"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Squirrel Abundance Dependent On Mast
Copyright © 2007 by Bill Scifres
With the squirrel season opening Wednesday (Aug. 15) statewide, we take another look at the hunting situation as it is viewed by various interested people at various points throughout the state, in view of last spring’s crazy weather and the drought.

Generally, we have found that some hickory trees are bearing a sparse crop of nuts this year here in the central part of the state and this is a pretty good assessment of the situation in the hinterlands. White oak is looking better, but even with the oaks the crop is going to be a bit spotty.

It is safe to say that, prior to early squirrel hunts, the pre-hunt scouting (or keen observation) is going to take on added importance to success. Actually, the things you learn on early hunts should be very important in any year

Having chatted with numerous wildlife biologists and conservationists throughout the state, I am inclined to believe hickory mast is down somewhat from last year but there are some nuts--both hickory and black walnuts. Oak mast--especially white oak (an important wildlife food source) are better than last year. The black oaks are another question, but some are bearing acorns.

Squirrels appear to be about as numerous as last year’s late crop, but it may be that they are moving more than usual in some areas because of the drought situation.

Carryover was good as the season ended last winter.

In early hunts, be mindful of leaf nests and digging in the forest floor in finding good squirrel numbers. Also keep an eye open for cutting under the various species of hickory trees and white oaks. Some observers have been concerned about acorns falling early, but I have not noticed more of that than usual.

So generally, we would say, except for the drought conditions that exist in most of the state, the hunting is going to be--or is--about the same as last year’s ending weeks. The hunting may be better, in places, in the southern third of the state than in the northern two-thirds because last spring’s extremely cold spell was not as bad in the southern counties. Mast production will tell the story.

HIP NUMBER--The first segment of the season on mourning doves  will open in about  three weeks (Sept. 1) and that means if you will try your luck for this species--not to mention waterfowl--you must register for a HIP number. It is free, but you have to have a HIP number to be legal.

A short season on teal and Canada geese also will open early in September.

The federal/state law applies for the hunting of coot, dove, ducks, geese, mergansers, gallinules, snipe, sora rail, and woodcock. Seasons for all of these birds will not open on Sept. 1, but one HIP is all you need, unless you hunt other states. A hunter must register for each state hunted.

You can get the HIP (Harvest Information Program) number by calling 1/866-671-4499.               

When you call that number, you will be instructed to call another telephone number (1/800-999-1046), and you are breathing down their necks. Man you are getting there.

You will be asked whether or not you will hunt waterfowl in Indiana this year. Then, if you are real smart, you will have things like your home address and birthday written down so you will remember them. The birthday is by month, date and year, and it is a six digit thing with no punctuation--like Jan. 2, 1926 would be recorded as “010226”.

You will need to now the number of your hunting license, so you should have it written down, too. All of this is by phone. But after you take care of the birth date it is mostly down hill.

You can also register for HIP number on line (computerized). To go this route, go to: www.wildlife.IN.gov . This will open a DNR page (if you are lucky). Down the right side of that page you will find a category that says: “HIP REGISTRATION.” Click on that and you fill out the form completely. Even your birthday is easier by computer. Just save your HIP number.

When the entire rigmarole is finished you will be awarded a HIP number. It should be saved, even written where you can find it if a CO asks for it. Hunting waterfowl, doves, and some early migrants without it is a no-no. 

The crux of the situation is you must have a valid hunting or lifetime license number to get a HIP number. On then computer route, they will sell you a hunting license rather quickly, then you can get the HIP. On the phone, if you do not have the license, you must hang up, get the license, and call again to get the HIP.


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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