The most popular phase of Indiana deer hunting kicks off Saturday with firearms season, and it serves as a reminder to hunters: Follow the rules, practice ethical hunting behavior, and have an enjoyable, safe time in the woods.
It’s estimated that at least a quarter-million Hoosiers participate in firearms season, which runs from Saturday (Nov. 16) through Dec. 1.
Hunters are required to have a valid deer license unless otherwise exempt. Exemptions are listed in the DNR Hunting/Trapping Guide, available at outdoor retail stores or online (dnr.IN.gov/fishwild/2343.htm).
Deer licenses can be purchased at IndianaOutdoor.IN.gov, at many DNR-managed properties, and at hundreds of retail outlets across the state.
A deer firearms license costs $24 for Indiana residents, $150 for non-residents.
A firearms license allows a hunter to take one antlered deer with a legal firearm. A bonus antlerless license is needed to take antlerless deer during firearms season. Bonus antlerless county quotas are set for each of Indiana’s 92 counties.
Archery season, which began Oct. 1, runs concurrently with firearms season and ends on Jan. 5, 2014.
Successful hunters are required to report their harvest within 48 hours, either to a DNR-designated check station or through the CheckIN Game program. CheckINgame.dnr.IN.gov is a free online option, or the call-in option can be used at 1-800-419-1326 for a $3 charge (Visa or MasterCard only).
In 2012, hunters reported a record harvest of 136,248 deer, with 55 percent of the total coming during firearms season.
The DNR manages about 350,000 acres of public land — state forests, state reservoirs and state fish & wildlife areas — that are available to deer hunters. Hoosier National Forest offers another 202,000 acres.
A considerable amount of deer hunting also occurs on private land.
Whether hunting on private or public ground, hunters should practice safe hunting habits. Wear hunter orange clothing, identify your target before pulling the trigger, and respect private property.
Hunting accidents are extremely rare, but when they do occur, it usually involves falls from elevated hunting stands. The DNR Division of Law Enforcement records about 30 hunting-related accidents each year, and about two-thirds involve falls from elevated tree stands. When using such a stand, an easy way to avoid injury is to use a full-body safety harness. It can mean the difference between minor injuries or falling and sustaining serious injuries or even death.
“Invest in a quality safety harness,” DNR director Cameron Clark said. “It’s the least expensive life insurance policy you’ll ever buy.”