By Tom Carpenter
WEATHER AND CONDITIONS
“This past winter (2018), northern Indiana experienced heavy flooding that slowly receded,” reports Matt Broadway, Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife Small Game Research Biologist. “Any low-lying habitat areas that usually provide winter cover for pheasants could have been unavailable due to flooding. If so, over-winter survival may have been negatively affected.”
“This is just another reason why having more habitat is vitally important as climates change and weather events become more severe in some areas of the country,” adds Broadway.
HATCH AND BROODS
“Generally, Indiana pheasant populations are stable but at low densities compared to other Midwestern states like Iowa and Illinois,” says Broadway.
“We conduct annual spring crowing counts in Indiana,” reports Broadway. “This year, counts were down from last year but not significantly. Some of that difference may be explained by the possibly lower over-winter survival related to temporary habitat loss caused by the flooding in some areas; however, that is still speculation.”
HABITAT AND PROGRAMS
“Recently, the state Division of Fish and Wildlife Programs has started a Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) by way of NRCS funding targeted at enhancing grassland habitats through government assistance programs, like CRP (Conservation Reserve Program), SAFE (State Acres For wildlife Enhancement), and EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program),” says Broadway.
“Several counties already supporting pheasant populations are considered priority areas where private landowners may qualify for additional financial compensation and assistance with mid-contract management through the RCPP,” he adds. “The funding has also provided money to hire additional grassland biologist to assist interested landowners in the contracting process.”
“I would say Benton and Newton Counties provide the most public land opportunities for pheasant hunting in Indiana,” says Broadway. “Between TNC Kankakee Sands, Willow Slough and the surrounding Game Bird areas, hunters can be successful if they’re willing to drive and walk. Unless, of course, their dog doesn’t have nose.”
“Of note this year are Jasper and Pulaski Counties, as well,” he adds. “Their spring crowing counts were up this year and a regional biologist says it’s the best he has seen it in years. Hunters on the eastern border can travel to Steuben County.”
“I recommend the week after thanksgiving as the best time to hunt in Indiana,” says Broadway. “That’s when most people leave the field and head back to the office. It also happens to be the week after put-and-take hunts conclude. A little patience and scheduling may result in some leftover birds with less hunter competition for space.”