Indiana Deer Hunting License Structure: End the Madness

Gear Editor Trent Marsh has an idea to simplify deer tags in Indiana

deer hunting license
Whitetail" (CC BY 2.0) by USDAgov

The Problem with the Indiana Deer Hunting License System

It’s time Indiana took a good long look at the deer hunting license structure. The current system is an outdated, confusing, and illogical.

Nearly a decade has passed since the DNR had discussions with hunters across the state. The state wanted to know what could be done to help make the deer hunting license system work better. I attended one such discussion. Rather than engaging hunters in meaningful discussion, it seemed officials were sent out with strict orders to defend the nonsense and tell us why our ideas wouldn’t work.

It shouldn’t be difficult to purchase a deer license or explain deer licensing structure. Yet, Indiana continues to cling to a system many hunters don’t fully understand, and many more hate.

The sad part is Indiana doesn’t have to look beyond its neighbors to find licensing systems that make infinitely more sense. Ohio and Kentucky both have remarkably straight-forward, simple, deer licensing systems hunters in the Hoosier state would welcome. Both states have moved away from weapon and gender specific tags to simplify the licensing structure.

Meanwhile, Indiana, now a one-buck state, has clung to a licensing structure that was designed around hunters killing more than one buck. A single sex tag, buck only, for firearms almost makes sense when hunters could kill a buck in archery or muzzleloader as well. It’s been decades since a hunter could take more than one buck in Indiana. Yet the license structure from the Reagan administration persists.

Indiana soft-peddled the one-buck regulation implementation. Rather than sweeping reforms that made sense, they gingerly tip-toed around the issue, leaving licenses untouched. Eventually the bonus antlerless tags came to be. Either-sex tags remained either sex, and the overall structure was even more confusing. A second Band-Aid came in the form of the “deer bundle.” Again, rather than actually reshape the deer licensing structure for Hoosier hunters, the state employed a half-measure, further encumbering the system.

The Solution for the Indiana Deer License System

A memo to the DNR and NRC:

It’s 2016. Let’s move into the new millennia.

Eliminate weapon specific tags.

Eliminate gender specific tags.

Look to our neighbors in Ohio and Kentucky and learn from their licensing structures.

Require deer hunters to purchase a general hunting or hunt/fish combo license. ($17 or $25)

Introduce an either-sex deer hunting permit that entitles the holder to kill two deer, one of which may be antlered. The deer may be taken with legal hunting equipment for the given season. ($50)

Offer additional either-sex tags, again entitling the hunter to two deer taken with any legal weapon, in counties where the doe quota allows further hunting. ($20)

Weapon and gender-specific tags no longer represent the herd management strategies of the state of Indiana. Leaving a clunky and ridiculous deer licensing system in use shows a remarkable lack of leadership or management from Indianapolis.

For once, take decisive action to improve and simplify deer hunting in the state of Indiana.



Indiana Hunting Licenses


Trent Marsh - Gear Editor
Trent Marsh spent much of his childhood in the woods and lakes of Northeast Indiana. He has long had a passion for the outdoors. He transferred that passion into a career as the marketing manager for an optics company the last five years. In a short amount of time Trent has become a respected outdoor marketing professional and one of the next generation of outdoorspeople. When not hunting or fishing Trent is can usually be found tending his garden or chickens, or travelling the world with his wife.


  1. While it makes sense, it probably will never happen, our state deer management is politics based and not truly represented by the sportsman nor his desires. They are making too much money selling “tags” –

    I recently hunted in MS – I bought a 7 day non-resident ALL GAME hunting license for 120.00 and a deer tag for 5.00 – that allowed me to harvest 3 bucks and 5 does if I chose (bucks in MS much maintain a certain minimum size, thus eliminating spikes and smaller deer from being harvested).

    The powers that be in Indiana really do not care about our voices unfortunately, it is all about the dollar to them.

  2. Doesn’t the new license bundle allow you to make a single purchase, hunt all seasons, with all methods of take, while still only harvesting one buck? You may call that a band-aid, but I call that a FANTASTIC solution. What’s not to like? Compared to the cost, complexity and aggravation of buying all of the season-specific tags, like we did in years past, the new bundle option is perfect.

    What improvements over the deer license bundle would you propose, exactly?

    • If the bundle exists, why leave the weapon specific tags at all?

      The INDNR continues to stack regulations without addressing the underlying, previously existing regulations that encumber the system. It’s lunacy.

      • The weapon specific tags are still available for people that can/ or only want to hunt one specific season to save them money. If you really want to update deer management, lobby against the deprivation tags and keep these deer from being slaughtered and thrown in gulleys in county’s were herd sizes are dwindling down drastically. Common since apparently doesn’t exist any longer. Indiana was to slow to allow the harvest of doe, which allowed the population to explode, and now to slow to recognize we need to cut the limit in half. Or start localizing the management more by county rather than by state.

  3. So you propose $67 in license and tags for 2 deer. Yet the bundle allows you 3 deer for $65. I think IDNR got it right with the bundle and your just looking for a reason to complain

    • I didn’t mention cost as a factor in the restructuring. The $67 I proposed also includes a general hunting license. The current regulations are cumbersome and nonsensical.


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