By Chris Jennings, Ducks Unlimited Web Editor
This summer's severe drought has had a major impact on waterfowl hunting in Indiana. Wetland habitat and ducks are generally in short supply on many traditional waterfowl hunting areas. Large lakes, reservoirs are holding a few birds, but are also receiving increased hunting pressure.
Indiana's North Zone waterfowlers have experienced spotty success since the duck season opened on Oct. 20. Waterfowl numbers on Kankakee Fish and Wildlife Area (FWA) near North Judson are generally a good indication of migration in this part of the state.
"Currently we are only hunting 15 of our marsh blinds due to some early water level issues," says Nate Schmalzried, assistant property manager at Kankakee Fish and Wildlife Area. "The good news is that we are holding some birds, and we will be opening 19 corn blinds and five more marsh blinds on November 7. This will move birds around and improve hunter success."
This season's harvest numbers at Kankakee FWA are down, but a combination of improved water levels and a cold front to push birds into the area may help.
"I think we are still waiting on a big migration," Schmalzried explains. "The habitat we have now is in great condition and we are expecting our overall harvest numbers to increase significantly."
In Indiana's Central Zone, Goose Pond FWA, outside of Linton, Indiana hosted approximately 43 hunting parties on Saturday, Nov. 3, which is just under the property's capacity.
"The property is in good shape, with decent water and natural vegetation," says Brad Feaster, Goose Pond FWA property manager. "We have good numbers of shovelers, pintails, and gadwall. The hunting will be solid here until we freeze, and unfortunately it doesn't take much to freeze our shallow water impoundments."
While Feaster had yet to review the harvest report cards submitted by hunters, he expects the numbers to be good.
Personally, I ran the Wabash River north of Terre Haute, and saw few birds. Wabashiki FWA is dry, and the lack of migrant waterfowl in the area is obvious. On a positive note, the low river level has allowed natural vegetation to flourish along the the river banks. Even a slight increase in river stage will put water on excellent food sources in creek mouths and along large sandbars. Consequently, cold weather and a little precipitation could provide the perfect storm for late-season hunts.
Chris Jennings is the Web Editor for Ducks Unlimited Magazine living in Memphis, Tenn.
Find migration and hunting reports in your area on the Ducks Unlimited Migration Map.