report). In general, hunters were split in their opinions of this season, but there was a greater percentage of hunters who were in favor of the season than not. In the survey, hunters were asked if they like having or would like to have the Special Antlerless Firearms season in their county. In both 2013 and 2016, over 50% of hunters liked having this season and between 25% and 35% did not like having this season.

One reason hunters did not like having the Special Antlerless Firearms season may have been that it is used in conjunction with county bonus antlerless quotas. To have this season, county quotas must be high, which can have a greater impact on the deer population. In general, Indiana DNR surveys have shown that hunters favor lower bonus antlerless quotas, and it is believed that some of the dislike for the Special Antlerless Firearms season is tied to that number. Likewise, one reason this season was created was because it was thought to increase harvest and help lower the deer population.

Conclusion of Evaluation

Because research has shown the Special Antlerless Firearms season has little impact on the deer population, and hunters generally favor the season, Indiana DNR explored ways to allow this season in 2020 in all counties regardless of the county bonus antlerless quota. The only objective application of the season that was identified was to allow it in counties where the number of firearm opportunity days are not restricted (i.e., in all counties except those with a quota designation of “A,” which allows for the harvest of a bonus antlerless deer but restricts the number of days that can be hunted).

Therefore, during the 2020-2021 deer hunting season, Indiana DNR opened the Special Antlerless Firearm Season statewide, except in those counties with a county bonus antlerless quota designation of “A”, from Dec. 26, 2020, to Jan. 3, 2021. The county bonus antlerless quotas still apply for each participating county.

This is not a permanent change. Indiana DNR plans to allow the season statewide for a year or two to collect data on both the biological effects of the extended season and to further assess hunter opinions on this season.

Map of Special antlerless firearms seasons since 2012.

Special antlerless firearms seasons since 2012.