ural and wooded, dotted with small lakes and a crossroads for rivers and streams, Johnson County is an inviting playground for sportsmen.
Problem for many, however, is that most of what is regarded as “prime” real estate for hunting and fishing is private property. If you don’t own it, or have permission to be on it, you can’t hunt it or fish it.
That includes woods, farmland, ponds and lakes, and even rivers and streams. Although the waterways themselves are public, access to them — and the land through which they flow — seldom is.
So if you want to hunt or fish, and are not a property owner — and don’t have permission from a property owner — you’re options in many locales are almost zero.
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Southern Johnson County is home to Atterbury Fish & Wildlife Area, a 4,905-acre expanse of public land managed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. One of the few such sites in central Indiana, it is one of only two locally that affords hunting and fishing opportunities to the public.
The other is Driftwood State Fishing Area, a 260-acre neighboring property that straddles Johnson and Bartholomew counties. Driftwood offers abundant fishing in three gravel pits but very limited hunting.
For outdoorsmen hunting for a meaningful place to hunt, Atterbury is a popular destination. Deer, small woodland game, birds and waterfowl, among other species, inhabit the property.
“Our existence is pretty important to the public,” said Cary Schuyler, property manager at Atterbury Fish & Wildlife Area.
“A lot of hunters come from Marion County. I don’t know of anything else (in Johnson County).
“There’s some limited hunting on Driftwood Fishing Area, but it’s just a couple of hundred acres.”
Phil Hawkins, a long-time Franklin resident and avid outdoorsman, is among the fortunate who has permission to hunt and fish various private properties. But he has hunted Atterbury in the past and is familiar with its offerings.
Although he doesn’t describe the hunting as bountiful, he does declare the area productive ground for anyone who is looking for a place hunt.
“It’s not wonderful, but there are deer there, and they kill deer there every year,” said Hawkins, 83. “And they get a few turkeys on the north side (of the property). If you’re a new hunter, find a location, and then start scouting around and seeing where to go and what to do.
“Almost all the (hunting) seasons that are available in Indiana are available on this north side of Atterbury.”
Hunting, which requires season-specific licenses, isn’t the only public activity offered Atterbury. Fishing is available year-round.
With 10 impoundments, including 75-acre Pisgah Lake, the property has 270 acres of water open for public fishing. A portion of Sugar Creek also flows through the area.
Although fishing licenses are required, check-in at the office — as is required for hunting — is not.
“The lakes are available to fish anytime you want. You can fish and frog hunt,” Hawkins said. “The hunting end of it, there’s pretty decent squirrel hunting. The deer hunting’s not too bad.
“There is some turkey hunting, and there’s some rabbit hunting.”
Perhaps the best news for local sportsmen, or aspiring sportsmen, is that Atterbury provides a public venue for those who don’t have access to private land.
“A lot guys will come in after they had opportunities on private ground, and the property has changed owners and they’re out of a place to hunt, and they come wandering in here to see how we can help them,” Schuyler said. “I feel sorry for them.
“It happens every year.”
ABOUT ATTERBURY FISH & WILDLIFE AREA
Where: 7970 S. Rowe St., Edinburgh
Activities: Fishing, hunting, shooting range, wildlife watching, canoeing and kayaking
- Property contains 10 impoundments with 270 acres of water available.
- Major species include catfish, bluegill, redear and largemouth bass.
- Concrete boat ramps are located on Stone Arch Lake, Beaver Bottom and Pisgah Lake. Gravel boat ramps are located on Teal Marsh and Mallard Marsh.
- All lakes are limited to a maximum 24-volt electric motor.
- Check-in is not required.
- Beaver Bottom, Teal Marsh, Mallard Marsh, Mink Meadow and Possum puddle are closed to fishing during waterfowl season.
- A 14-inch minimum size limit applies to large mouth. Consult the Indiana DNR Fishing Regulations for size and bag limits on other species.
- Fishing is open year-round on Pisgah Lake and and Stone Arch Lake.
- Beaver Bottom has a fishing pier for persons with disabilities.
- Game includes deer, rabbit, squirrel, grouse, dove, woodcocks, ducks and geese.
- Check-in is required. Consult the Indiana DNR Hunting regulations for hunting season and bag limits.
- Special hunts include a three-day hunt deer hunt for military personnel and a put-and-take pheasant hunt.
- Dog training is available on the property in sections 13-A, 13-B and 13-D.
- Opening-day dove, spring turkey hunting and waterfowl hunting opportunities are allocated through a preseason online draw. Visit the DNR Website for more information.
ABOUT DRIFTWOOD STATE FISHING AREA
Where: U.S. 31, west of Edinburgh; straddles Johnson and Bartholomew counties.
Management: The property is managed by neighboring Atterbury Fish & Wildlife Area.
The 263-acre property has three gravel pits: Plover Pit (67 acres), Sandpiper Pit (17 acres) and Meadowlark Pit (2.5 acres).