Hoosierland 2006 Hunting Calendar

It's already that time of the year when Indiana sportsmen start chomping at the bit for the soon-to-arrive hunting seasons. These six picks will help you get your game plan in action.(August 2006)

Photo by RON SINFELT

Oftentimes we perceive the (hunting) grass to be greener on the other side of the fence -- well, in our case, the fencerow. And while hunting trips "up" north or "out" West fuel the fires of our imaginations, and satisfy our desire for new hunting adventures, there is a lot to do right here in Hoosierland for the next six months when it comes to hunting.

For those who live in Indiana (or in an adjoining state) who love to hunt, putting their "game" face on to go usually means traveling less than an hour's drive away. If you're one of these afflicted souls who love to hunt, then read on for six different ways, and places to get out "there" in Hoosierland, and do what it is you love to do.

AUGUST

Squirrels

Cedar Swamp Wetlands

Conservation Area (WCA)

Located in the extreme northeast corner of the state in Steuben County, Cedar Lake Swamp is a 914-acre area managed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) for hunting.

The squirrel-hunting opener is typically Aug. 15, and with temperatures still in the 70s -- or higher -- and the leaves still green, this date marks the beginning of the new season.

Cedar Swamp WCA is managed by Pigeon River Fish and Wildlife Area (FWA), which is located a few miles to the west. Jeff Hampshire is the property manager at Pigeon River FWA and he said that according to his records, 11 fox squirrels were taken last year (2005) at Cedar Swamp.

"It was our first full year for a check-in system on the Cedar Swamp WCA," Hampshire said. Hampshire suspected that because of a lack of hunters turning their harvest summary cards in, the squirrel-harvest results were probably much lower than they actually were. "It (the check-in and reporting system) wasn't well received, but hunters need to understand that it will help us to better manage the property." By knowing what the actual harvest is, property mangers can determine if goals are being met or not, and take corrective action if required.

Most of the acreage in Cedar Swamp is as its name implies--swamp. Yet there are several good spots for squirrel hunting as well.

"There are three 'blocks' of hardwoods that are about 10 to 15 acres each," said Hampshire, regarding good places to go after fox squirrels. But more important, Hampshire said that the properties' many linear feet of fencerows are also good spots to try.

"Fox squirrels like fencerows between wood lots and crops or food sources, and we have these over most of the area," Hampshire said. "The fencerows provide cover for the squirrels as they move between dens and feeding areas."

Mosquitoes can be pretty rough at Cedar Swamp in August, and Hampshire advises hunters to be prepared for their attack. But Hampshire notes that putting up with mosquitoes is balanced by the fact the opening day (and the early season) for squirrel hunting is "more laid back" than the opening day of pheasant or deer season.

With the large acreage at Cedar Swamp WCA, squirrel hunters should enjoy a good harvest rate per effort and plenty of solitude. For more information on Cedar Swamp, you can call the Pigeon River FWA at (260) 367-2164.

SEPTEMBER

Doves

Hovey Lake FWA

Hovey Lake FWA is well known for its good waterfowl hunting. But this 7,000-acre FWA also offers good dove hunting as well, depending on whether or not the birds remain until after the season starts. This large FWA is located in the southwest corner of Posey County.

Mark Pochon is the property manager at Hovey Lake, and he said that approximately 200 doves were harvested there in 2005. "It was pretty lousy," said Pochon of the dove hunting.

"The problem," Pochon said, "is the birds leave before the season starts."

Only 200 birds is a pretty low number of doves when you compare Hovey Lake with the FWAs in the northern third of the state. However, Pochon did say it was much better just a few years ago.

Given that doves are migratory birds, when they perceive that it's time to head south there's nothing anybody can do about it. However, there is still a good effort made by Pochon and his staff to provide quality dove hunting. "We put out two to three fields of sunflowers or millet," Pochon said.

Because of the waterfowl-hunting characteristic of this FWA, hunters are advised to stay abreast of what type of shot is legal to use for dove hunting. "It depends on where we put the dove fields," Pochon said. He advises to call ahead to find out what type of shot is required. Savvy hunters will have both types of shot (i.e., lead and non-toxic) with them in their vehicle. Please remember, you cannot have both types of shot with you in the field if there is a (lead) shot restriction. In other words, leave the lead shot shells in the truck or car in this case.

