- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

FRANKLIN, Ind. (AP) - Rural 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.

Except here.

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.”

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Source: (Franklin) Daily Journal, https://bit.ly/1IHrFyY

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Information from: Daily Journal, https://www.dailyjournal.net


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