"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Low Water Levels Could Mean Slow Waterfowl Hunting Season
Copyright © 2002 by Bill Scifres

It won't be like the good ol' days of waterfowling, but seasons on ducks will open the length and breadth of Hoosierland on Saturday, October 26.

In the north zone (roughly the northern third of the state), the season will open for both ducks and geese. This, the general waterfowl  season for the north zone, will remain open through December 21. These dates will also apply to the Southern James Bay Population zone, six counties within the north zone, an area where regulations on Canada geese in most years differ from the rest of the zone. [Click here to see the Indiana Waterfowl Hunting Zone Map.]

The south zone season, which extends only through November 1, will be for ducks only. A later season in this zone will open December 7 and continue through January 31 for geese. Dates for the general season on ducks will be November 23 - January 14.

In the Ohio River zone the early season for ducks only will continue only through Sunday, October 27. The second part of the Ohio River zone on ducks will open November 23 and continue through January 19. The season on geese will open December 3 and continue through January 31. Unlike seasons on geese in the last few years, there will be no quota on honkers in Posey County or Hovey Lake SFWA.

The statewide season on snow geese opened October 20 and will continue through January 31. It is of little consequence to Hoosiers because few snows come our way when they head south.

The October 16 weekly waterfowl survey of the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) indicates some action in the migration of ducks, but because of low water conditions many of the birds could bypass Indiana.

As a waterfowler might suspect, the bulk of the birds were on the eight northern census areas where a total of 2,100 mallards and 1,300 woodies were tallied.

Also as a waterfowler would suspect, Kankakee State Fish and Wildlife Area (on the Starke/Pulaski, county line), and Willow Slough SFW (Newton County) were leading the pack as hosts for mallards and woodies. Kankakee had 1,000 mallards and 250 woodies, while the Slough's figures were 500 and 350, respectively.

There was no report on Lasalle SFW Area in the north but as of Monday, October 20, this state line property was hosting roughly 200 mallards and 300 woodrows. Other northern properties showing fair numbers of birds in the latest survey included Jasper-Pulaski Area on that county line, 300 mallards and 400 woodies, and Pigeon River (Lagrange County), 150 and 200.

Of course, all of the census properties were hosting some ducks, and it is important to remember that the weekly survey's purpose is to monitor the migration, not determine total duck numbers in the state.

The October 16 weekly survey  showed roughly 600 mallards and 700 woodies on the 14 southern areas involved. Leaders were Patoka Reservoir (Dubois County, Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, Monroe Reservoir (Monroe County east of Bloomington), and Mississinewa Reservoir (Miami County east of Peru).

But here again, all of the areas involved reported some birds. Who knows what a hunter might find if he looks for his own hunting areas.

For example, a couple of years back I noted huge flights of mallards, woodies and other species pitching in on a farm pond 200 yards from my deer stand. When my buck was safely in the freezer, I changed barrels and ammo and helped myself to several daily limits of ducks.

Ducks then, are where you find them. And you can say the same for Canada honkers, which are well represented in all Hoosier counties by good flocks of resident birds. They never leave Hoosierland unless heavy snow forces a southward move.

As this column, and its web page counterpart (www.bayoubill.com) has pointed out, some of the best hunting for any species of wild game and birds will be found on private land. Sure, the state properties offer a good hunting opportunity, but these areas can get so crowded that a reservation system is required. This means some hunters are turned away.

Still, many of the properties that offer reserved hunting have some hunting areas that are not reserved and others have special drawings for the hunting sites not claimed by no-shows (those who have a reservation but do not show up for the hunt).

Hunters bent on trying one of the properties of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will do well to check by telephone to get more details on the area they wish to hunt. Phone numbers for state fish and wildlife areas are available by calling the DFW (317-232-4080). There is also a toll-free telephone number to call for information on all state properties (including the reservoirs). It is 1-877-463-6367.

Top northern state-owned or managed areas for hunting ducks last year were Kankakee, 4,316; Willow Slough, 3,299; and LaSalle, 1,900. Tops in the south were Atterbury, 1,070; Patoka Reservoir, 712; Monroe, 682; Brookville Reservoir, 501; and Minnehaha SFWA, 409.

Biologists of the DFW point out that this year's waterfowl hunting could be rather slow because many of the migrating birds may fly over because of low water levels at places that usually draw in migrating birds.

But we still have a lot of mallards and wood ducks that were hatched here.

This black Lab retriever enjoys his work at Monroe Reservoir's Stillwater Marsh.


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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