"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Recent Rambles
Copyright © 2004 by Bill Scifres
November

Late summer and early fall give Hoosier outdoors folks a preview of things to come, but season openers on upland game and deer in November--and the intensification of the waterfowl migration--combine to create the real feature for hunters.

Leftovers from late summer and early fall seasons still have a role in the overall hunting picture, but the stars are deer, waterfowl and upland game birds, probably in that order. Squirrels are fatter as November rolls in, and consequentially they probably are more tasty on the table. Likewise, doves and early migrating birds continue to offer hunting opportunity and tasty table fare.

But the big boys of Hoosierland in November, not to mention December and the early part of January are deer, ducks and upland birds. This is what hunting is all about in Indiana.

For those who mix and match the species and the seasons, the box of hunting pleasures--of which there are many--is wide open.

Take, for example, a most-interesting hunting scenario that unfolded before my eyes three years ago in, of all places, neighboring Boone County. I was hunting deer on a wooded hillside late in November. 

From the top of my ladder stand, chained to a wild (black) cherry tree, I watched in awe each morning as massive waves of ducks and Canada geese settled on a pond of some three acres halfway between the farmerís barn and my snug position.

With binoculars trained on the pond, I identified mallards, blacks, wood ducks, pintails, Canada geese, and other species. They would start rolling in half an hour or so after sunrise, and would dribble out in small flocks to surrounding harvested cornfields to feed. About 4:15 in the afternoon, they would return, and the show would do an instant replay of the morning performance. Occasionally, the birds would walk into the fields to feed. It would seem that the surface water simply spilled out on the pondís banks.

My estimate of more than 2,000 birds made the prospects for a few duck dinners seem downright probable, but I did not want to switch barrels and ammo for my Remington 1100 and go for waterfowl until I had venison in the freezer. Still, I knew a hard freeze could end the waterfowl potential of the area overnight.

For more than a week I watched the ducks and geese with deer in mind, and I lucked out. One morning a nice six-point buck came my way to complete the first part of my mission. That afternoon I had replaced the deer slug barrel with a 30-inch, full-choked tube and three-inch loads of BB steel shot, and was sitting under a dilapidated wood pier that jutted out over the edge of the pond.

The ducks and geese were right on schedule and my first hunt produced a limit of four bull mallards.

To avoid burning the birds off the pond, I guarded my secret waterfowl spot, hunting it only occasionally, and always alone. But every hunt brought limits of dabbling ducks, mostly mallards, but a few pintails, blacks and woodies--with an occasional Canada goose for good measure.


THE SEASONS --Seasons on upland game--namely rabbit, quail and pheasant (in order of their importance in the total game bag), will open Nov. 5. The season on rabbit will continue through Jan 31, 2005, while the season on pheasant will run through Dec. 19, and the season on quail through Dec. 19 north of Indiana Highway 26, and through Jan 15, 2005, south of that road.

A special season on rabbits opened Oct. 1 and will extend through Jan. 31, 2005, on 15 state fish and wildlife areas and seven reservoir properties. Applicable properties are listed in the Division of Fish and Wildlifeís 2004-2005 Hunting & Trapping Guide, available free at most hunting license outlets.

DEER--The early bow season on deer opened Oct. 1.and will continue through Nov. 28. A late season for bowhunters will open Dec. 4 and continue through Jan. 2, 2005. The general firearms season on deer will open Nov. 13 and continue through Nov. 28. The special season for those who hunt deer with muzzle loading guns will open Dec. 4 and continue through Dec. 19.

WATERFOWL--For many years waterfowlers have enjoyed split seasons on waterfowl as officials of the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) tries to provide some hunting at peak migration times for hunters in all parts of the state. The state is split into three zones to facilitate the split seasons.

The North Zone is bordered on the south by State Highway 18 east from the Illinois state line to U.S. 31; along U.S. 31 north to U.S. 24; east on U.S. 24 to the city of Huntington, and southeast on U.S. 224 to the Ohio state line.

The northern boundary of the Ohio River Zone is I-64 east from the Illinois state line to New Albany; east on State Highway (S.H.) 62 to S.H. 56; east on S.H.56 to Vevay; along S.H. 156 along the Ohio River to North Landing, north on S.H. 56 to U.S. 50, and northeast on U.S. 50 to the Ohio state line.

The South Zone is that part of the state that lies between the southern boundary of the North Zone, and the northern boundary of the Ohio River Zone. This is roughly two-thirds of the state.

Short early segments of the waterfowl seasons are past, but the three zones (North, South and Ohio River) will offer longer duck seasons starting this month.

