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Natural Resources Commission seeks input on proposed deer hunting changes
 
Spaulding Outdoors
By Jack Spaulding
 
 The Indiana Natural Resources Commission has opened a public comment period for proposed changes to Indiana’s deer hunting rules before they vote on final adoption of the proposed changes. Most proposed changes intend to simplify Indiana’s deer hunting rules to make them easier to understand.
Public comments can be submitted online at IN.gov/nrc/rules/rulemaking-docket/ via the “Comment on this rule” link in the Rulemaking Docket for the Deer Hunting Amendments. Comments can also be mailed to: Natural Resources Commission, Indiana Government Center North, 100 North Senate Ave. Room N103, Indianapolis, IN 46204.
The deadline for public comments is March 20. A public hearing will be held on March 20 from 4-8 p.m. ET at the Garrison at Fort Harrison State Park in Indianapolis. Individuals may attend in person or online anytime during the timeframe. To attend the public hearing, starting at 4 p.m. on March 20, go to Microsoft Teams and enter Meeting ID: 296 491 887 327, Passcode: xTCuyW.
Sign up for updates online at wildlife.IN.gov/rule-regulation-changes.
Proposed changes include:
• A statewide bag limit of six antlerless deer.
• A newly created County Antlerless Bag Limit instead of season antlerless bag limits. Because of the change, the bonus antlerless license would be the multiple-season antlerless license which could be used in the archery, muzzleloader, and firearms seasons.
• Hunters would not be able to harvest an antlerless deer on Fish & Wildlife properties with a firearm.
• The use of crossbow equipment would be allowed with the archery license.
• The minimum caliber for a muzzleloader would be reduced from 0.44 inches to 0.40 inches.
• If a deer is unfit for human consumption, DNR staff would be able to issue an authorization to take an antlerless deer in its place and the deer will not count toward the statewide bag limit or county limit.
• Adding the deer Reduction Zones and County Antlerless Bag Limits.
• Removing the Special Antlerless Firearms season.
For more information on the proposed rule changes, visit wildlife.IN.gov/rule-regulation-changes/. Any questions about the proposed deer rule changes should be directed to 812-334-3795 or to the deer hotline at: indeerhotline@dnr.IN.gov.
 
Dog running season
Need an excuse to get back in the field between hunting seasons? Winter is the perfect time to train your hunting dogs. Dog running season goes until Oct. 25, and you can train at many DNR Fish & Wildlife areas.
Remember it is running season only, and there can be no harvest of game. Take advantage of the time between your next trips to the woods and find a property near you.
 
Rabid skunk in Clark County
The Indiana State Board of Animal Health urges Hoosiers in Clark County to vaccinate their pets and keep their distance from wildlife after the detection of rabies for the first time in 20 years in an Indiana skunk. To avoid rabies while you’re exploring the area, avoid contact with wild animals and secure your trash. Visit the Indiana Department of Health’s website for more information about rabies prevention and safety.
If you’ve seen sick or dead wildlife, DNR wants your help reporting them through our online Sick or Dead Wildlife Report Form. Your reports are sent directly to an Indiana DNR health biologist who evaluates the reports and samples the wildlife, if necessary. The DNR Fish & Wildlife’s Health Program uses the reports to monitor wildlife health over time, detect disease outbreak events, and identify areas for disease surveillance.
 
Panel recording on hellbender conservation
In November 2023, the DNR hosted a virtual panel discussion about the conservation of one of our most charismatic and rare species in the state, the hellbender. Expert panelists from the Indiana DNR, Purdue’s Help the Hellbender project, and Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden joined the panel to provide information on the history of the species, updates on conservation partnerships around the state, and insights into future conservation techniques regarding the aquatic salamander. The panelists then answered questions from the audience.
For anyone who was not able to attend, a recording is on the DNR’s YouTube channel. Take a look to learn about our endangered aquatic salamander and how professionals are trying to help its population grow in Indiana.
 
Share mudpuppy sightings
You won’t find their face on a milk carton, but the Division of Fish & Wildlife is asking anglers to report sightings of the mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) to help biologists track populations across the state. A Species of Special Concern in Indiana, the salamander inhabits the state’s lakes and streams.
Mudpuppies, like fish, live their entire lives in water, but they are more secretive and difficult to locate. During winter, mudpuppies move into shallow water and are more frequently caught by anglers. They may also be viewed from shore using a flashlight at night, while they walk along the lake bottom. Mudpuppies are not dangerous or poisonous. They can be identified by the red, fluffy gills on the back of their heads, but the gills tend to lay flat against their bodies when they are out of the water.
If you catch a mudpuppy while fishing, please photograph it, cut your fishing line, and release the mudpuppy back into the water. Report your observation to the DNR herpetologist at HerpSurveys@dnr.IN.gov and include a clear photograph of it, the date, and the location where it was found. The DNR appreciates your help tracking the unique salamander.

Contact the author by writing to this publication, or by e-mail to jackspaulding1971@outlook.com.
Spaulding’s books, “The Best of Spaulding Outdoors,” and his latest, “The Coon Hunter And The Kid,” are available from Amazon.com in paperback or as a Kindle download.
2/6/2024