It’s a fine time to be a deer hunter in Indiana. For proof, you only have to look to recent Hoosier deer harvests.

“We have had record deer harvests in Indiana in three of the past five years, with the past five years ranking 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7 all time,” says Chad Stewart, deer biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Obviously given the high harvests in recent years, our state’s deer herd is doing well.”

Find the forecast for your state’s 2012 deer season.

But Indiana has been dry, rated as “Moderate” to “Severe” drought across much of the state this summer. June precipitation was the third lowest on record in since 1930. Yet, Stewart didn’t think the lack of rain would hurt the deer.

“Forage has never been a problem in Indiana due to the abundance of agriculture in the state,” he says. “Crops are starting to feel the pressure of a mid-summer drought, but there is plenty of forage still available for deer.”

But with the dry comes fears of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD). By early August, EHD was the presumed cause of deer deaths in 11 Indiana counties. The west-central counties of Morgan and Putnam were the scene of the most intense outbreaks.

Indiana has seen EHD pop up four of the last five years. Usually, the EHD events are very localized, with just a relative handful of deer dying from the midge-borne disease. Yet, in 2007, EHD went through deer herds in 59 counties, killing hundreds and hundreds of deer.

Bucks are most active the first full week of November, Stewart said, “though in any given year, it could be shifted a couple days in either direction.”

The Midwestern Regional Report
Winter in the Midwest was mild to nonexistent, and deer herds came into spring in very good shape. However, drought could be an issue in some states. “Hard and soft mast crops will likely be compromised, and clover and row crop production is threatened by dry conditions,” says Iowa deer biologist Tom Litchfield. In parts of Indiana and Illinois, some farmers were forced to plow under failing corn or chop it up for cattle feed in midsummer. Deer numbers are stable to growing in most locales, though disease is taking a toll in several states. North Dakota is still reeling from last year’s EHD outbreak, CWD is spreading within Illinois and Wisconsin, bovine tuberculosis is still a concern in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, and Nebraska and Missouri experienced EHD outbreaks this summer.
Top Trophy Zones**
IL: Pike, Adams, Brown, and Fulton counties.
KS: Units 11, 12, and 16.
KY: Christian, Grayson, Hardin, Hart, Muhlenberg, and Ohio counties.
MI: Calhoun, Cass, Jackson, and Washtenaw counties.
MN: Zone 3. This fall will be the third year of antler-point restrictions here.
MO: Saline, Putnam, Calloway, Chariton, and Cooper counties.
NE: Since 2005, hunters have taken 44 record-book mule deer bucks in Cherry County, including a 171 2⁄8 typical in 2010 and a 210 4⁄8 non-typical in 2005.
OH: Muskingum County.
WI: Buffalo, Trempealeau, and Waupaca counties. Between 2005 and 2010, the Dairy State led all other states with 383 Boone and Crockett entries.