Deer Hunting Indiana: The Midwest's Overlooked Hotspot

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Indiana deer hunter
The Indiana Deer Hunter featured in this article with his 12 point trophy buck. Hunter shown wearing Lost Camo.

At daybreak, shotgun and muzzleloader blasts began rumbling in the distance. Like several other Midwest states, centerfire rifles cannot be used to hunt deer in Indiana. (In addition to shotguns and muzzleloaders, pistols also may be used during the firearms season). Around 7:30, they could see well enough to shoot, so the deer hunter began his first calling sequence.

First, he let out a few doe-in-heat bawls on his Primos The Can call, followed by a series of short buck grunt calls. And then he repeated myself.

Within minutes, a bald deer appeared in the WRP, heading directly toward his tree stand. It turned out to be a button buck. That little deer climbed the hill he was seated on and walked through the timber to the field edge behind his tree stand, where it met up with a small six-point that was sneaking in. The two bucks approached to within 10 yards of him before they wandered back down the hill and out across the WRP.

Just as those deer disappeared, his attention was drawn to deer movement in the thicket across the WRP. The first thing he noticed was a gleaming white throat patch in the center of a huge, swollen neck. He knew it was a buck before he ever saw the rack.

successful Indiana deer hunter
A successful Indiana deer hunter prepares to haul his buck out of the field.

The deer stepped out of the briars and he spotted a substantial crown of antlers on its head. Like he was on a mission, the buck made a beeline across the WRP, heading directly toward his position.

The deer hunter's hands shook horribly as he picked up his Thompson/Center muzzleloader and rested it on the shooting rail of his tree stand. Peering through the rifle’s scope, he tried to judge the buck’s antlers, but the deer kept swiveling its head from side to side. The only conclusion he could make was the rack had a lot of points.

Even though he’d barely been on stand an hour on the first day of a scheduled three-day hunt, he decided this was a shooter and he couldn’t pass up. As the buck cut across the field about 60 yards out and hit a gap between two tulip poplars in front of his tree stand, he yelled out the traditional grunt call to get him to stop.

The buck hit the brakes and peered up onto the ridge where he was struggling to center the shaking crosshairs on his chest. Eventually, the thin lines settled just behind the buck’s muscular shoulder and he squeezed the trigger.

The rifle barked and spewed a blinding cloud of white smoke. The deer hunter leaned to the left and ducked under the haze just in time to see the buck running low and hard across the WRP toward a ditch opposite the field from him. His body language suggested he’d scored a good hit.

He saw the buck come up out of the ditch into a thin strip of woods, his rack gleaming white as it reflected the early-morning sun. He took my eyes off the buck for a split second to pick up his binoculars so he could watch him more closely. By the time he put the glasses to my face, however, the deer had vanished. A second or two later, he saw a deer carrying a good rack sprint through a clearing about 100 yards behind the spot where he’d last seen my buck. That sight planted a tiny seed of doubt in his head.

Indiana Deer Opener
Indiana’s deer opener was a good one for Midwest Bucks deer hunters. Hunter shown wearing Lost Camo.

Still, judging by the buck’s reaction to his shot, he felt pretty confident as he walked across the WRP. That doubt began to bloom when he found absolutely no sign of a hit in the field. The deer hunter walked the path he figured the buck had taken, following it out of the WRP and across the deep ditch. But he found nearly a drop of blood nor a bit of hair. A sickening feeling grew in my belly.

“That was probably my buck I saw running across the field,” he said to myself. “But how could I have missed that shot? It was a gimme.”

He walked back and forth through the treeline that guarded the lip of the ditch where he’d last seen the buck. Nothing. Just as he was beginning to accept the idea that he had, in fact, missed a 60-yard, broadside shot at the buck from a seated position with a solid rest, he barreled through some head-high brush and caught a glimpse of an odd-looking form on the ground ahead of him.

A few more steps and he made out the shape of a leg. He hadn’t missed after all! When he walked up to the buck, the first thing he noticed was the deer’s mammoth body. The hunting guide later weighed it, and it tipped the scales at 240 pounds before being dressed.

The next thing he did was start counting points. There were 10 primary points on the main beams and two stickers protruding from the bases, making it a 12-point in his book. Two more points were broken off the main beams, so it had been a 14-pointer at some point.

The hunting guide was the first person to show up on the scene to help haul his trophy buck out of the field. He’d been guiding hunters in both Illinois and Indiana for the past 10 years. And although Illinois gets the lion’s share of attention from the deer hunting community, the hunting guide believes Indiana is just as productive.

“Indiana has the same deer,” he said. “Same food, same minerals, same genetics.”

But still, no respect. I guess you could say Indiana is the Rodney Dangerfield of the deer-hunting world.



Russell, MB
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