With a freezer full of venison, it’s time to turn to duck hunting.
The decoys are strung and looking good, my shotgun is oiled and functioning, my ammo belt is stocked — and Willie, my black lab, is tuned up and a ready to go. Now all we need is a good push of ducks from the north.
Epic duck hunts are few and far between, but one every few years is enough to convince you to sustain the torture of freezing cold conditions mixed with being wet.
I had one of those hunts last year. Our group struck out early on what, conditions-wise, was a great morning. We decided to regroup at the local cafe, and after filling up on biscuits and gravy and pounding a pot of coffee, we headed back to our blind.
When we pulled into the parking area towards the standing corn we’d be hunting, ducks began lifting out. The sky went black as thousands of ducks flew back toward the refuge. The three of us just stood there with our mouths hanging open.
We hustled to the blind, and before we could get ready, they started coming back — in small groups at first, then by the hundreds.
After filling our limits, we just sat and watched for hours.
Waterfowl seasons are a little harder to decipher than deer season. The state is divided into three zones — North, Central and South — and each zone has different seasons. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources website defines the three zones as follows:
North: The part of Indiana north of a line extending east from the Illinois border along State Road 18 to U.S. 31; north along U.S. 31 to U.S. 24; east along U.S. 24 to Huntington; southeast along U.S. 224; south along State Road 5; and east along State Road 124 to the Ohio border.
Central: The part of Indiana south of the North Zone boundary and north of the South Zone boundary.
South: The part of Indiana south of a line extending east from the Illinois border along U.S. 40; south along U.S. 41; east along State Road 58; south along State Road 37 to Bedford; and east along U.S. 50 to the Ohio border.
The North Zone opened Oct. 21 and runs until Dec. 10. It opens again Dec. 23 to 31. The Middle Zone’s early season was from Oct. 28 until Nov. 5. It reopens Nov. 25 and continues until Jan. 14, 2018. The South Zone’s early season was Nov. 4 to 12. It reopens Dec. 2 and continues until Jan. 21, 2018.
Bag limits for ducks are also a little complicated. The daily bag limit is six total. But those six have restrictions. You can shoot six of any species or six of any combination of goldeneyes, ruddy ducks, ring-necked ducks, buffleheads, gadwalls, long-tailed ducks, scoters, teal, wigeon and shovelers.
But here is where it becomes a little more complicated. You can have only four mallards and not more than two of the four may be females. You can only have three wood ducks, three scaup, two pintails, two redheads, two canvasbacks, one black duck or one mottled duck. You can come up with countless ways of reaching a limit of six.
Duck hunting requires paying a little more attention to the regulations, but once you figure when you can hunt where, it’s worth the effort. So pack up the decoys and hit the road for your chance at an epic duck hunt this season.
See you down the trail.
Brandon Butler writes an outdoors column for The Tribune. Send comments to [email protected].