Within the last five to 10 years, the number of women taking an interest in hunting has greatly increased and the evidence of such an increase is everywhere you look these days.
As an outdoor skills instructor, I have also witnessed, first-hand, the number of women and men who are seriously interested in hunting. For many, the newly sparked interest is snuffed out quickly when they realize the high cost of hunting. Guided hunts are expensive. Combine that with the rising cost of ammunition and hunting gear and it is easy to see the challenges new hunters face. Often the biggest question for a new hunter is not which rifle to pick or which camo pattern would work best, but rather can they afford to actually go hunting.
However, not all the news is bad news. There are still budget-friendly options available, such as state park hunts or even urban hunts. Hunting on state park lands has become an affordable way for hunters to participate in hunting. For example, in the fall of 2012—in the state of Indiana—various state park properties held over a dozen successful deer reduction hunts. While many hunters were content with their pre-set quota for deer harvests, other hunters were taking advantage of bonus opportunities to harvest additional deer through reduction hunts.
In the Hoosier state alone, there are over 100,000 acres for a total of 24 state parks. A majority of these parks host impressive hardwood forests, healthy wetlands and clean water that makes the state parks a near perfect habitat for wildlife, especially whitetail deer. In many cases, it is almost too perfect, as the deer population continues to thrive and many of those parks offered hunters the chance to hunt deer for minimal cost.
Another important factor adding to the increasing deer population within state parks is the encroaching sprawl of suburbia. As more and more subdivisions pop up across the landscape, developers are snatching up every possible inch of land. With the decrease of undeveloped land, the deer populations in many areas have only a few options, such as retreating to nearby parks that offer protection and habitat.
Overcrowding of deer within a state park is detrimental to the environment, regardless of whether it is a doe, fawn or mature buck. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is constantly analyzing data and monitoring the property to make wise decisions on which areas need hunting.
In most states, a special hunt application is required in advance to participate in state park hunts. Normal hunting regulations apply, although special rules do take effect in some areas. However, any deer harvested through a state park reduction hunt does not count towards the normal harvest quota for a regular deer season. This means additional opportunities to harvest more whitetails at little-to-no cost for resident hunters.
Sportswomen and men across the country are reaping the benefits from these budget-conscious hunting opportunities and the DNR benefits from the help of hunters (volunteers) controlling the growing deer population on state park and urban properties.
Thanks to conservation-minded hunters, park visitors can stroll along the roadsides, hike the nature trails and enjoy a healthy ecosystem that is now thriving and providing hunters with a budget-friendly hunting option.