Pilot deer group CDAC gaining traction

If there is one thing a large portion of our population is passionate about, it’s our whitetail deer herd. The Indiana Whitetail Deer Herd Management Group “IWDHM” is committed to advocating for the overall health of our native deer and the preservation of our hunting heritage.

In an effort to solicit grassroots input from hunters, farmers, conservationists and anyone with an interest in our wild deer, the all-volunteer group has embarked on a pilot project giving those from individual counties the opportunity to have their voices heard.

County Deer Advisory Councils “CDAC” have been formed in six individual counties with nearly 20 more on deck. Due to the large number of sportsmen Howard County was selected as one of the first.

The inaugural meeting was held last Saturday at Rodgers Pavilion and was greeted with a full house. “It’s great to see this many people at our first meeting,” said local CDAC Chairman Ed Hunt. Our local board is made up of farmers, hunters and local law enforcement. Sitting on the committee, with Hunt, include Dave Shepherd, Denny Heaton, Roy Smith, Clint VanNatter and this crotchety outdoor scribe.

The CDAC is based on a very successful system used in Wisconsin. Their model directly influences policies affecting legislation governing their state’s deer herd. In essence, the badger state has given stakeholders back their voice in the management of their deer. It’s the same thing many hope will happen in Indiana.

“We want to organize advisory councils in all of Indiana’s 92 counties,” said Matt Barton of the IWDHM. “Our objective is to try and help the DNR by providing statewide input to help guide them in future management policies.”

In addition to the strong gathering last weekend, hundreds of surveys were also submitted by those unable to attend. 85 percent of all respondents believe we now have too few deer. The most prevalent issue was the large number of bonus county antlerless licenses made available over the past several years. Nearly 90 percent felt the state is issuing far too many extra antlerless licenses.

Many are still scratching their heads wondering why the number is so large. It wasn’t that long ago when Howard County received an “8” in bonus county antlerless licenses. This means in addition to the regular number of four deer that could be collected by those hunting Howard County, they could also purchase an additional eight bonus licenses. Last year Howard County hunters could purchase three additional bonus tags.

At the conclusion of last year’s deer hunting season the statewide harvest stood at 119,477, substantially lower than the record high of 136,248 deer taken in 2012. But it may be even lower than most may realize. This year’s number also included deer taken during state park reduction hunts and those marked for depredation. The 2016 season also saw the use of high-powered rifles and the inclusion of the additional special antlerless-only season.

Other information provided by Hunt was interesting. For example, Howard County contains roughly 294 square miles. But only 21 square miles is considered stable deer habitat. Roy Smith, who serves on the Kokomo Police Department, said there were 117 reported car/deer collisions during 2016. The majority happened on highways 26, 22, and 31 along with certain portions of Alto and Center Roads.

The DNR has been fairly open stating they have moved from a “maintenance” policy to a “reduction” program. Our deer herd is a precious commodity contributing almost one billion dollars to our state’s economy. In addition, a robust deer herd is important in getting and keeping children and future generations involved in the great tradition of hunting and a way to perpetuate our heritage. Sadly, the number of youth hunting licenses sold over the past several years has declined.

Its well-known consumptive outdoor enthusiasts are some of the staunchest conservationists. A decline in future sportspeople can deal a sad blow to our environment and natural resources.

Another CDAC meeting is planned for Hamilton County on April 22 beginning at 10am. It will be held at Noblesville’s Koteewi Archery Range, 11909 Koteewi Dr.

All of the input gathered at the CDAC meetings will be forwarded to the DNR in hopes it will benefit future game management policies and regulations. “It is our hopes to become an intermediary between those with a direct interest in our deer herd and the DNR,” said Hunt. There is no doubt the state regulates our deer herd from state line to state line. But it’s up to us, to do what we can, to help manage our wildlife in the areas we hunt.