Wednesday evening, anyone associated with or interested in local deer populations and hunting limits is invited to attended the first county meeting of a new deer advisory council forming in Dubois County.
Dubois County is one of six counties in the state taking part in a pilot program designed to give local hunters and others impacted by deer herds a voice in the decision-making process for annual antlerless deer hunting limits. The forming of the county deer advisory councils (CDAC) is the next step for a statewide group, Indiana Whitetail Deer Herd Management, a statewide conservation group, to help add more control to how deer herds are managed.
Rick Pflanz and Steve Pace, both Huntingburg residents, are members of Indiana Whitetail Deer Herd Management and the organizers of the local council. County Deer Advisory Council
“The (deer) numbers are down,” Pflanz said. “There are a lot of hunters that are not seeing the numbers now that they once saw.”
He added that the state just completed its fifth year of efforts to reduce herd sizes which began as farmers and others impacted by large numbers of deer complained about the impact those numbers were having on crops. In response, DNR authorized bonus tags and additional seasons to reduce deer herd sizes. “When you throw out there the fact that you can kill a large number of deer per hunter in each county, the perception is there that the herd is stronger than it really is,” he explained.
On top of antlerless deer permits, other impacts such as predators and diseases like EHD are reducing deer populations.
But even with the deer herd populations being down, the annual reported harvest is up or stayed steady. According to Pflanz, the new seasons and new methods for harvesting deer like high-powered rifles and crossbows, have allowed those harvests to remain steady despite dropping populations. “Now, the pendulum has swung the other direction where the ag community is not that concerned,” he explained.
The goal of the CDAC is to allow a voice from all stakeholders at a county level. If the program moves forward from the initial pilot, hopefully, each county across the state will have deer councils to help guide local numbers for issuing antlerless deer tags. If implemented, the recommendations will be continually reviewed by residents, stakeholders and hunters.
“We aren’t interested in debating season length, season structure or weapons allowed,” Pflanz said “The only thing a county deer advisory council is interested in is the number of antlerless bonus tags, period.”
The first meeting of the council will be held Wednesday, April 12 at 6 p.m at Reflections in Huntingburg. It’s open to the public and free to attend. Then, over the next few weeks, organizers will be gathering data to send to the regional DNR biologist to give him a better assessment of deer herds from the hunters and residents impacted by deer.
To gather the data, an online survey is available here or paper surveys can be picked up at Great Outdoors, Weisheit Guns, Jeff’s Bait & Guns in Jasper and Dave’s Guns in Holland.
The survey has already been active and according to Pflanz, the information coming in doesn’t just cover deer. “We are getting interesting feedback on the bobcat and rabbit populations,” he said. That information will be included in the report given to the director of fish and wildlife.
The survey will be open until April 26 and information collected will be released at a meeting planned for April 27 at 6:30 p.m. in Reflections before being sent to DNR. The meetings will be recorded and available on the organization’s Facebook page.
More information about Indiana Whitetail Deer Herd Management is available online here; or on Facebook here.
“We’re just trying to control deer populations so they can be enjoyed for future generations,” Pflanz said. “We are a conservation group.”