"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Hoosier State 2003 Hunting Forecast
Copyright © 2003 by Bill Scifres
[This article by Bill Scifres is published in the August 2003 issue of Indiana Game & Fish Magazine.]

Making predictions on fall hunting conditions can be risky, but biologists of the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) feel safe in invoking deja vu.

According to Glenn Lange, chief of the DFW's Wildlife Section, that is the equivalent of saying, short of a catastrophic development, there will be nothing new under the sun for Hoosier hunters this fall.

"For all species in terms of regulations, the hunting will be about the same as last year," Lange says," we would not be able to change any regulations that require discretionary orders before fall unless it was an emergency.

"It appears that populations of most species will be about the same as last year, "Lange continued.

To put the best possible handle on the hunting for the fall and winter seasons, we questioned Lange and several of his 22 district wildlife biologists on the way the hunting was in the seasons just past and how the hunting looked for the coming seasons.

We started with Lange.

G&F To Lange: Are there any big changes in the works for any of the hunting seasons in the fall?

Lange: Certainly not so far as administrative rule changes are concerned . . . We haven't proposed any changes in season dates or bag limits . . . season dates have been announced . . . deer quotas for some counties could change but otherwise there will be no changes.

G&F To Lange: What species do you consider best bets for Hoosier hunters?

Lange: Certainly deer . . . and the next best would be wild turkey . . . most underutilized species is squirrel. But we have some good hunting for many other species.

G&F To Lange: Do you anticipate a change this year in the one antlered deer rule you instituted in the seasons just past?

Lange: No . . . we said (when adopted) that we would not change it (the one-buck rule) for a five year period . . . we will look at five years of data before we consider changing that . . . it may have an effect on the harvest and it may have an effect license sales . . . we will consider these things before changing the rule. 

G&F To Lange: Are you considering any administrative rule changes on other species?

Lange: No. We have no administrative rule changes on the table at this time.

G&F To Lange: Although you see no great changes in hunting regulations, or hunting, for the coming seasons, how do you view the future of hunting and wildlife populations?

Lange: To improve hunting for small game (rabbit and quail) we need to improve habitat on private land . . . we are trying to do that . . . the 2002 Farm Bill is going to be a great help in the next 10 years.

G&F To Lange: What feature of the 2002 Farm Bill shows the most promise for wild game species, especially small game?

Lange: Farm Bill programs are all going to be increased in the next 10 years in the amounts of money available to landowners for habitat programs we expect our district biologists to have problems keeping up with requests and applications from landowners . . . the programs of the Farm Bill are wildlife friendly . . . this Farm Bill provides that programs must be wildlife friendly . . . previous farm bills did not have that feature.

G&F To Lange: How much funding will be available annually for these Farm Bill programs?

Lange: We don't know for sure yet . . . but it will be substantial. We don't know yet how much funding will be available for the Conservation Reserve Program, but this year we will have about half a million available for our Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP), and next year we will have about a million dollars . . . we're afraid we will not be able to help all of the landowners who want to participate.

G&F To Lange: Will your 22 district wildlife biologists be able to handle requests and help landowners who want to launch WHIP projects? 

Lange: This is an exciting part of the Farm Bill . . . the feds may pay 50 percent of the cost of hiring new biologists to work with landowners . . . this has not yet been approved but it is possible.

G&F To Lange: How many more people do you think you might be able to hire if this funding is approved?

Lange: It could be as many as a dozen . . . some might be assistants to the biologists we have now . . . but even though this funding will end some years from now, we would hope to keep all of the people on the job.

All columns, essays, and photos 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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