MITCHELL — Hunters killed 52 deer during four days of hunting at Spring Mill State Park and its sister property, Cave River Valley Nature Preserve, during the Indiana Department of Natural Resources' annual controlled deer culls last month.
The number falls as an average of the past five deer culls held at the two properties.
"We can't do anything more than speculate as to why the figures fell the way they did," said Spring Mill Assistant Property Manager Jess Beck who, as a new member of the state park team, witnessed her first controlled deer hunt with this year's harvest. Beck said, until state wildlife biologists assess the results of the hunts, then it's anyone's guess as to the deer trends.
"They'll look at the numbers across the state parks."
The hunts were conducted Nov. 13, 14, 27 and 28 at designated parks throughout the state of Indiana. The first two days of the hunts took place before the official start of firearms season.
At Spring Mill, 26 deer were killed the first two days of hunting while 20 were taken at Cave River Valley. Two weeks later, the numbers dropped significantly with four deer taken at CRV and only two taken at Spring Mill.
Campbellsburg's Cave River Valley, which boasts about 314 acres, welcomed 16 hunters the first day of the hunt, then 14 on the second day. Two weeks later, CRV had nine hunters on Nov. 27 and five hunters on Nov. 28. The maximum number of hunters were employed the first days of the hunts.
At Spring Mill, with 1,300 acres, the number of hunters is higher. On the first day, there were 64 hunters with 40 on the second day. During the second round of hunts, the park had 30 the first day and 15 on the final day.
Beck said the hunters are usually situated every 20 acres with 16 to 18 as the maximum at CRV and 65 the maximum at Spring Mill.
"The weather was really good for both hunts," Beck said.
That, she said, can work for or against the hunts. If it's too cold and blustery, hunters shy away from showing up because the deer tend to be bedded down and not on the move. If it's too warm, then some hunters worry the meat will go bad too soon.
"And deer could've responded to the weather, too," Beck said. "It's really hard to tell."
But the deer are roaming through both properties. Beck said she has seen several, both before and after the hunts, but believes she has seen less since the hunts commenced.
"It's definitely not the amounts I was seeing before the hunts," she said.
There were no hunts at the local properties in 2015, but before that, hunters culled 57 deer in 2012, 55 deer in 2013 and 31 in 2014. Last year, hunters killed 68 deer during the four days of controlled hunts.
The hunts are scheduled, as needed based on research by the Department of Natural Resources, as a way to control the deer population in state parks. Having an overpopulation of deer can be detrimental to the wildlife within the state-owned properties.