Newsroom Midwest Region

Growing hunting and fishing access in the midwest

November 7, 2017

Waiting in the duck blind for fog clear. Photo by USFWS.
Waiting in the duck blind for fog clear. Photo by USFWS.

You love to hunt and fish on refuge lands across the midwest and now you have even more opportunities to get out and explore. We have a long history of supporting hunting and fishing on more than 40 national wildlife refuges and 12 wetland management districts across the region and starting this winter you’ll have 22,000 more acres to find rewarding hunting opportunities and another 255 acres to fish.

Nationally, recreational pursuits like these contributed more than $156.3 billion in economic activity according to our National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. We published this survey every five years and found that more than 101.6 million Americans – 40 percent of the U.S. population 16 and older – pursue wildlife-related recreation including hunting and fishing. Now, more than 60,000 acres of National Wildlife Refuge System lands will be open for hunting, including for species not previously authorized in these areas.

“The nation’s sportsmen and women lead the conservation of wildlife and their habitats throughout our nation. They are passionate about the outdoors and are committed to sustainably managing these resources for all Americans to enjoy. Refuges provide all Americans with places to hunt, fish, observe the natural world firsthand and experience the great outdoors,” said Service Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan. “We are pleased to be able to offer hunting and fishing opportunities and other recreational activities where they are compatible with national wildlife refuge management goals.”

Four national wildlife refuges in the midwest region will be increasing access for you to find rewarding opportunities in the coming year. Here’s a quick overview of where we’ll be opening additional areas.


Fox River National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin

White-tailed deer in prairie. Photo courtesy of Steve Gifford.
White-tailed deer in prairie. Photo courtesy of Steve Gifford.

Fox River provides white-tailed deer hunting for licensed deer hunters during designated time periods of the deer archery and gun seasons. This announcement adds an additional 80 acres for big game hunting. The refuge encompasses more than a thousand acres of wetland and upland habitat along the Fox River in Wisconsin. The majority of the refuge was acquired in 1979 for the purpose of protecting the area to provide habitat for the greater sandhill crane. Learn more about Fox River National Wildlife Refuge.


Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin

Turkey in tall grass. Photo courtesy of Steve Gifford.
Turkey in tall grass. Photo courtesy of Steve Gifford.

We added turkey seasons and expanded small game hunting throughout Horicon National Wildlife Refuge and expanded special waterfowl hunts to include geese. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, upland game and big game hunting and sport fishing. Horicon was established in 1941 to provide a sanctuary for a number of migratory birds and waterfowl including the redhead duck. Learn more about Horicon National Wildlife Refuge.


Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota

Young hunter and his mentor in the duck blind. Photo by USFWS.
Young hunter and his mentor in the duck blind. Photo by USFWS.

Minnesota Valley has been offering hunting opportunities in conjunction with Minnesota state seasons for more than four decades, including opportunities for young hunters and hunters with mobility, vision and other impairments. This latest announcement opens an additional 318 acres for migratory game bird hunting, upland game and big game hunting. The refuge is part of a corridor of land and water that stretches nearly 70 miles along the Minnesota River. Comprised of more than 14,000 acres, the refuge has multiple units, offering a variety of free outdoor recreational experiences for individuals and families. Learn more about Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.


Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana

Bobwhite quail on a wood pile. Photo courtesy of Steve Gifford.
Bobwhite quail on a wood pile. Photo courtesy of Steve Gifford.

Patoka River will be opening 255 acres to migratory game bird hunting, upland game and big game hunting and sport fishing. These new areas will be folded into the existing acreage already open to hunting. Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area was established in 1994 to provide resting, feeding and nesting habitat for migratory birds and to manage the river corridor of bottomland hardwood wetlands to increase Patoka River’s water quality. Learn more about Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge.


More than 50 million Americans visit refuges every year. National wildlife refuges provide vital habitat for thousands of species and access to world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and hiking to nature watching, photography and environmental education. In doing so, refuges support regional economies to the tune of $2.4 billion per year and support more than 35,000 jobs. The unparalleled network of 566 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts means that there is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas.

Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, we permit compatible hunting and fishing along with four other types of wildlife-dependent recreation, that include wildlife photography, environmental education, wildlife observation and interpretation. Hunting, within specified limits, is currently permitted on 336 national wildlife refuges and 37 wetland management districts across the country. Fishing is currently permitted on 277 national wildlife refuges and 34 wetland management districts. The final rule will become effective upon publication in the Federal Register on November 8, 2017.

Learn more about hunting and fishing opportunities at a national wildlife refuge near you.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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