"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Christmas Rain Is A Gift To Hoosier Waterfowlers
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres

Christmas Day’s rain could have been some kind to gift to Hoosier waterfowlers--and it will be helpful. But it will not bring streams and rivers to flood stage.

Still streams and river will be running higher than winter-normal levels and that will make floating jump shoots more attractive than such activities were before the rain came.

True, the latest weekly waterfowl survey of the Division of Fish and Wildlife showed considerably fewer ducks in the state, but there still are good numbers of birds out there for those who will do some scouting to find them. The weekly waterfowl surveys of the DFW are not intended to establish estimates on how many ducks and geese are in the state, but rather to indicate trends of the waterfowl migration.

The rain of Christmas Day also was a boon to waterfowl hunters in that it uncovered a lot of grain in harvested cornfields by melting the snow that was covered by the big snowstorm of December 8.

A cover of snow is thought to send grain-feeding birds south, but it also is possible that a good meltdown will bring them back, especially to the great expanses of harvested cornfields in the flood plains of larger streams and rivers.

With streams and rivers a few feet above winter normal levels, floating jump shoots (which can include squirrels) will be much more popular. And a river or stream that is only a few feet above winter levels is considerably more safe than the same streams at flood stage.

A small bag of decoys can be important on such a hunt, especially when ducks are found feeding in cornfields.

The central part of the state recorded heaviest rainfall on Christmas Day, but lighter rain was recorded in all other parts of the state.

Sites recording more than half an inch of rain on Christmas Day were: Anderson .57 inch, Bloomington .62, Butler .51, Danville .57, Elwood .71, Hartford City .59, Lapel .61, Martinsville .72, Nashville .59, Noblesville .64, Oolitic .52, and Wabash .55. Rainfall reports are gathered daily by Ken Scheeringa, climatologist at Purdue University.


The Question--Donald Sandlin, Franklin, poses an interesting, snow-related question:

When he lived in Brown County a few years back, he was out for a walk in the snow “to see what was out there.”

Here, in his own words, is the way his question developed:

“I had not gone very far when I saw a fresh track in the middle of the path. It took me a while to figure out what it was, but I was really baffled when I could not find another one (tracks) similar to this one. After some searching, I found a match some 10 to 12 feet away in some small bushes. After searching the good track in the path again, I concluded it must be a cat . . . So I began to follow the tracks, which went down a hill--all woods here. The tracks were now wider apart--some almost 18 to 20 feet apart. I suspect the animal saw me coming, or heard me . . . The tracks were very fresh and the distance now was very distinct. They went down the hill, across a small creek, and into more scattered woods. I had been on the place before rabbit hunting--and the tracks I was following led into a real thicket of small thorny trees and brush and weeds . . . Needless to say, not being armed, I wouldn’t go in there. .  I still believe it was a cat--but what kind of cat?” 

The Answer: Sandlin points out, size of the tracks in the path indicated they could have been left by anything from a big domestic cat to a cougar. But the distance between tracks (18 to 20 feet) could only have been made by something larger than a bobcat, more specifically a cougar.

The scientific community of Indiana--including biologists--tend to pooh-pooh the idea that Indiana hosts cougars. But occasionally, sightings of big cats are reported, especially in the hardwood hills country of the southern third of the state. Some of the reported sightings could be anything but true. But over the years, my own experiences, and those of other reliable outdoors folks, have indicated our wild country could host big cats . . . cougars.

Generally, having observed numerous animals (not including cats) in escape situations in snow and on “dry” land, I see the possibility of an animal at full speed covering distances of three to four times its length, depending upon footing.

Thus, I would say Sandlin was trailing a cougar.

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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