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Indiana waterfowl hunting zones changing names, coverage

September 17, 2012 at 10:09 PM

The Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — When waterfowl hunters head out next month looking to the skies for ducks and geese, they’ll have to pay closer attention to which of the three hunting zones they’re in. That’s because new waterfowl hunting zones, which determine which birds can be taken and when hunting is allowed, are now in place.

The boundaries of what used to be the North, South and Ohio River zones have changed, as have the zones’ names.

“Now the zone names make sense,” said Adam Phelps, waterfowl biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. “Before the South zone was in the middle,” with the Ohio River zone to the south.

Changes in zones require a very involved federal process, Phelps said. But they were needed to better reflect where waterfowl will be during certain portions of the waterfowl season, he said, with the southern-most zone going through the most changes, with southern boundaries redrawn to include more rivers.

Waterfowl hunters use rivers much more in the south rather than stillwater areas favored farther north, Phelps said. And as lakes and ponds in northern Indiana begin to freeze up, it’s the rivers flowing in the south will still have open water.

“The later you get (in the season) the more birds use rivers,” Phelps told The Herald-Times ( ).

The new South zone will now be farther north near Terre Haute so it can include the Wabash River, then head across Ind. 50, splitting the Bedford area between two zones, to get most of the White River as well as the Muscatatuck River.

“The Central Zone is what is left between the two,” Phelps said.

With the old zones, the Central zone had a large range in latitude, which meant that during the season, the northern part of the hunting area would already be frozen with few waterfowl remaining there.

“We’re hopeful ducks will be around more of the season for more of the hunters,” Phelps said.

The zone changes have been needed for some time, Phelps said, but federal regulations have only recently changed to allow Indiana to keep its two waterfowl hunting seasons within each of the three zones. Until the federal changes, the state would have had been required to have only two zones instead of three if the zones were redrawn.

The DNR will be monitoring the harvest numbers of duck and geese in each new zone.

“We are watching very closely, especially for the next three years,” Phelps said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tracks the number of ducks and geese killed in zones across the nation. DNR officials will get that data and see if the new zone lines make a difference, although Phelps is not expecting much of a change in Indiana.

A few bag limits have also changed for the coming season.

For pintails, hunters can shoot two per day because the species is doing well, Phelps said.

The scaup, which has been facing a long-term decline, is actually doing better, Phelps said, so hunters can take four each day this season.

Also hunters can take three wood ducks each day and the bag limit rose from two to three per day for Canada geese. “That’s a pretty big deal,” Phelps said.

What type of waterfowl hunting season the Lake Monroe area will have depends a lot on how much rain the area receives in the next couple of weeks, Phelps aid.

“Right now if duck migration started, the birds would be concentrated,” he said. But with an inch or two of rain each week, that could change.


Information from: The Herald Times,

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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