Originally published Nov. 4, 2013.
Jade Smith, 13, of Huntington has been practicing shooting the new junior compound bow she has only had for a couple of weeks, learning how to hunt.
"By next year I want to get my first buck," she says. "If I can I'll be the first one in the Miller family to get one."
After she becomes proficient with her bow and goes through a mandatory hunter education course, Jade plans to join her father and brother, seeking the elusive deer. She has already accompanied them on hunts, helping to set up blinds.
Deer hunters of all ages are already out in force at Roush Lake Fish and Wildlife Area, with archery season on now through Jan. 5. Hunters may begin using firearms on Nov. 16 through Dec. 1 and muzzleloaders from Dec. 7 through Dec. 22.
Squirrel and rabbit season is also under way, along with woodcock and some waterfowl.
Roush Lake Property Manager Jeff Reed says the property is open to hunters 365 days per year. Hunters are required to sign in and out at one of eight stations. Between 11,000 and 15,000 hunters visit the area each year in hopes of bagging various game.
Reed says the quantity of deer available for harvest is about the same as last year.
"From what I can tell from our hunters we're up maybe three or four deer this year so far in archery season," he says. "But that's not a huge difference. Last year we were down a little bit in this area, but we're about the same as we were last year, from what I can tell."
Reed says the biggest tip he can give hunters is to make safety their first priority. Hunters should always use a safety harness in tree stands, wear plenty of hunter orange clothing during firearm season and make sure there is orange covering all four sides of a ground blind.
Assistant Property Manager Jeremy Sobecki adds hunters should respect private property boundaries and other hunters they encounter in the field.
"Scout out the area and make sure you give enough space between you and the next hunter," he says.
The multiple hunting seasons potentially allow hunters to bring home up to eight deer. Those who take more than they can use are encouraged to share their harvest with others through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife GiveIN program. Details are available online at www.dnr.in.gov/giveINgame .
When it comes to preparing the carcass for cooking, Reed recommends field-dressing the deer and removing the bluish membranes and fat.
"The sooner the better on that. And you want to keep it cool," he says. "I've known people who take bags of ice and put it in the chest cavity to cool the meat down. When it gets above 60 (degrees) you about have to or the meat will spoil pretty quick."
Some special hunting events are planned at Roush Lake, including the third annual disabled veterans hunt scheduled for Nov. 23. Volunteers will assist hunters in accessing the sites and setting up blinds. Veterans may sign up for the hunt by calling the Huntington County Veterans Service Office at 358-4863.
A "put and take" pheasant shoot is also planned between Nov. 23 and Dec. 1. DNR personnel will release two birds per hunter per day on the south side of Roush Lake.
About 195 hunters per day are expected to attend the event.