PF continues boosting habitat in Indiana, 2019 pheasant hunt should provide some wild birds in select areas
By Andrew Johnson
“With respect to public properties, we saw very similar total pheasant harvests between the 2018 and 2017 hunting seasons,” reports Matt Broadway, small game research biologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. “Some properties were higher and others were lower, which is likely related to regional differences in population fluctuations attributable to habitat and weather conditions.”
Broadway says this past winter didn’t seem to impact the state’s pheasant population.
“Based on the annual spring crowing count surveys, populations don’t seem to be different this spring from the 2018 spring crowing counts,” he reports.
NESTING AND BROODING CONDITIONS
However, Broadway says drenching, early spring rains in portions of Indiana could potentially impact bird populations.
“During first nesting-attempt periods and potentially into the first brood-rearing period, much of northwest Indiana experienced heavy precipitation events which sometimes lasted several days,” he says. “This was the case for much of the Midwest and may be looked at as a double-edged sword. On one hand, nests may have been flooded or broods may have been unable to sufficiently forage during these events.
“On the other hand, extended-duration precipitation events flooded farms and fields, delaying agriculture practices to the point more cover may be available later in the year for those same reproductive stages,” he continues. “On the bright side, weather conditions thereafter were likely very beneficial for much of the remaining reproductive season.”
Pheasants Forever is actively seeking to boost habitat across the Hoosier state, says Phil Bastron, PF/QF regional representative for Indiana.
“Work is still left to be done in Indiana to increase habitat density to the levels of other states in the Midwest, such as Illinois and Iowa,” he says. “Habitat continues to improve, and we expect pheasant populations to follow. However, this is an ongoing process and hunters should expect to put in some work for their harvest here in the Hoosier state.
From a pure availability standpoint, Broadway suggests hunters take a close look at the The Nature Conservancy’s 7,000-acre Kankakee Sands property near Morocco, Ind.
“Hunting there is a first-come, first-served structure, and there are thousands of acres to walk without worry of crossing property boundaries, and the cover is great,” Broadway says.
Broadway also says hunters should consider chasing roosters across Indiana Fish and Wildlife Areas after Thanksgiving weekend when all the put-and-take pheasant hunts are done.
“That following week there should be ample numbers of leftover birds meandering aimlessly across the landscape,” he says. “No, they aren’t wild, but, if you’re looking to fill the freezer or get a new hunter or dog on birds, this could be a good option.”
“For the best wild pheasant hunting experience,” he counters, “I think most people agree that being lucky enough to draw a permit for the Game Bird Area pheasant hunt would be the most sought-after scenario. Another option may be to take the old-fashioned approach and knock on a few doors.”
Bastron said some public areas in northwestern Indiana could hold some good wild bird populations.
“Benton and Newton counties provide some good public land opportunities, and, generally speaking, the northwest and west-central parts of the state often have some of the highest harvest numbers,” Bastron says. “I have been hearing positive reports from Jasper County and Vermillion County, as well.”
IF YOU GO
Indiana’s pheasant season opens November 1 and closes December 15. The limit is 2 cocks per day, and possession limit is 4.
Hunters hoping to draw a permit to hunt pheasants on Indiana Game Bird Areas must purchase a license and visit in.gov/dnr/fishwild/
to register for a reserved hunt.