Hovey Lake is not a participant in the Reserved Dove hunts, and there is generally plenty of elbow room for all of the hunters who show up to dove hunt, which can be a real plus. For more information on Hovey Lake, call (812) 838-2927.

OCTOBER

Deer

Morgan-Monroe State Forest

If terrain features like funnels, saddles, benches and inside corners are what you look for when deer hunting, then Morgan-Monroe State Forest (SF) is for you. This huge (23,443 acres) forest spans out to the west and east of state Route (SR) 37 between Martinsville and Bloomington.

Having traveled SR 37 numerous times (on trips to Indiana University), I can tell you firsthand this is beautiful country and great deer habitat. The area is very hilly. In fact, hilly is an understatement, and semi-mountainous is more appropriate in terms of this area's topology. The forestland encompasses many steep ridges and valleys, and contains some of the state's finest hardwoods; along its boundaries croplands abound, thereby making it ideal for deer hunting.

Hunters who intend to hunt Morgan-Monroe SF should remember that statewide the deer harvest has been very stable over the past several years. And, although there could be dips or surges here and there on public property, deer hunting at Morgan-Monroe should be statistically typical of everywhere else in the state.

Because of the immense size of Morgan-Monroe

SF, prospective hunters should get a map of the property and check it out for deer hotspots before they go. The map can be picked up at the Morgan-Monroe State Forest office, or you can call the office and they'll mail you one. Please note the office is not open every day of the week. Additionally, it is highly advised to have a compass or a GPS unit with you when you go hunting here because it's very vast and rugged country.

Property manager Dave Ramey said the main forest road provides good access to the forest, and there are many places to legally park in the forest. Since Morgan-Monroe SF is a multi-use public property where hikers are very common, Ramey said, "Know where the hiking trials and shelters are at for safety."

Standard hunting regulations apply in the forest. Tree stands are allowed, but have to be removed at the end of the season, and no screw-in ladder spikes are allowed. The address for the Morgan-Monroe State Forest office is 6220 Forest Road, Martinsville, Indiana.

Just follow the signs on SR 37 to find the office, which is located several miles south of Martinsville, or call (765) 342-4026.

NOVEMBER

Pheasants at Pigeon FWA

Wild pheasants are still struggling to make a comeback here in Hoosierland. Fortunately, the DFW has a couple of strong programs to help fill the gap. Moreover, there is a bright spot in terms of recovering pheasant habitat.

The relatively new Continuous Conservation Reserve Program that is administered through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) is making great strides to gain new pheasant habitat, and recover what we once had. This program is putting some money on the table for landowners who would like to get involved. For all outdoorsmen who love pheasant hunting, this is good news, because restoring pheasant habitat is the key to increasing pheasant-population levels. If you know any landowners, please let them know about the program.

Meanwhile, while the recovery is in progress, two DFW programs can get you "on" public-land birds like the kind found at Pigeon River FWA. On Pigeon River's 11,600 acres, pheasant hunters will find a lot of pheasant-hunting opportunities. Pheasant hunters can harvest both wild and released birds at this huge FWA, which is located in the northeast corner of the state in LaGrange and Steuben counties.

Pigeon River FWA normally proves to be one of the most productive pheasant spots in the entire state every year, and the Put-and-Take Program is one of the main reasons for this.

Put-and-take pheasant hunts typically begin on the first Saturday before Thanksgiving, and run for about nine days or until the supply of pen-raised birds runs out. The cost of the hunt is $15 for two birds. Birds of both sexes are used during the program. This is a very good program, because the cost is minimal, and the birds are guaranteed to be in the field.

Additionally, there is a cleanup phase to the put-and-take hunts and it is very popular. During the cleanup hunts, sportsmen are allowed to go after birds that have survived the regular put-and-take hunts at no charge.

