When it comes to hunting, a lot has changed over the years. Sportsmen are much more knowledgeable about the game they seek. Educating ourselves on habitat, movement patterns, food sources and equipment has become a common thread among those who consistently see success.
Unfortunately on the down side, another common theme is having a suitable place to hunt. For many it has become difficult and appears to be getting harder with each passing year. If a person does not own land or have a friend or family member with adequate property the options mostly boil down to leasing ground or hunting public land.
Leasing has become outrageously expensive, especially in prime hunting locations, and shows no sign of leveling off. It has also turned our traditional consumptive activity into more of a business proposition.
For those who cannot find or afford to lease quality property it forces them to seek out public areas open to everyone. Sure they can be a little harder to hunt but when success does come it is much sweeter. I personally have many fond memories hunting public spaces and continue to do so.
Indiana contains 26 fish and wildlife areas, 14 state forests and four national wildlife refuges. Many state parks also offer deer reduction hunts. There are plenty of options when it comes to hunting on land owned by Uncle Sam.
In our neck of the woods one has to look no farther than Mississinewa Reservoir. I know some may scoff at this notion but before you do, consider this. Sprawling nearly 15,000 acres the state owned land offers hunting for almost everything, within legal parameters, of course. But before you start thinking that public properties don’t offer decent chances for success or that it is too crowded, think again. They are specifically managed for our state’s wildlife and the numbers of hunters are semi-controlled.
At Mississinewa, Aron Showalter sits at the helm as the wildlife specialist in charge of managing the state owned land for all types of hunting opportunities.
You could say the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. His father Randy was an IDNR wildlife biologist himself, before becoming regional biologist for the National Wild Turkey Federation.
At the start of his career after graduating from Purdue, Showalter, an avid hunter, took short stints working at Tri-Lakes and Patoka Fish and Wildlife Areas.
In 2012, with the retirement of Mike Renie, Showalter applied and received the position of Wildlife Specialist at Mississinewa. In case you are wondering about the difference in job titles, on the Fish and Wildlife side they are called “Wildlife Biologist” in the Parks and Reservoirs division they are called “Wildlife Specialist” but in reality both serve the same job functions.
“I was really fortunate to come back to Mississinewa because this is the area where I grew up, so it was like a homecoming,” Showalter said thankfully.
During his time at Mississinewa he has taken a special interest in expanding habitat for upland game birds. “We have increased the planting of warm season grasses and forbes,” he explained. “We hope to see more propagation of bobwhite quail.”
One of his favorite times of the year is the opening weekend of dove hunting season, which took place last weekend. “Much of my time is spent in the field but I love when I get the chance to interact with hunters themselves,” he explained. “So that’s one reason I love being in charge of the dove hunts.”
There are several fields planted specifically for doves where they can pour in by the hundreds. The first two days are draw only giving Showalter the chance to mingle with hundreds of people. After that the fields become open.
One thing that concerns Showalter is the decline in the number of hunters. He has personally initiated special opportunities aimed at kids. In his effort to recruit new hunters he allows those with children to be drawn first, ensuring them a chance to hunt. “This way anyone with a child is guaranteed to get drawn,” he explained. “I love nothing more than seeing children hunt our property whether its doves, small game or deer.”
I had to mention the fact that some hunters believe the state owned property is void of mature bucks due to hunting pressure. “That’s not entirely true,” Showalter explained. “Every season we see some good bucks taken including the lady who took a beautiful 12-pointer last season. It would have measured well over 140 inches.”
So if you are looking for a place that welcomes hunters, consider Mississinewa Reservoir properties. You might be surprised.