Well, the days are getting hotter but shorter so it is about that time of year where most of us start to really get excited about the upcoming fall. We are starting to see some potential bruisers on the trail cameras and the fawn sightings are also fueling our obsession. The practice shooting is going well and our scouting is producing new ideas for that “can’t miss” stand site.  Maybe we have even gotten a glimpse of the giant that eluded us last fall.  Is this the year that we finally arrow that dream buck?
Well in Indiana, this just might be the year for us bowhunters to fulfill our dreams. The prospect for a record harvest is very good in 2008.  Whitetail harvests in Indiana hit a record level in 2005 with 125,526 animals being checked-in after harvest.  Epizootic hemorrhagicdisease (EHD) popped up in Indiana in 2006 heavily in Clay, Fountain, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan and Vermillion counties in the west central portion of the state, and in some areas the local deer populations were devastated.  Even with the EHD crisis in 2006, checked-in harvests totalled 125,381, just off from the previous record year.  In 2007, EHD reared its ugly head again but not nearly to the degree originally feared.  Checked-in harvests dropped to 124,427 but much of this drop was attributed to weather conditions during hunting season.  The antlered deer harvest was just about the same as in 2005, with the non-antlered harvest being reduced by approximately 1,000 deer.  During the three year period, the button buck harvest remained consistent at approximately 7% of the total harvest.

 

This brings us to the upcoming 2008 season.  The winter of 2007-2008 brought heavy snow to much of Indiana but very few conditions that would cause a heavy winter kill.  The summer drought of 2007 has been replaced with heavy rains and flooding over the central and southern portions of the state.  June rainfall over the southern two-thirds of the state have averaged 500% – 1,000% of the normal rainfall for the month.  In spite of this, very little wildlife loss is anticipated.   Agriculturally speaking, the loss is devastating and is anticipated to be the largest agricultural disaster in Indiana history.  In many areas of the southern portion of the state, the crop loss will be greater than 50% with corn suffering the largest losses but soybeans will also be affected. 

 

Because of the heavy rain, the wetland, woodland and meadow areas are experiencing strong growth and health.  Vegatation is lush and thick across the state with the berry production looking very good at this point.  It would appear at this point that browse will be in great supply this year notwithstanding any drought activity that comes along later in the summer.  For those who plant foodplots, the growth prospects look great.  Foodplots not hampered from the spring floods are looking very healthy.  The reduction in viable agricultural crops will no doubt push many more deer toward the foodplots.  I personally have seen an unprecedented number of mature deer utilizing foodplots this June.  So many, in fact, that I am mowing and spraying more areas to get even more foodplots planted in early July.

 

Since mid-May, the fawn sightings seem to be above normal compared to most years.  Throughout much of the state, the youngest mothers are producing healthy singles while the 2.5 years old and older does are producing twins and triplets in some cases.  By most accounts, it appears to be a bumper crop year for whitetails.

 

So far, all conditions point to a record harvest this year throughout most of the state.  The northeastern counties, which have led the harvest totals for several years are expected to again reign supreme as they have not been affected by weather or EHD.  Steuben and surrounding counties will continue to lead the deer harvest without a doubt and for the first time could see harvest figures reach 4,000 deer per county.  The central portions of the state continue to have an exploding deer population so harvests should be strong provided the hunter count remains consistent.  The southern counties will continue to produce large quantities of deer that are heavy in both weight and antler size.

 

As certain factors such as QDM and the Indiana one buck rule, among others, continue to play out the size of the average buck taken has improved.  Also improving is the number of record book bucks taken in both the Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young systems.  Many so-called experts are now listing Indiana as one of the top states to harvest a record book buck.  Most hoosiers have known this for several years now, but the word seems to be spreading.  While we are no Iowa yet, the odds of seeing a record book quality buck are decent to good across most parts of Indiana.  And we all know that big bucks produce baby big bucks so the trend should continue over the next few years.  Several bucks over 200 inches gross score were taken in Indiana in 2007, and many more 160 to 180 inch deer were harvested than ever before.

 

While we won’t know the actual harvest until after the fact, 2008 is setting up to be a record year in Indiana based upon both total deer taken and record book bucks.  Practice regularly, scout hard and maybe 2008 will be a hunting year that you remember forever.