Wildlife biologists of the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), and
others close to the critters, are fearful that some species of game may
have been impacted adversely by the extremely cold and snow-filled winter.
The results may not be noticed by hunters until next fall's hunting seasons--
hopefully not at all. But biologists of the DFW say the long, cold spell
and heavy snow cover that hit the northern third of the state toward mid-December
and lasted through most of January, could not have been good for pheasants
and that it probably has been worse for quail.
Wildlife biologists around the state did not think the harsh winter
conditions placed great pressure on deer populations in any part of the
state. However, more "yarding" (congregating of deer) has been noted in
the last few weeks than in the last several years-some say since the blizzard
winters of the late 1970s. There also have been numerous reports of deer
depredation on shrubbery around inhabited houses and other buildings in
some parts of the state, especially northern tier counties. Generally,
though, the Hoosier deer population appears to be no worse for the harsh
However, those concerned with wild birds and animals are pointing out
that while much of the 15-inches-plus snow of the northern tier counties
is gone with the hint of spring that came through the Midwest last week.
But snow was falling Monday and as much as three inches of new snow was
expected in the northland. As Bob Porch, District 3 wildlife biologist
for the DFW, put it last week: "We still face the month of February," adding
that this month can be bad news in that part of the state.
Incidentally, Porch, who rides herd on the wild critters of our prime
pheasant counties (Benton, White, Jasper and Newton), believes the ring-neck
fared fairly well through the five or six weeks of bad weather. "Sure,
he said, "the weather had to hurt the birds (pheasants), but they may have
gotten through it in better shape than we think... we'll just have to wait
Across the state to the east, Alger VanHoey, District 3 wildlife biologist,
though noting that the harsh weather would have to be factored into the
wildlife situation, was even more optimistic. "We still have a lot of birds
(pheasants) out there, " he said. The outlook for quail was not so bright
in the northern half of the state, but Mr. Bob has handled the wintry blast
fairly well in the south-central part of the state and even better in the
south, more specifically the southwest strip-mined lands.
George Seketa, employed by the DFW in many capacities for many years
and president of the Indiana Chapter of Quail Unlimited (QU), is an avid
"bird" hunter (when you speak of "bird hunting" in Indiana you are talking
about quail). He tells us QU had a statewide meeting late in January, and
that representatives from various parts of the state spoke on the status
of Mr. Bob in their areas.
Seketa said the representatives generally thought the hunting for quail
was just so-so (even poor) in the north, somewhat better in the central
part of the state (down to I-70) and a little better between I-70 and Sullivan
County in the southwestern quadrant. "From Sullivan south to the Ohio River
the hunting (for quail) was very good," Seketa said, adding that hunters
in some counties thought it to be as good as it ever has been. And that
is saying something.
Best hunting was found in Knox, Dubois, Pike, and Daviess counties,
Seketa said, but added good hunting was found in many other counties of
the southern third of the state. He also pointed out that the wintry blast
lost some of its punch in that part of the state, as wintry blasts are
wont to do in Indiana..
The impacts of harsh weather almost always are delayed--at least as
seen by the eye of man-and so it is with quail, pheasants and many other
species of wildlife, game and non-game. Spring studies of the DFW's wildlife
biologists will start the proceedings and further studies during reproductive
seasons will tell us even more. But the biologists tend to believe now
that while the elements played some dirty tricks on the critters, it can't
be compared to the blizzard years of the late 1970s.