Spaulding Outdoors

Unexploded ordnance found in river
Fishing fanatics have often heard the phrase, “The fish exploded on the lure.” In this case, it may have not been a fish, but something posing a real risk.

Indiana Conservation Officers were conducting an evidence dive in White River in early November when they found a little more than what they were expecting. Divers were searching the river just south of Spencer for evidence involved in an ongoing investigation, when they came across what is believed to be an unexploded ordinance—a mortar round.

The mortar round was approximately 16 inches long and weighed about 5 pounds.

Members of Indiana State Police EOD team were called in to assist with the ordinance. After examining the round, members of the EOD team felt it was very possibly a live, viable round. For obvious reasons of safety, the EOD team exploded the ordinance on the riverbank.

Indiana Conservation Officers Scuba Team is called on for many types of underwater evidence recoveries. While most of the searches revolve around vehicles, firearms and other items people may try to hide underwater, today’s recovery shows divers must always remain vigilant in safety procedures.

The public is also reminded if you should come across a suspicious device “do not try to move the ordinance.” Old ordinances can be very unstable and may explode simply by being moved.

Firewood permits at two state parks
 The public is invited to cut certain downed trees at Turkey Run and Shades State Parks for firewood. In December and January, some trees that died naturally or have blown down during storms will be available to cut and haul away for $5 per pickup truckload. The available trees are in designated roadside and public use areas.

A firewood permit must be obtained for each load at the Turkey Run State Park’s office or gatehouse between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily, including weekends. Permits are not available on state holidays or during deer reduction hunt days.

Permit sales and cutting both began in early November 2015, and will end on January 31.

Wood may be cut and removed between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. daily. For more information, call 765-597-2635.

Firewood cut at Turkey Run and Shades is for personal use only. All revenue from firewood permits will go into a property-specific fund for resource management. No downed trees will be removed from dedicated nature preserves.

The ban on transporting ash between Indiana counties is being removed because the emerald ash borer insect (EAB) is now widespread in the state. Regulatory tools and funding will be directed to other potential threats to forest resources.

Fake hunting lease leads to arrest
A French Lick man is facing charges after allegedly drafting fake hunting leases and allowing his clients to trespass on multiple properties in Orange County, including the French Lick Resort property. Samuel Hughes, 36, was arrested by Indiana Conservation Officers on November 11 and incarcerated at the Orange County jail on charges of theft, a Level 6 felony.

While responding to a trespass complaint on French Lick Resort property, Indiana Conservation Officers learned multiple hunters from Michigan and other states had paid Hughes, owner of Nature’s Ridge Whitetails Outfitters, in exchange for a one-year exclusive hunting lease. The investigation revealed Hughes never had permission to lease the properties and had drafted the written contracts with unsuspecting out-of-state hunters for fees exceeding thousands of dollars.

Indiana Conservation Officers executed a search warrant for the cellphone of Hughes, and during a subsequent interview, Hughes confessed to his involvement in the operation.

The investigation is ongoing, and additional witnesses and victims are being sought. Individuals who believe they may have been a victim of the operation or with additional information pertinent to the investigation is encouraged to contact Indiana Conservation Officers’ Central Dispatch at 812-837-9536.

Duke Energy grant for Versailles SP accessible trail
Nature lovers of various physical abilities will be able to explore the woods and wildflowers of Versailles State Park thanks to a $20,000 grant from Duke Energy. The grant will be used to buy a trail building machine for the construction of the park’s first accessible trail. The machine, which is a skid steer with a dirt-moving blade, will greatly reduce the number of volunteers and staff labor hours needed to complete the project.

“This proposed trail will allow everyone who visits to enjoy the beauty that Versailles State Park has to offer,” said Brad Walker, Versailles assistant manager.

The trail will be made of compacted crushed stone meeting Americans with Disabilities Act standards. It will have a parking area and will explore wooded, rolling hills with a myriad of wildflowers and sweeping views of Laughery Creek.

