Good brood-rearing conditions could bolster Hoosier state's pheasant numbers for fall
By Andrew Johnson
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WEATHER AND CONDITIONS
“Based on cumulative data from NOAA, it appears the winter weather conditions were around average with a few exceptions,” reports Matt Broadway, small game research biologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. “I don’t think we had the number of severe snowfall events we’ve had in recent years in northern Indiana, which hopefully allowed for better escape cover availability.”
Broadway believes that the lack of snowfall this winter was a blessing come spring, as the reduced amount of snowmelt and runoff gave the Hoosier State’s landscape a breather from flooding it’s experienced the last few years.
“In some areas, a high water table at the beginning of spring can spell trouble if we experience heavy spring rains,” Broadway says. “In several recent years we’ve been plagued by heavy spring rains; however, this year was comparatively light and close to historical averages. We didn’t have the flooding in northern Indiana this year we have the previous two years. Hopefully, that will amount to better cover conditions for early spring adult survival, fewer flooded nests and better brood survival.”
NESTING AND BROODING
While there are no final reports available from IDNR, Broadways says preliminary analysis of the state’s annual pheasant crowing count suggests the numbers are at least on par with last year’s numbers.
“They are not significantly different across the board,” he says. “But, we did see some considerable local jumps in abundance where we have more habitat.”
Although Broadway says it’s hard to lump statewide brooding conditions into one category, he believes the mild weather conditions much of the state experienced throughout late spring and summer have hopefully given upland game populations a much-needed shot in the arm heading into fall hunting seasons.
“I would say rainfall across the state has been average, with the exception of some locally extreme precipitation events,” he reports. “Quite a few biologists are seeing drier conditions, with fewer of the long-duration, heavy rainfall events that evidence suggests may result in individual chick or whole brood loss. On that note, some of us are excited about the possibility of a great bobwhite quail year and hopefully pheasants, as well.
“I would expect at least an average year,” he continues. “If nest and brood survival is average to above average, we could have a great year. It really all depends on adult and chick survival this summer.”
“Anecdotally, it always seems like the people who draw for the annual Game Bird Area pheasant hunt do pretty well,” Broadway says. “I think this is usually the case because all the crop cover has been harvested, forcing the birds into the few remaining tracts of managed IDNR Fish and Wildlife properties. That said, it is difficult to draw, and many hunters go years without being selected.”
If they’re not picky, Broadway says hunters should consider chasing roosters across Indiana Fish and Wildlife Areas in late November when all the put-and-take pheasant hunts are done.
“If it were me, and I didn’t care about whether the pheasant was wild or a leftover bird from a put-and-take hunt, I would go to Pigeon River, Roush Lake, Willow Slough or Tri-County Fish and Wildlife Areas to clean up after the put-and-take hunts that occurred the week of Thanksgiving,” he says.
IF YOU GO
Indiana’s pheasant season opens Nov. 1 and closes Dec.15. The daily limit is two roosters, with a possession limit of four.
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. For this year’s permit-only pheasant hunts, hunters can begin reserving spots at 6 a.m. on Sept. 5.