State parks to temporarily close for deer hunts

Column by Brandon Butler

When Colonel Richard Lieber founded the Indiana State Park system in 1916, his goal was to preserve areas of the state blessed with spectacular natural beauty while providing citizens a place to enjoy time spent outdoors. He meant for visitors to walk and talk, bike and hike, picnic and fish, and more. I don’t believe the good Colonel had hunting in mind as regular activity inside his sanctuaries, but oh how plans change.

In 1993, Brown County State Park was in trouble. The deer population was out of control. Native plants and flowers were in a state of devastation. Bark was torn from tree trunks and flower pots by the inn couldn’t sustain decorative appeal because a starving deer would rather eat a tulip than ponder its beauty.

Enter Father Damian Schmelz. An enshrined member of the Indiana Conservation Hall of Fame, this incredibly interesting, deceased Catholic Priest from the hills of Southwest Indiana led a committee charged with fixing the deer problem in our state parks. The committee considered all sorts of means of population control, from relocation to birth control. In the end, the committee couldn’t come up with a better answer than hunting.

The genius of the decision to put Father Damian as the leader of the committee was twofold. First of all, he has PhD in Plant Ecology from Purdue University. Secondly, he’s a priest. Who’s going to fight a priest? Especially a priest with a PhD, who through his work with nature preserves, is in great part responsible for the protection of thousands upon thousands of acres of Indiana’s wildest lands. The leadership choice was perfect.

When the first state park deer reduction hunt was held at Brown County State Park in 1993, there was some controversy and some protesting. It didn’t take long though, for even the anti-hunters to figure out, hunting was the right decision. In just a few years, the park’s flora came back to life. From Brown County, reduction deer hunts spread across the state.

This year select Indiana state parks will be closed temporarily for two rounds of controlled deer reductions in the coming weeks. DNR biologists evaluate which parks require a reduction in deer population, based on habitat recovery and previous hunter success at each park. The first hunts took place on Monday and Tuesday. The second ones will take place on Monday, Nov. 26, and Tuesday, Nov. 27. The participating state park properties will close to the general public on the evening before each of the two efforts.

The state park properties closing temporarily for the reductions are: Brown County, Chain O’Lakes, Clifty Falls, Fort Harrison, Harmonie, Indiana Dunes, Lincoln, Ouabache, Potato Creek, Prophetstown, Shades, Shakamak, Summit Lake, Tippecanoe River, Turkey Run, Versailles and Whitewater Memorial state parks, as well as Cave River Valley Natural Area and Trine State Recreation Area.

Only individuals already selected from a special drawing may participate in the hunts.

See you down the trail…




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