(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – Whitetail deer don't know what's about to hit them.
Indiana's annual firearms season begins Saturday and continues through Nov. 28 with a near-record harvest expected.
In 2009, Indiana hunters took 132,752 deer. Most of those, roughly 83,000, were harvested during the firearms season including almost 36,000 on opening weekend.
Southeast Indiana has long been one of the state's most popular destinations for deer hunters. Switzerland County had the state's third-highest harvest with 3,223 in 2009. Dearborn and Franklin counties also ranked in the top ten counties statewide.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources expects hunters to have no problem crossing paths with a deer this year.
"Harvest numbers for the season will always be about the same as the previous year," DNR deer biologist Chad Stewart said. "With the dry fall we've been having, the corn harvest is vastly accelerated compared to last year, which means less potential cover for deer. I anticipate a record or near-record harvest, and obviously, the firearms season is a major component of that harvest."
Most hunters eye their trophy buck during opening weekend. Six antlered deer are killed for every four antlerless deer during the opening days.
"That's what causes hunters to lie awake the night before and it's what they think about while sitting in their hunting stand while it's still pitch black out that opening morning. So hunters are undoubtedly selecting their bucks to harvest on that opening weekend," said Stewart.
As the season wears on, hunters begin to settle for more does and the antlerless deer total eventually surpasses the antlered total.
According to the DNR, favorable weather conditions were a factor in hunters killing 35,898 deer on the opening weekend of firearms season in 2009, an increase of more than 4,700 over the first two days of the 2008 firearms season. A weather system that went through on opening day of the 2008 season brought rain, sleet, and freezing rain to much of Indiana, reducing the harvest during opening day of that year.
Indiana law requires hunters to obtain a license. They can be purchased online at IndianaOutdoor.IN.gov or by calling (317) 232-4200.