Archive for August, 2009

So long from the State Fair

August 24, 2009

The 2009 Indiana State Fair has come to a close. This will be my last post. I know many of you looked forward to reading about the action each day, and I looked forward to attending the fantastic DNR programs and exhibits.

Thanks for reading the DNR 2009 Indiana State Fair Blog. Visit us at next year’s Indiana State Fair Aug. 6 – 22.

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Water dogs in action

August 22, 2009

Today, I stopped by the Fishin’ Pond and made three new friends; Chelsey, a 10-year-old American Water Spaniel; Sage, a 10-year-old Labrador Retriever and Boo, a 2-year-old Australian Shepherd. All three female hunting dogs are owned by DNR naturalist Jarett Manek and his wife Jennifer.

Normally, Chelsey, Sage and Boo chase after birds and ducks when they go hunting. Today, at the Fishin’ Pond, they were demonstrating their love for all things wet and their ability to retrieve. These fabulous dogs love getting wet and retrieving tennis balls from the water. Today, they jumped into the pond several times retrieving rubber bumpers that Jarett threw into the pond. Their demonstration was short, but fascinating to watch. All of the dogs are very well-trained and did a great job jumping into the pond and bringing the bumpers back to Jarett.

One dog, Chelsey, had a small mind of her own, though. At the end of the demonstration, Jarett threw the bumper into the water for her retrieval. But Chelsey had decided she had enough of the water for one day and kept running around the pond trying to find a way to get the bumper without having to get wet. After a few attempts, she realized her efforts were futile and jumped in, bringing the bumper to Jarett. It was very fun to watch and the entire crowd enjoyed seeing this good-natured dog get the bumper.
– Dawn

Too much to do

August 21, 2009
Michael Crews talks to the crowd at the DNR Amphitheater

Michael Crews talks to the crowd at the DNR Amphitheater

Around the DNR building, you will have no trouble finding something worthwhile to see. Today was no exception. I stopped in to see Michael Crews, Interpretive Naturalist at Lincoln State Park. Michael was talking to the crowd at the Amphitheater about Indiana wildlife during the time of Lincoln.

Did you know that Lincoln lived in Indiana in the early 1800s, from age 7-21? The landscape of Indiana was a lot different back then. Lincoln lived in what is today Spencer County, along the Ohio River. Back then, Indiana had a number of animals you would be surprised to see if you were traveling down the highway. Animals like black bears and bison once called Indiana home.

Today, I also stopped by the front porch of the DNR building and saw our friends from the division of Historic Preservation and Archeology. They were answering questions about renovating and caring for old homes.

What has become a family favorite was going on today as well – the SCUBA demonstration. Our Conservation officers do a great job teaching all future SCUBA divers the appropriate techniques and safety precautions. This always draws a big crowd. I think they could hold the demonstration twice a day and it would always be well attended.
– Don

Animals

Raptors on the loose at the State Fair

August 21, 2009
Mark Booth with red-tailed Hawk

Mark Booth with red-tailed Hawk

A huge crowd gathered for Mark Booth’s show on Raptors. No, Mark is not that guy from Jurassic Park. He is a bird expert. He brought along five of his friends- a Red-Tailed Hawk, an American Kestrel, a Great-Horned Owl, a Harris’s Hawk and a Peregrine Falcon.

In what turned out to be one of the largest crowds in the Amphitheater, the Raptors put on quite an entertaining show. It certainly wasn’t for the squeamish, however, as the Red-Tailed Hawk and the Owl each chowed down on mice that Mark had conveniently stashed in his pocket. The falcon got dinner as well, but his was chicken. If I were given the choice, I would have gone with the chicken too.

Above the amphitheater there are shades in the shape of triangles about 15 feet off the ground. Mark let the Harris’s Hawk off his arm and let him fly away to the shades above the crowd. At that point the Hawk could have actually taken off, never to be seen again, but why would he do that when he knows he has a personal chef at home, and his name is Mark.

Many people inside the DNR have taken a liking to the Peregrine Falcon. With good reason, the DNR has done tremendous work in helping out the Peregrine Falcons around the state.
– Don

Peregrine Falcon eating his chicken dinner

Peregrine Falcon eating his chicken dinner

Harris's Hawk

Harris's Hawk

Great-Horned Owl

Great-Horned Owl

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

Duck, Duck, Goose

August 20, 2009
Steve knowles answering questions on waterfowl

Steve knowles answering questions on waterfowl

I stopped by the DNR amphitheater and caught Steve Knowles’ program on waterfowl. Steve is the property manager at Falls of the Ohio State Park.

Indiana has a few DNR properties that have excellent opportunities for waterfowl watching, probably the two best being Jasper-Pulaski and Goose Pond. Goose Pond is the DNR’s newest property. It has proven to be a good pick-up for DNR. Close to Linton, it is one of the premier destinations in the state for wetlands and waterfowl watching.

Each fall, thousands of Sandhill Cranes stop by the marshes of Jasper-Pulaski in northwest Indiana during their fall migration. The wetlands make for an ideal stopover for the cranes. They can be seen October through December. Jasper-Pulaski has two observation towers that provide spectacular views.

For those who are hunting waterfowl, the regulations and dates are now out for the 2009 season. If you’re new to waterfowl hunting, a hunter education class with our Conservation Officers would be beneficial.
– Don

Stuffed female duck on display at the state fair

Stuffed female duck on display at the state fair

Where are we?

August 19, 2009
Bob Wilkinson talks with patrons about GPS

Bob Wilkinson talks with patrons about GPS

If you have ever asked that question, you were clearly without a GPS unit. DNR’s Bob Wilkinson was on the front porch of the DNR building discussing the ways GPS is used.