Versailles staff is working with the Indiana Natural Resources Foundation, Southeastern Indiana Mountain Bike Association, The Friends of Versailles State Park, Duke Energy and Batesville Tool and Die.

Duke Energy and Versailles invite the public to help support trail-building efforts through upcoming volunteer days and through donations. Volunteer days will be announced in future news releases.

Versailles State Park off U.S. 50 at Versailles, Ind., is the second largest state park in Indiana at 5,982 acres. It has about 25 miles of horseback riding trail, 20 miles of mountain bike trail and 7.5 miles of hiking trails. About 275,000 people visit the park every year. Versailles State Park information is available online at stateparks.IN.gov/2963.htm.

NRC approves new nature preserve
The Indiana Natural Resources Commission in November approved the 270th state-dedicated nature preserve and a significant addition to an existing preserve. The new sites are the Wapi-nipi Nature Preserve in Wayne County and the Moraine Addition Nature Preserve in Porter County.

Wapi-nipi is a 114-acre property approximately 5 miles southwest of Richmond and within the Bicentennial Conservation Area announced by Gov. Mike Pence in 2014. It consists of a tall, west-facing bluff overlooking Whitewater River with the uplands dominated by high-quality mixed deciduous forest. The tract is owned and managed by Whitewater Valley Land Trust and was purchased with funding assistance from the Indiana Heritage Trust and the Bicentennial Nature Trust. “Wapi-nipi” is the Miami Indians word for Whitewater.

The Moraine site is 406 acres in addition to the existing Moraine Nature Preserve, a 474-acre property owned by the DNR Division of Nature Preserves. The addition protects an area of rolling ridges, steep hills, muck pockets, potholes (ephemeral pools with water, etc.), shallow ponds, fens and a tributary of Coffee Creek. It includes a combination of natural communities, including a mature beech-maple forest and a rare sedge meadow.

Off-road cycling permits available
The annual Off-Road Cycling Permit is available now for mountain bike trails on state park, reservoir and state forest properties. The $20 permit is now required for most off-road cyclists on state properties, with some exceptions. Permits are not required for trails rated as “Beginner.” Also, trail volunteers who contribute at least 125 recorded hours of service in a year may receive a permit for free. A daily Off-Road Cycling Permit is also available for $5.

Permits may be purchased at all state park, reservoir and forest property offices and gatehouses during regular business hours. They are also available online at Mother Nature’s Mercantile, at innsgifts.com.

Mountain bike trails are available at 18 state park, reservoir and forest properties. Currently, all trails at Potato Creek State Park in North Liberty are rated as “Beginner.” This means no permits are required to ride trails at Potato Creek.

A permit is not required for cyclists on property roadways or paved bicycle paths. Funds from permit sales will help offset operating costs at state parks, reservoirs and forests. Off-Road Cycling Permit holders still must pay standard gate fees when property gatehouses are staffed.

Indiana’s snowmobile season
The four state snowmobile trails are awaiting snow and ready for the 2015-2016 snowmobile season, which began in December.

The trails will be open, when there is adequate snow, now through March 30. Snowmobilers are only permitted on trails when they are posted as “open.”

There is no trail pass in Indiana, but all snowmobiles must be registered. Registration is $30 for three years and may be completed through the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Completion of a snowmobile safety course is encouraged, but not required. The official DNR online safety course is at snowmobile-ed.com/indiana.

The state snowmobile trails are the 68-mile Buffalo Run Trail in western St. Joseph County, the 61-mile Miami Trail in Elkhart County, the 34-mile Heritage Trail in southeastern Allen County and the 40-mile Salamonie Trail at Salamonie Lake in Wabash and Huntington counties.

The trails are a cooperative effort between the DNR and local not-for-profit snowmobile trail clubs. The snowmobile registration fees fund the trails. Individuals interested in helping with the trails should join their local snowmobile club. In addition to maintaining trails, clubs also organize group rides.

