"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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It's a Great Time of Year for Hunters
Copyright © 2002 by Bill Scifres

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 channels.

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 DFW.

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.


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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