Public Land Pheasant Hunting In Indiana
Pheasant hunting in Indiana isn’t and never will be like a trip to the Dakotas. But if a trip to pheasant hunting’s holy land isn’t in the budget for you or you’re just looking for a little hunting in your home state, there are plenty of options in the Hoosier State. Being prepared is certainly an advantage for the Indiana pheasant hunter.
Wild birds still run free in Indiana but not like the days of yore. Wild bird hunts are all that is available on public properties for the first few weeks of the season. Several state properties hold a special “put and take” hunt starting on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and running until the Sunday after Thanksgiving. These nine day hunts used to be total anarchy. However, the DNR now holds drawings to spread out hunting pressure throughout the season. Keep in mind, drawings for these hunts must be purchased in advance, early in the year, so check the DNR website for dates and information.
Success rates for the put and take hunts are around 75%. For example, if there are 1,000 birds released, 750 are bagged during the nine day season. That leaves roughly 250 birds, minus those rounded up by predators, left on the property. Once the nine day season is over, anyone can hunt the property for these scratch birds as long as you have a license. The late season “clean-up” hunt is often as successful as the earlier season since casual hunters are usually happy after a day or two in the field.
Here’s a look at some of the best public land choices for Indiana ringnecks.
Pigeon River Fish and Wildlife Area
This Northeast Indiana property is immense. It sits in both LaGrange and Steuben counties and encompasses over ten thousand acres of huntable habitat. There is plenty of elbow room on most days. Habitat is excellent so there is a strong contingent of wild birds present. Since the property is so big, it also gets one of the highest allocations of put-and-take birds. Correspondingly, there are a lot of scratch birds left to clean up after the put-and-take season is over.
Roush Lake Fish and Wildlife Area
Roush Lake FWA has some of the most diverse pheasant habitat found on Indiana’s public hunting grounds. Located in Huntington County, about 1,500 or the property’s over 6,000 total acres are planted in cropland. Much of it is left standing through the winter. There is also plenty of traditional upland habitat with brush and marsh keeping hunters busy.
Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area
This Newton County property is almost ten thousand total acres but offers 1,500 acres of pheasant habitat including marshes, ponds, cropland, prairie, and shoreline. There are wild pheasants on the Willow Slough FWA, but the hunting is supplemented by special put-and-take hunts. If you don’t get drawn for one of these hunts, check back for a clean-up hunt. Put and take hunts usually have a 75% success rate, which leaves plenty of scratch birds still on the property.
Winamac Fish and Wildlife Area
Winamac FWA offers excellent wild pheasant hunting with put and take hunts later in the season. Those hunts used to be on a first come, first serve basis but that is no longer the case. Again, early registration is needed for these special hunts. Winamac has a nice variety of habitat with woodland cover, traditional upland habitat, and marsh areas.
Game Bird Habitat Areas
These are special hunts held on smaller properties throughout Northern Indiana. Properties are managed for pheasants and hold good numbers of wild birds. These are not put and take hunts. Success rates are high and hunter satisfaction rates are higher. The only problem is these hunts are by drawing only and it is difficult to get drawn. Some hunters are lucky, some are not. I’ve heard of some getting drawn in just a year or two while others haven’t been picked in a decade. The good news is hunters who are successful in the drawing can bring along a few fellow hunters.