"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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This Year's Winter Weather May Be Bad for Wildlife
Copyright © 2001 by Bill Scifres

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 winter weather. 

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 and see."

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.


All columns are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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