The WildIndianaVideo crew visited the Stillwater Waterfowl Resting Area during the public draw hunt to learn about this “Arkansas-style” hunt in Indiana.
Commonly referred to as simply “Stillwater,” there are still many avid waterfowl hunters and birding enthusiasts who haven’t heard about this unique complex on north shore of Lake Monroe where the north fork of Salt Creek empties into the reservoir south of Bloomington.
It also borders North Fork State Wildlife Refuge but Stillwater marsh it is not the same entity.
A highly-managed cluster of marsh, creek bottom land and flooded agricultural field, the main purpose of Stillwater marsh is to allow waterfowl a large area of near-perfect habit to rest, congregate and feed. That is why the area is completely off-limits to everyone from October 15 through April 15. Fortunately for hunters, there are exceptions when special public draw hunts take place at various times throughout the waterfowl season.
We visited the draw that took place on the morning of November 19, 2016 on the opening day of the final central zone waterfowl season. Dozens of hunters were gathered in the darkness to take chance at one of the assigned blinds. At 5:30, DNR personnel began drawing numbers and hunters in groups of three got to choose their blind among those still available.
For this hunt, legal shooting time started at 7:04 a.m. and closed at noon in the complex. Before or at noon, all hunters had to return to the check-in station to bring in their birds so personnel could tally the day’s harvest. Hunters also retrieved their hunting licenses along with state and federal bird stamps that must be surrendered prior to hunting. That procedure is to ensure hunters check-in before leaving.
What really stands out about the area aside from the fantastic duck habitat are the flooded fields of Stillwater marsh. This area is comprised of corn fields that are surrounded by levees. In fall, the DNR uses large pumps to flood the standing corn up to the level of the ears of grain, turning the area into a giant swim-up buffet for waterfowl.
Several of the gathered hunters commented on how the area seems more like an Arkansas duck hunt than something in the “hills and hollers” of southern Indiana.
While it isn’t easy hunting, boats aren’t needed to access the blinds and a dog isn’t necessary as most of the water is less than waist-deep. Approximately half of the blinds are within 200 yards of a gravel road with parking areas while the other half can be accessed from the levee. The DNR is kind enough to provide a hay wagon that will circle the marsh and drop off hunters near their blind and then pick them up after legal shooting time.
Aside from camouflage and a shotgun, the most important piece of gear is chest-waders that don’t leak.