For a number of reasons, writing an outdoor column (hunting-fishing
and related activities) for the week beginning November 4 gets complicated.
Consider first the fact that the seasons on upland game (rabbit, quail
and pheasant) will open Friday, November 8.
If that's not enough to whet the appetite of Hoosier nimrods, the firearms
season on deer opens November 16; chronic wasting disease in deer is said
to have crept closer to our state in Illinois; night hunting for possum
and raccoon and trapping season for numerous other fur-bearing animals
will open November 8 and November 15, respectively; and the big push in
waterfowl hunting (ducks and geese) already is on--or will be soon--depending
upon in what part of the state you will try your luck.
And lest we forget, Hoosier anglers will find good fishing opportunity
from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River and from Ohio to Illinois for such
species as trout, salmon, crappies, bluegill, bass and even catfish, especially
It is a good time of the year, the best for hunters.
So you need a place to hunt.
There can be little doubt that the best place to hunt for most species
of game birds and animals is private land, but for those who have not been
able to find such hunting areas, there are the public lands owned or operated
by the Department of Natural Resources.
They are controlled by the DFW, the reservoirs of the Division of State
Parks and Reservoir, and the Division of State Forests, not counting the
state parks that will be open to deer hunting this year.
Combined, these properties offer a total of more than 300,000 acres
of land and water. Not all of this land/water is open to hunting because
of safety considerations. But for those who can't find a place on private
land, they still offer good hunting opportunity.
For those who are hot for a rabbit hunt, Glendale State Fish and Wildlife
Area (SFWA) would appear to be a good bet, having chalked up a total bag
of 1,506 rabbits last year. But Mississinewa and Huntington reservoirs
each counted more than 1,000 rabbits harvested last year and Salamonie
Reservoir was very close to that figure.
Other state fish and wildlife areas that could offer good hunts for
rabbits, according to last year's harvest figures, were: Pigeon River 403,
Atterbury 383, Lasalle 355, Tri -County 307, Hillenbrand 303, Kingsbury
298, Crosley 238, Wilbur Wright 202, J-P 229, Minnehaha 194, Winamac 153,
and Sugar Ridge 144.
Other reservoir properties counting good rabbit bags last year were:
Brookville 509, Patoka 343, and Monroe 104.
Although harvest records of state forest properties are not as complete
as those of fish and wildlife and reservoirs, they still offer good hunting
opportunity for many species, especially for those who do pre-season scouting.
And while the state forest might appear to be best for woodland game species,
other birds and animals may be present in good numbers.
For quail, best bets on state properties would appear to be Willow Slough
(249 bagged last year), and Winamac (150), Minnehaha (141), Hillenbrand
(138), and Glendale (123).
Although the bob white has not recovered from the blizzards of the late
1970s, some fair bird hunting still will be found on private lands of the
river bottomlands of the southern third of the state, especially in areas
that border hillsides with good habitat.
Best bets for pheasant will be found on special (reserved) hunts on
parcels of land owned or leased by the DFW in the northwestern part of
the state. But this hunting will be available only to those who, with foresight,
got their reservations last summer.
However, northern tier counties across the state's northern border offer
some good hunting opportunity for pheasant on private land. Look for good
habitat (including harvested grain fields, near marshlands or damp areas).
Otherwise, a hunter's best bet for bagging the prime ingredient for
a roast pheasant dinner will be found in the paid-shooting program of the
This program will start November 23 at Atterbury, Glendale, Pigeon River
(west of Indiana Highway 3), Tri County, Willow Slough and Winamac SFWs,
and at Huntington Reservoir. The fee for these hunts, which usually run
for nine days, is $15. There is a two-bird daily limit.
For many years the DFW raised its own pheasants for the paid shooting
program, but birds for this program have been purchased from game farms
in the last few years and the program now is enjoying a better image in
the eyes of participating hunters.
For more detailed information on the paid shooting program, potential
hunters should call the area they plan to hunt.
Artificial, as it may appear, the paid pheasant-hunting program is the
closest many Hoosier hunters will ever get to enjoy a pheasant hunt.
In the meantime, DFW fur-bearer biologist Bruce Plowman, reports record
raccoon populations for night hunters and trappers. He adds that raw pelt
prices are expected to be about like those of last year.
However, Plowman believes muskrat may be somewhat less plentiful because
of drought conditions through much of the summer and early fall.
DFW officials are taking a "wait and see" view of the effects of West
Nile Virus and Chronic Wasting Disease on the number of deer hunters going
to the fields this year. At this time there are no indications that Indiana's
deer herd is infected with CWD, but the heads of some 2,500 to 3,000 deer
will be collected and checked for the disease found in the brains of deer.
In recent years, the Indiana deer bag has been about 100,000.