Meat Hunters vs. Horn Hunters
Shaping Up In Indiana

From the Hoosier Times, March 3, 2002...

The Div. of Fish and Wildlife reported last week that the 2001 white-tail deer harvest was up four percent, and that the numbers indicate a healthy Indiana deer herd.

"Hoosier hunters took more than 103,000 deer in Indiana during the 2001 deer hunting season -- a four percent increase over the previous year's deer harvest of 98,725.

"This is the first increase in deer harvest since 1996 and the second highest adult buck harvest on record. Hunters took 48,357 bucks last season. The

highest buck harvest was 50,812 in 1994," said the DFW report.

That the buck harvest went up last season may reflect a trend toward more trophy hunting in the state, although it is impossible to tell based on the number of harvested bucks alone. Thatís because an emphasis on trophy deer would only be revealed by comparing antler size or animal weight. A trophy hunting emphasis would see hunters by-passing smaller animals, meaning there ought to be a decreasing percentage of button bucks.

However, there has been wide discussion of placing an emphasis on trophy hunting versus meat hunting during the last year, and it there just might be a hint of something like this happening in the statistics.

Just for the exercise, take a look at the number of antlered versus non-antlered deer taken by county last season. Here is a summary of counties of interest to this newspaperís readership area where (a) is antlered, (al) is antlerless and the third figure is the county total:

Brown: (a) 727; (al) 230; 937

Dubois: (a) 659; (al) 827; 1,486

Greene: (a) 875; (al) 761; 1,636

Jackson: (a) 918; (al) 1,246; 2,164

Lawrence: (a) 791; (al) 867; 1,657

Martin: (a) 509; (al) 528); 1,037

Monroe: (a) 712; (al) 802; 1,514

Morgan: (a) 579); (al) 701; 1,278

Owen: (a) 712; (al) 613; 1,325

Orange: (a) 859; (al) 1,118; 1,978

Putnam: (a) 858; (al) 922; 1780

For sake of discussion only, I am classifying counties with solid majorities on the buck or doe side as trophy or meat counties, respectively. There are no doubt many reasons other than hunter preference for these sex differences in the bag limits, but there is a good chance that hunter preference is at work in the most dramatic cases, at least.

Note that there are a few counties where there is a dramatic difference between the number of antlered versus antlerless deer. In Brown Co., for example, there were 500 more antlered deer tagged than antlerless ones. Bucks made up 75 percent of the Brown Co. harvest. Brown County is a trophy county. Other counties with a majority of bucks in the total harvest are Greene and Owen, both known for producing large bucks in past years.

On the other side, nearly 60 percent of the deer taken in Jackson Co. were antlerless. Dubois, Morgan and Orange county totals make them solid meat-hunting counties. Counties with a slight majority of antlerless deer include Lawrence, Monroe, Putnam.

The Martin County split is just barely over 50 percent for meat hunters.

Since Monroe, Jackson and Lawrence counties all have land within the stateís largest public hunting area, the Hoosier National Forest, it seems probable that this explains some of the sex bias. These are hunters without private ground to hunt, and they canít afford to be as selective as a hunter on the edge of a corn field in Greene or Owen County where there arenít any other hunters nearby.

This reasoning cannot explain the Brown County disparity. Hunters in Brown County must be concentrating more on bucks to a great degree.

The idea of turning Indiana into a trophy buck state means that hunters would be encouraged to pass up small bucks and be very selective in choosing a large animal. Experienced hunters who are interested in trophies are most likely to do this. In areas where hunters are primarily after venison on the table, changing them into trophy hunters is probably going to be less productive.

Although I have always seen food on the table as the only legitimate reason for killing any wild animal, it is anyoneís right to hunt for a trophy if they want to do so, and it seems that a lot of hunters are doing just that.


The top five counties for deer harvest last season were Steuben - 2,664; Dearborn - 2,510; Washington - 2,426; Switzerland - 2,406 Franklin - 2,305. The majority of deer taken in these counties were does, making them meat counties too.

The bottom five counties are all around Indianapolis, except for Benton County which is on the northern prairie where even small patches of woods are scarce.

You can check more 2001 deer hunt statistics on the internet at


©Copyright 2002. Jordan Communications