Amid the anticipation of the deer seasons, Hoosier outdoorsmen/women
tended to lose sight of the hunting opportunity offered by many other species
of game birds and animals--especially waterfowl.
But hunting seasons for ducks, coots and mergansers opened in late October
in the state's North Zone, Nov. 23 in the South Zone, and Nov. 24 in the
Ohio River Zone. They are going full blast now and will continue until
Dec. 22 in the North, Jan. 14 in the South, and Jan. 20 in the Ohio River
Although the state is not exactly overrun with ducks at this time, the
migration swells some with every wintry blast in northern states and Canada.
Presently, however - or at least when the Division of Fish and Wildlife
(DFW) conducted its latest weekly waterfowl survey - there were an estimated
18,900 ducks on northern survey areas, and another 2,930 ducks on census
areas of the southern part of the state. The DFW conducts this waterfowl
survey each Wednesday.
When the most recent survey was conducted the day before Thanksgiving,
Kankakee State Fish and Wildlife area (northwest) was hosting the bulk
of the ducks (7,850 mallards, 450 wood ducks, and 100 black ducks), with
nearby Willow Slough counting 8,000 mallards, 100 woodies, and 100 blacks.
There was, of course a smattering of ducks - including many other species
- at the northern census areas.
As one might suspect, Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge (near Seymour),
and Monroe Reservoir (Bloomington) were hosting the lion's share of ducks
on southern areas, the former counting 500 mallards, 25 woodies and 25
blacks, and the latter 385 mallards, 185 woodies, and 45 blacks.
A freeze-up on standing waters of the north could send more of those
northern birds to central and southern parts of the state.
Incidentally, if you are thinking in terms of a duck or goose hunt at
one of the northern state fish and wildlife areas, for ducks you should
think about Kankakee or Willow Slough state fish and wildlife areas in
the northwestern part of the state.
The big number of ducks will be found on these two areas, and they are
being taken in good numbers: hunters at Kankakee had taken 2,500 ducks
and 61 geese as of Monday, and those at the Slough had taken 1,957 ducks
an 131 geese . . . Most of the ducks were mallards, of course, and nearly
all of the geese were Canadas, mostly resident birds.
If your thoughts run to a northern hunt for geese, the place to go would
be Pigeon River State Fish and Wildlife Area. There aren't many ducks there
now, but last week the waterfowl survey counted 955 honkers.
The second part of the split season on geese does not open until Dec.
7 in the Ohio River Zone and Dec. 8 in the South Zone. The season on geese
will end Dec. 12.
In the meantime, if you are looking for a place to hunt ducks now -
or geese a little later - your best bet could be small impoundments (especially
farm ponds), creeks, rivers, streams, swamps or other standing waters.
Picked corn fields should be checked as feeding areas for both ducks and
Some of the best waterfowling will be found on private land where competition
is considerably less. One of the great aspects of hunting waterfowl on
private land lies in the fact that there will be no "skybusting" unless
you do it. You can let the birds come in until you see the whites of their
eyes without fear that a wild, trigger-happy gunner will start shooting
before they are in range.
A few years back I watched from my deer stand as huge flocks of ducks
and geese settled onto a nearby farm pond about 8 a.m. each morning (after
feeding in nearby corn fields) and again about 4 p.m. as they prepared
to go again to the feeding grounds.
I didn't want to disturb deer by shooting ducks and geese. But when
my buck was safely in the freezer, I changed barrels and loads to go after
some ducks and geese for the roaster pan.
All went well until I found insufficient cover around the pond to conceal
my presence. There was, however a dilapidated boat dock which was high
enough for me to sit under it.
I couldn't keep from thinking how cleaver and resourceful I was until
I heard ducks and geese coming and suddenly realized that I would not be
able to see them . . . not know when to emerge and start shooting.
I lucked out. When the birds were overhead, they looked just like big
flocks of bird reflections in the mirror-like water of the pond. It was
time to shoot.