Are you old enough to remember “the good old days” when you would hear bobwhite quail whistling in the spring and the unique cackle of ring-necked pheasants? When fall rolled around it was common place to see several covey rises or a rooster rocketing into the sky on most hunting outings.
Some of my fondest memories were taking to the field with my dad and brothers. It was almost a given when returning home we would have several bobwhites and maybe a pheasant or two in our game bags. Since then things have changed in the Hoosier state, especially in north central Indiana. Consider yourself fortunate to even see one.
Upland birds are considered gallinaceous, which means they live on the ground, scratch for food and have crops and gizzards. Weed seeds, grain and insects make up the bulk of their diets. They require a delicate balance of cropland, nesting cover, brushy fencerows and water. Sadly, loss of suitable habitat has severely reduced, if not eliminated, their numbers in many areas. Conservation groups like Pheasants Forever and Quail Unlimited have tried to reverse this trend by working with landowners to help create suitable habitat. Although they have made some gains, more is needed.
Because of this the Indiana Department of Natural Resources is seeking private landowners to allow limited public gamebird hunting opportunities and creating habitat on their properties in exchange for financial incentives and technical assistance through a program called APPLE.
Access Program Providing Land Easements, is in its second year and provides hunters with an opportunity to hunt ring-necked pheasant, bobwhite quail and American woodcock while also providing landowners with significant benefits.
Since nearly 96 percent of Indiana is privately owned, public gamebird hunting opportunities are very limited.
Participating landowners are eligible for incentives of up to $25 per acre. Additional financial assistance also is available for creating or improving existing cover.
DNR biologists will work closely with participating landowners to develop a wildlife habitat management plan. They also will help property owners plan the number and timing of hunts.
The DNR is targeting landowners of 20 acres or more within five focal regions across the state. For information, including a description of the five regions, visit wildlife.in.gov/9572.htm. Although Howard County is not on the list, it could be in the future if the program sees good participation.
Hunters will be selected for the program using Indiana’s online reserved hunt draw system.
Landowners can continue to hunt all other species on their land during the duration of the APPLE hunts.