The North Zone general season on ducks opened Oct. 23 and will continue through Dec. 18. The South Zone season on ducks will open Nov. 26 and continue through Jan. 21, 2005, while the Ohio River Zone duck season will open Nov. 25 and continue through Jan 21, 2005. In addition, the three zones will have special seasons on canvasback and pintail ducks. These dates are North Zone, Oct. 23--Nov. 21; South Zone, Nov. 26; Dec. 25, and Ohio River Zone, Nov. 25; Dec. 
24.

Dates for the North Zone season on Canada geese will be Oct. 23 - Dec. 28, while the South Zone dates are Nov. 26 - Jan. 31, 2005, and the Ohio River Zone, Nov. 25--Jan. 31, 2005. There also will be a statewide season on snow and white-fronted geese and brant from Oct. 22 through Jan. 31, 2005.

DOVE--The first segment of the statewide season on mourning doves opened Sept. 1 and closed Oct. 16. However a second segment on the three-pronged dove season will run from Nov. 5, through Nov. 14, and a third segment from Nov. 25 through Nov. 28 to coincide with the Thanksgiving holidays.

Although seasons on some other early-migrating birds remain open and provide some hunting opportunity, this hunting is largely incidental to hunting species mentioned above. Additional information on other early-migrating species will be found elsewhere on this website.


WHERE TO HUNT?

That is the question that rings in the minds of most hunters. Times have changed since the early decades of the 20th century. Land uses, building booms, and many other factors have relentlessly take their toll on lands available to hunters. This is an ongoing thing.  But in Indiana, at least, hunters still find places--even good places--to try their luck and test their outdoor skills.

Although private lands offer best hunting opportunity, public lands are becoming more important in the overall hunting picture every year. And every year more public land is available to hunters. Still, rank-an-file hunters tend to agree that hunting, as we have known it since time immemorial, and as we know it today, is dependent upon the amount of private land open to hunters. Hoosier outdoors people who canít find a place to hunt on private land, or those who do not take the trouble to find such hunting opportunity, will find more than 600,000 acres of good hunting land on property owned or controlled by various units of government

For example, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and its satellite agencies--namely, the Division of Forestry (150,000 acres); the Division of Fish and Wildlife (132,000 acres), and the Division of Reservoir Management (95,000 acres) offer a total of 377,000 acres. Intensive-use areas are off limits to hunters, but most of the land and water on state properties is open to hunting in one form or another.

Additionally, The Hoosier National Forest holdings in the southern third of the state offer another 192,000 acres for hunting, the Atterbury military area 27,000 acres, and Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge almost 8,000 acres. Special deer hunts also are conducted each year on some Military reservations, and on state park properties. However, participation in special hunts for both deer and pheasants requires an application procedure that must be completed during the summer months.

Surveys and studies by Dr. Jim Mitchell, deer biologist for the DFW indicate there are roughly 169,000 deer hunters in Indiana. The annual harvest of deer is roughly 100,000.

A DFW survey of the 2001 hunting seasons indicates that 110,000 hunters hunted fox squirrels that year, and bagged some 474,000 squirrels. Another 73,100 hunters took 292,000 gray squirrels.

For other leading species that year the figures were:  rabbit, 112,000 hunters took 412,200 rabbits; quail, 31,600 hunters, 76,000 birds taken; pheasant, 29,600 hunters took 41,700 birds; and dove, 42,500 hunters took 206,000 birds. A study of 2003 waterfowl seasons indicates an estimated 16,700 duck hunters took roughly 125,000 birds, mostly mallards, wood ducks and blacks, and that 16,800 goose hunters took roughly 60,000 geese, mostly resident Canadas. Indiana is believed to be hosting resident flocks of Canada geese that range upwards of 200,000 birds. In addition, Indiana is a leader in the production of wood ducks. Mallards nest here in good numbers.

There are, of course, many other possibilities for outdoor activities, including both hunting and trapping of fur-bearing animals. Information on these activities, and a compilation of the hunting potential of public lands of the state will be found in the aforementioned Indiana Hunting & Trapping Guide


Click on thumbnail photo to see enlarged image.

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Ron Solt, a former member of the Indianapolis Colts, stoops to take a quail from his dog, Jack. Hunters in weed-covered blind prepare for goose-hunting action. 
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Hunters close in on quail in heavy weed cover . . . English pointer in foreground (white dog at feet of hunter) found and pointed the covey. Bayou Bill scores with a cottontail. A duck hunter positions his decoys as the sun pops up over the hills to the east.


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All columns, stories, 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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