"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Early Deer Harvest Numbers Are Down
Copyright © 2002 by Bill Scifres

Latest figures (they are a week old now) on the deer harvest indicate the total bag was down roughly 3,300 (24 percent) deer in the first five weeks of the early bow season.

This may--or may not--be indicative of the way the total deer harvest will go this year, but during the fifth week of the early bow season bow-benders reported taking 2,575 deer, compared to 3,408 in the corresponding week last year.

The harvest that week boosted the 2002 total bow bag to 10,467, compared to 13,833 in the corresponding period last year.

Cause of this deficit in the deer harvest can only be a matter for speculation at this point. But should it continue through the firearms seasons, there will be room for speculation that it has been brought about by one of two things . . . or both: the fact that the price of the deer hunting license has more than doubled since last year, and the uncertainty on the presence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the Hoosier deer herd.

But whatever the culprit might be, a 20 or 30 percent reduction in deer license revenue could splatter red ink on the DFW ledger . . . perhaps negate the additional funding expected from that round of license fee hikes.

This may be considered quite newsy to some folks--and well it might be. But those who like to know what is transpiring in "the great outdoors" reasonably soon will tell you the big news will be found in the fact that Department of Natural Resources brass indicate you should not get addicted to such fine service from your public servants.

There will be harvest figures available later this week on the first six weeks of the bow season. After that you can speculate on how many deer will be taken in all seasons this year until some time next year . . . maybe late February if form prevails.

Last year, you may recall, the weekly deer harvest reports were halted at the corresponding time. The DNR justified the decision with the explanation that the employees who conducted such counts had to be temporarily laid off to meet the Governor's austerity program. It did not seem to matter that eliminating salaries paid from the Fish and Wildlife Fund would not reflect on the state's fiscal welfare one whit.

The three employees who were temporarily laid off still are not back on the payroll. The job they did counting harvested deer will not be done on a weekly basis again this year, we are told.

Our first inkling on how the total deer harvest went last year came toward the end of February. Should we prepare ourselves for a ditto DNR performance?

WATERFOWL PICTURE--Second segments of waterfowl seasons in South and Ohio River Zones will open Saturday, November 23, but it now appears that the hunting will fall far shy of spectacular. 

The second segment of North Zone seasons on ducks and geese will continue through December 21, although the goose season on James Bay Population (JBP) counties will end December 11. JBP areas are Lagrange, Steuben, Starke, Elkhart, Jasper, and LaPorte counties, and Jasper-Pulaski State Fish and Wildlife Area.

The migration of ducks appears to have peaked at around 13,000 on eight northern areas last week. However, figures from the last (November 13) weekly waterfowl survey do not look all that promising for South and Ohio River zones.

The November 13 survey counted roughly 1,000 mallards and 400 wood ducks, both figures being down from the previous week. However, Monroe Reservoir, Minnehaha State Fish and Wildlife Area, and Gibson Cooling Lake did not file reports.

Success of the South and Ohio River Zone duck hunting will depend on the weather. If cold weather (ice on surface waters) forces ducks south, the hunting could be good in the southern half of the state. Otherwise, hunters will have to find the birds that are present now. The last wave of cold weather already has pushed many wood ducks south.

At this point the hunting for geese is largely a matter of "drygulching" resident flocks as they go to harvested grain fields to feed. Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge near Seymour last week was hosting the largest concentration of Canada geese (almost 800) in the state, although resident flocks around the state will offer good hunting.

WATCH FOR SHAGS--A strong wind out of the northwest whipped a hard, cold rain on the back of my neck to remind me it was a raw November day . . .  perfect for pickin' shaggymanes (Coprinus comatus).

I had been wondering why my travels had not produced any roadside shags, but last Wednesday night and Thursday's (November 13 - 14) weather turned the trick.

Since that time shags have been just about as scarce as they were before, but those who swear by the eating qualities of this most fragile fungi should continue to focus on grassy spots.

Over the years I have concluded that lawns in fifth or six years have been best for shags, but last Thursday's bonanza came on grasslands (mowed occasionally) that were barely two years old.


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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