Most FWAs in Indiana that participate in the Put-and-Take Program release approximately 2,000 pen-raised pheasants and this is the case at Pigeon River. With this many birds being released, the chances of good cleanup hunting are excellent. Just remember to stay in touch with the office personnel to find out when the supply of birds is running out. By doing so, you'll be able to find out when cleanup hunts start.

The other program is the Reserved Pheasant Hunts, which includes dates in November. These hunts are conducted on Game Bird Habitat Areas, which are managed for the purpose of providing excellent pheasant habitat.

To get in on this action, you have to fill out a Reserved Pheasant Hunt application card (that can be found in the Indiana Hunting and Trapping Guide) and mail it in. These cards are then randomly selected during a lottery-type process, and if your card is picked, you get to hunt. And you can bring two of your buddies. The birds you'll hunt will be wild ones, and of course, only ringnecks can be shot.

Pheasant hunters at Pigeon River FWA and elsewhere in the state are reminded that they must wear hunter orange as required by the regulations. A valid hunting license and a game bird habitat stamp are also required to legally hunt pheasants in Indiana.

For more information on Pigeon River FWA, call (260) 367-2164.

DECEMBER

Deer

Kingsbury FWA

Kingsbury is probably best known for its good deer hunting. In December, hunters can take deer with muzzleloaders (typically during the first part of the month) and with archery equipment during most of the month (and even one day into January last year). Please consult the Indiana Hunting and Trapping Guide for exact dates.

The Kingsbury FWA is located in LaPorte County near the town of the same name, and it encompasses 6,068 acres of land. A large part of this FWA is off-limits to hunters, and it acts as a deer magnet.

In this off-limits area, defective ammunition was buried many years ago, and for obvious reasons, people are not allowed in. Kingsbury is located on what was once an ammunition factory for the United States military.

Last year (2005), a total of 258 deer were killed at Kingsbury. Of these, 101 deer were taken by muzzleloaders and three were taken in the late-archery season.

"The overall deer harvest was slightly below average, but the muzzleloader season was above normal. We thought the lower (overall) harvest had more to do with weather than a lack of deer," said assistant property manager Ron Lorman. Lorman noted that when the weather cooled off in December, deer moved onto the property.

Most of the areas in Kingsbury offer up good opportunities to tag a deer, especially the ones near the off-limits area and the ones that border cropland -- you'll find these on a property map.

During the December deer-hunting season, when muzzleloader and archery overlap, all hunters are required to wear hunter orange for safety. For more information on Kingsbury FWA, call (219) 393-3612.

JANUARY

Waterfowl

Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR)

Located to the north of Oakland City, in Pike and Gibson counties, the Patoka NWR stretches along the Patoka River. And, from east to west, it is about 20 miles long. The Patoka River NWR is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, and there are about 22,000 acres in the refuge.

Bill McCoy is the refuge manager. He said that in terms of blinds, hunters must pack in and pack out their own. It is strictly walk in, or boat in. There are no blinds in place.

Patoka River NWR is located in the South Zone for its waterfowl-hunting season. This means that typically, you will have until about Jan. 20 to get in and make use of this public-land facil

ity for waterfowl hunting. Please verify all hunting dates before going.

McCoy said that in a typical year the opportunity for good waterfowl hunting is dependent on how well the river floods.

"We're a river-bottom refuge. The area called Oatsville Bottoms will usually flood three miles wide. If we have floodwaters, it will present a lot of opportunity. It floods every year, but it depends on when it starts flooding," McCoy said.

Because the refuge is so expansive, it would be wise for prospective hunters to get a map of the area from the refuge office. This writer requested one of these maps by phone, and received it in the mail a few days later; it is definitely worth the call.

Waterfowl hunting at Patoka River NWR in January can be good provided that freeze-up has not occurred. If the river bottom freezes, the ducks will move on farther south looking for open water.

Therefore, hunters utilizing the refuge are advised to call for the latest river conditions. Waterfowl hunters utilizing the refuge should also stay abreast of what flood stage the river is in for safety reasons, as well.

The number for Patoka River FWR is (812) 749-3199.

So there you have it, six good places to get your season started. Or maybe you already have an old-time favorite spot in mind. Either way, good hunting this year!

Find more about Indiana

fishing and hunting at:

IndianaGameandFish.com

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