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Special Antlerless Firearms Season

During the 2020-2021 deer hunting season, the Special Antlerless Firearms season will be open statewide, except in those counties with a county bonus antlerless quota designation of “A,” from Dec. 26, 2020 to Jan. 3, 2021.

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. The Special Antlerless Firearms season is a late-season opportunity that typically runs for about 10 days immediately after Christmas, and it only occurs in counties with a bonus antlerless quota of 4 or more. Faced with this issue, Indiana DNR allowed 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 will be 3 or less in continued response to the impact EHD had on the deer population in 2019. After assessing the effects of EHD across the state and setting the bonus antlerless quotas for the 2020-2021 season, Indiana DNR realized that the Special Antlerless Firearms season would not be available for hunters across the state. Indiana DNR began evaluating the effect the Special Antlerless Firearms season has had on the deer population, hunters’ opinions of this season, and potential new criteria for allowing the season in Indiana.

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 do not like having the Special Antlerless Firearms season may be that it is used in conjunction with county bonus antlerless quotas. In order 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.

Special Antlerless Firearms Season and 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.

Special Antlerless Firearms Season, 2020-2021

Because hunters generally favor the Special Antlerless Firearms season, and research has shown it has little impact on the deer population, Indiana DNR explored ways to allow this season in 2020 that were not tied to the county bonus antlerless quotas. 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, the Special Antlerless Firearm Season will be open statewide, except in those counties with a county bonus antlerless quota designation of “A”, from Dec. 26, 2020 to Jan. 3, 2021. 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.

Tell Us What You Think

Indiana DNR is interested in hearing hunter feedback on the topic. A survey will be available to collect hunter opinions about the season both before and after the season. Hunters can provide input by clicking on the survey link below. Indiana DNR will evaluate the effects of the Special Antlerless Firearms season on the harvest at the completion of deer hunting season and will provide a report on these effects and the results of the survey in early 2021.

  • Take the Survey. You will need a valid Customer ID number to complete the survey. Every hunter who has purchased a license or checked in a deer has a Customer ID number. It is printed at the top of your annual license, and it is in the confirmation emails you received from Indiana DNR.

Map

During the 2020-2021 deer hunting season, the Special Antlerless Firearms Season is available in all counties except Benton and Tipton, whose county quotas are “A.”

Map of Special antlerless firearms seasons since 2012.

Special antlerless firearms seasons since 2012.