For more information on snowmobiling in Indiana, including trail maps and links to updated trail conditions, visit dnr.IN.gov/outdoor/4428.htm.

Griffy Lake stocked with adult bass
The DNR has stocked adult largemouth bass in Griffy Lake in Bloomington to control a population of common carp.

Common carp are considered a nuisance species because they reproduce and grow quickly, and they feed primarily on aquatic insects by dredging up lake and stream bottoms and filtering insects from sediment. The process degrades water quality and fish habitat.

A total of 165 adult largemouth bass from the Cikana State Fish Hatchery and 113 bass from a private hatchery were stocked. The fish ranged in length from 14 to 22 inches. Fisheries biologists hope the adult bass will eat young carp before their numbers reach nuisance levels. The stocking will also provide big-bass fishing opportunities for Griffy Lake anglers.

Griffy Lake was drained for dam repairs in 2012 and 2013. Before the draining, fishing regulations were relaxed at Griffy to encourage anglers to harvest as many fish as possible.

In 2014, the DNR restocked the lake with fingerling largemouth bass, bluegills, redear sunfish and channel catfish.

Fisheries biologists conducted electrofishing surveys in the summers of 2014 and 2015. All the species of fish stocked were found, as were common carp, green sunfish and longear sunfish. The carp and green and redear sunfish were likely remnant fish populations surviving the draining by retreating to the historic Griffy Creek stream channel, which held water during dam repairs. Further monitoring of Griffy Lake fishery will continue into 2016.

The minimum size limit at Griffy Lake for black bass is 14 inches.

Deer harvest numbers online
Deer harvest numbers may be viewed daily now thanks to DNR’s CheckIN Game System. Hunters are required to check in their deer using the CheckIN Game system, either online, by phone or at an on-site check station. All data is put directly into the CheckIN game database. The program allows the DNR to report harvest numbers on a daily basis.

The harvest total is available at in.gov/dnr/fishwild/8367.htm and is updated every 24 hours at midnight and posted at deer.dnr.IN.gov. All numbers are raw data and unofficial until DNR Fish and Wildlife biologists verify the data after the deer hunting season ends.

Fox Ridge Nature Park dedicated
Governor Mike Pence joined members of the Bicentennial Commission and the Knox County Parks and Recreation Department to officially dedicate the recently acquired Fox Ridge Nature Park northeast of Vincennes.

The 95-acre former golf course property includes more than 2 miles of paved cart paths soon to be developed into walking and biking trails. Pence announced the Department of Natural Resources has awarded a $200,000 Land and Water Conservation Fund grant to expand trails, install native tree and prairie plantings and develop public fishing facilities for two ponds at the new park.

The Parks Department completed the purchase of the property in April. The county provided half the purchase price with matching funds from the Bicentennial Nature Trust (BNT). The Parks Department owns and manages the property, while the DNR holds a conservation easement ensuring public access and permanent protection.

“Fox Ridge adds a unique mix of amenities for residents to use and enjoy,” said Rama Sobhani, Knox County Parks director. “We are grateful to the Bicentennial Nature Trust and members of the community who helped make this day a reality.”

The BNT is a project of the Bicentennial Commission, co-chaired by former Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and former U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton. The statewide program is aimed at expanding trails, conservation areas and recreation sites to help celebrate Indiana’s 200 years of statehood in 2016. The state parks system was created during Indiana’s centennial celebration in 1916, and BNT projects will provide a similar legacy for generations of Hoosiers.

An initial $20 million in state funding was obligated for BNT projects, and the Lilly Endowment donated another $10 million to the effort. Money from the fund is matched no less than $1:1 with the local community sponsor. To date, the Bicentennial Commission has approved 156 projects and 90 have been completed for a total of 6,646 acres.

Jack Spaulding may be contacted at [email protected]