Goshen News, Goshen, IN

November 11, 2012

OUTDOOR COLUMN: Bucks runnin’ as gun season approaches


GOSHEN — The wait is about over for gun hunters.

The celebrated firearms season opens Thursday in Michigan and Saturday in Indiana. Michigan runs through Nov. 30 and Indiana Dec. 2.

For most northern Hoosiers, at least, expectations are high as good reports are trickling in from bow hunters who are seeing a lot of deer.

That’s not the case in Michigan, especially the eastern half of Cass County and western St. Joseph County, where the EHD virus has killed off a lot of deer.

Northeastern Indiana, including pockets around Bristol and farther east, has taken a hit from EHD as well.

Here is what is being said about prospective hunting conditions in both states:

INDIANA: Northern Indiana check stations report an uptick in the harvest with more bucks showing up.

“We’re way up over what we checked in this time last year,” said Steve Gill at DC Meats in Osceola. “This could become the best year we’ve ever had.”

Gill said he’s seen a lot of nice bucks but no monsters — yet.

“I can tell we’re close to the rut because their necks are starting to swell,” he said.

The rut is the mating season, a time when bucks get aggressive and their necks enlarge.

Ernie Bontrager of Travel Tender in Goshen said his numbers are down somewhat, but pointed out that hunters can now check their deer online and bypass the local retail check station.

“But we are seeing a lot of heavy-bodied, long-bodied deer come in,” he noted. “I checked in one balanced eight- pointer that field dressed at 225 and three six- and eight- pointers that weighed 205 pounds. We even had a doe that dressed out at 165.”

Jim Aldrich of Jaworski’s Market in South Bend said his check-in is running about the same as last year, but hunters tell him they are seeing a lot of deer and the bucks are on the move.

“We’ve had a few nice 8- and 10-point bucks come in during the bow season,” he added.

Hunters are also reminded of some regulation changes in Indiana. Bow hunters – who can also hunt during the firearms season – are permitted to use crossbows during archery season this year with a crossbow license. The archery season runs continuous through the gun season and the first Sunday in January.

Also, a new deer license bundle ($65) covers archery, firearms, muzzleloader, crossbow and the new special antlerless season, saving hunters who hunt all of the seasons a little cash. Retailers say it’s been very popular.

The maximum rifle cartridge case length was extended this year to 1.8 inches, making the .460 Smith & Wesson, .450 Bushmaster and .50 Beowulf legal to use during the firearms season.

And finally, occupied ground blinds must display hunter orange of at least 144 square inches on each side so it is visible from any direction whenever hunters are in the blind. The regulation covers any blind within four feet of the ground. A flag placed on top isn’t sufficient.

MICHIGAN: Dave Brauer of Crane Pond Game Area in Jones, Mich. says the harvest is down around Cass County but there are still deer being harvested.

“There’s no doubt EHD has had an impact in this county, but it’s not like every deer is dead,” Brauer said. “Guys are starting to see some deer even in those townships that were hit hardest.”

Kevin Claire of Lunker’s in Edwardsburg agreed. Although entries into the store’s big buck contest are down, he’s still getting good deer reports.

“The western side of the county seems to be doing fine,” he explained. “Guys indicate they are seeing more bucks chasing does; maybe more than during previous years.”

However, he added the increase in “chasing” may be attributed to the fact there are fewer does. Bucks that survived the virus have to work to find breeding does.

“My best advice to hunters is that if they see a doe in their area, be patient,” he said. “Since there are fewer does, the bucks are really on the move. If there’s a doe nearby, chances are some bucks are in hot pursuit.”

Share deer photos

We welcome photos of trophy deer taken from Michiana and will run them as space permits, providing they are photographed in good taste.

All photos submitted, including those that don’t qualify for trophies, will be posted on my website, www.louiestout.com on a “Braggin’ Board” page created specifically for area hunters and anglers. Instructions on how to submit photos are provided in a box located on the page or you can email me at info@louiestout.com.

Bass tourney

Anxious to fish one more bass tourney?

You’ll get that opportunity yet this month when the annual Thanksgiving bass tourney will be held on Diamond Lake.

The event will be fished Saturday, Nov. 24 at Diamond Lake (Michigan). Tournament hours are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and entry fee is $45, including the big bass pot.

For more information, call Bob Evans at 574-320-3366.

Goose hunt drawing

Reynolds Creek Game Bird Area will conduct a drawing for two-day goose hunts that run from late November through December.

Reynolds Creek FWA is located in northeast Porter County.

There will be two days per hunt period. They include: Nov. 23-24, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, Dec. 8-9, Dec. 14-15, Dec. 22-23, Dec. 28-29, Jan. 5-6, Jan. 19-20 and Jan. 22-23.

To apply, a hunter must submit a self-addressed stamped envelope, and a 3x5 index card with hunters’ names, license number, hunt dates/period choice, phone number and e-mail address. The material should be mailed to Kingsbury Fish and Wildlife Area at 5344 South Hupp Rd, LaPorte, IN 46350. A hunter can only apply once; multiple entries will eliminate you from being selected.

 All applications must be received by Nov. 18. The drawing will take place Nov. 19 and successful hunters will receive information via the self-addressed envelope. Selected hunters may bring up to two other hunters. Selected hunters will be assigned to a particular field.

 For more information, call the Kingsbury FWA, 219-393-3612.

 Contact Goshen News outdoor writer Louie Stout at info@louiestout.com