Facility Rules and Policies

Safety is the top priority at the refuge and all visitors are required to attend a safety briefing, sign an acknowledgment of danger agreement and obtain a public access permit before entering the refuge. While some gathering of wild, edible plants and deer antlers for personal use is allowed at the refuge, a refuge permit is required, and certain rules apply. While you are welcome to visit certain public use areas during a limited time of the year, there is no entry allowed in the closed area of Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge. Searching for, picking up or removing / possessing any object of historical significance or unexploded ordnance is prohibited.

General Regulations

All visitors to Big Oaks are required to attend a safety briefing, sign an acknowledgment of danger agreement and obtain a public access permit before entering the refuge.

The following additional rules and policies apply during your visit to the refuge:

  • All visitors must check into and out of the refuge in accordance with the provisions of their refuge permit
  • A lottery system is used as needed during public use days for boating on the lake. Any activity by a refuge visitor that will result in an unfair advantage or improve one’s chance in the lottery is prohibited.
  • Entering unassigned or closed areas is not permitted. It is the responsibility of each person to know where they are at all times.
  • Pets must be kept on a leash, except hunting dogs used during refuge squirrel hunting season.
  • All pets are required to wear a collar displaying the owner’s name, address and telephone number
  • Searching for, removing or possessing objects of antiquity or historical significance or unexploded ordnance, munitions or any item(s) associated with the Army’s historical mission is prohibited
  • Camping, fires, swimming, dumping, trapping, ATV's and littering are prohibited
  • Vehicles and other modes of transportation are allowed only on designated roads; vehicles are prohibited off road
  • Disturbing or collecting plants or animals and/or parts is prohibited. Wild edible food products, like mushrooms, nuts, wild asparagus and berries, as well as shed deer antlers, may be gathered for personal use during refuge public use season with a required refuge permit. Mushrooms must be collected in a mesh bag.
  • Spotlighting wildlife, even without weapons, is prohibited
  • Indiana hunting and fishing regulations generally apply to Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge, with some additional refuge regulations

Refuge hours listed are for hunting seasons; legal shooting hours are according to state regulations.

  • White-tailed Deer / Fall Wild Turkey Season:
    • Daylight Savings 5:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.
  • White-tailed Deer Season:
    • Standard Time 4:30 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.
  • Wild Turkey Spring Season:
    • April through May, 5:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.
  • Squirrel Season:
    • August through November, 7:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Hunting regulations

  • Hunting of white-tailed deer, wild turkey and squirrel are permitted in designated areas on the refuge subject to the following condition: hunt permit and state licenses required
  • Only designated game species may be taken - all other wildlife may not be molested, harassed or taken in any manner
  • Weaponry is regulated by the state
  • Hunters may possess only approved non-toxic shot while in the field
  • We allow the use of portable hunting stands and blinds
  • We prohibit tree steps or screw-in steps
  • We require that all hunters check all harvested game taken on the refuge at the refuge check station
  • We require all refuge hunters to hunt with a partner. We require hunting partners to know the location of their partner while hunting. An adult, age 18 or older, must directly supervise youth hunters age 17 or under.
  • Without the harvest and check-in of an antlerless deer, there is a limit of one buck with archery licenses and one buck with firearm licenses. Hunters who check in antlerless deer during an archery or firearms hunt will be authorized to harvest one additional buck during that respective season.
  • Hunters may not exceed the daily bag limit of two deer per day
  • We allow the use of hunting dogs only during the squirrel hunting season. You must ensure that all hunting dogs wear a collar displaying the owner’s name, address and telephone number.
  • We allow the use of squirrel dogs only in the day use areas
  • We prohibit flagging tape and reflective tacks
  • We prohibit the cutting of trees or trimming branches for shooting lanes
  • We prohibit the use or possession of alcoholic beverages while hunting on the refuge
  • Hunters must possess and carry a compass and/or GPS while hunting on the refuge
  • All hunting is subject to state regulations unless refuge regulations are more restrictive.
Sport Fishing

Old Timbers Lake provides excellent fishing opportunities for largemouth bass,bluegill, crappie, and channel catfish.

  • We allow fishing on Old Timbers Lake in accordance with state fishing regulations subject to the following conditions: refuge access permit required
  • We only allow fishing with rod and reel or pole and line
  • We prohibit the use of trotlines
  • We allow boats only if rowed, paddled or powered by an electric trolling motor on Old Timbers Lake

We prohibit retaining largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass between 12 and 15 inches.