I myself am a Tom Tom owner and know the convenience of having a GPS unit in the car. Now, I just listen to Clive, the talking voice, tell me where to go. It’s a lot better than getting into a fight with the wife over a missed turn. I’ve had a few of those fights.

Using hand-held GPS units is becoming popular for use on the trails. In fact, some Indiana state parks have been known to hold geocaching contests (think Easter egg hunt, but for adults).

I also made my way to the fishin’ pond where kids were able to make boats out of recycled materials, such as plastic trays, paper towel rolls and construction paper for the sail. The kids would use string to pull the boats along in the water. This is both a fun and green way of sailing.
– Don

Kids using boats made out of recycled materials

Kids using boats made out of recycled materials

Friendly Neighbor from the North

August 17, 2009
Shannon Winks, DNR Urban Biologist, talks with an interested patron

Shannon Winks, DNR Urban Biologist, talks with an interested patron

“They’re…blanking… all over my fairways,” is the quote of the day by one of the patrons who visited with Shannon Winks, the DNR’s Canada goose expert. 

The population of Canada geese is growing rapidly. Winks was on the DNR front porch offering people suggestions on curbing the population of Canada geese.

Among the ways of controlling the population is hunting season. You can take matters into your own hands Sept. 1 -15.

Also, you can catch the eggs of geese and prevent them from hatching. Find the Canada goose nest and dip the eggs in corn oil, which prevents air from getting inside the egg. You can punch a small hole in the bottom of the egg and drain it or you can pick up the egg and shake it so that it becomes mush inside. Using these suggestions, the idea is to keep the shell intact and fool the mother goose. If you just pick up the eggs and smash them, mother goose will know she is missing eggs and decide to nest more eggs. By fooling her with eggs that are intact, she won’t realize until it’s too late in mating season that these eggs aren’t hatching.

Actually, Canada geese are not even from Canada. I bet the Canadians love that a pesky bird terrorizing American golfers and shoppers is associated with them. Speaking of Canadians, referring to the birds as Canadian geese is incorrect. They’re Canada geese.

If you’re the owner of a dog that loves to chase geese, let Fido loose from mid-June to mid-July. During that four week stretch the geese lose their wings and can’t fly.
– Don

The author with a Canada goose

The author with a Canada goose (in case you weren't sure, the goose is on the left.)

Ready, Aim, Fire

August 17, 2009
Taking aim in the training simulator

Taking aim in the training simulator

If you don’t count the air conditioning, the big draw inside the DNR building is the Hunter’s Education booth. Indiana’s Conservation Officers man the booth. It’s the most popular display with the kids for good reason. It’s pretty much a large video game.

There are two video projectors that have real images of deer in the woods. The kids take turns with full-size rifles (not real) that have sensors on them, and it shows you on the screen exactly where you hit the deer. After the shot the screen cycles to another scenario. The scenarios help teach kids when they have a safe shot and when they don’t.   

If the officers didn’t take a lunch break, I wouldn’t have been able to squeeze my way into the training simulator. They shut down for an hour at lunch. The number of kids hanging around the simulator has been huge everyday during the fair.

Once I finally got my turn, I was ready to start knocking off the deer left and right. The first deer appears…BANG…right on the money. Or so I thought. I was wide left. Next deer appears…BANG…right on the money. Wrong, I was wide left again. The woman who helps run the booth said the gun needed to be calibrated. I, of course, knew that because I am a much better shot than what I saw.

After I compensated for the crooked gun, I began to mow those deer down like they were my backyard and I was a John Deere. There are, of course, bag limits in real life. Check out the hunting guide for more on that.

I mention kids throughout the story, but really anyone, regardless of age, would benefit from knowing more about hunting safety.

As far as video games go, the Wii has nothing on the DNR training simulator.
– Don

Let’s go fishin’

August 15, 2009
DNR's Warren Gartner talks to the kids about fishing

DNR's Warren Gartner talks to the kids about fishing

Over the past couple of years, one of the main attractions at the State Fair has become the fishin’ pond. The fishin’ pond is slightly smaller than Lake Michigan and a little bit bigger than your bathtub. Does that narrow it down for you?

This is the fourth State Fair the fishin’ pond has been around for. It has been a huge draw since the day it opened.

Only kids ages 5 – 17 are allowed to fish so I’m out of luck in trying my hand with those fish. It is stocked with bluegill and catfish. Bluegill are, by far, the more common catch. The kids practice catch and release so no fish are harmed at the Indiana State Fair, except the walleye I ate for lunch. It was good.

Before the kids run to their fishing stations, they listen to a fishing expert talk about the basics of fishing in Indiana and about how they will use the DNR rods in the fishin’ pond.

The fishin’ pond is open for fishing twice a day on most days. If you come, I hope you don’t mind icky things since, for bait, the kids use bee moths and worms.
-Don

The Fishin' Pond

The Fishin' Pond

Going to the dogs

August 15, 2009
Justice

Justice is a K-9 officer for DNR.

DNR K-9 Conservation Officers Jon Fennig and Ted Stein demonstrated their furry partners’ abilities at the 6 p.m. amphitheater show on Friday.

It was the last state fair show for Justice, Stein’s dog. At nearly 11 years old, the female Labrador retriever will be retiring from active service.

“In many ways she’s still a puppy,” said Stein, who plans to adopt Justice.

Abby is a member of the

Abby is a K-9 officer for DNR

Abby, Fennig’s dog, is about three years old. Both female Labrador retrievers enjoyed the audience attention as they were put through their tracking paces.

The dogs find illegal game, track people, and hunt for missing objects. Each has their own unique style, explained Stein. Using geese decoys, the officers demonstrated how the dogs detected animal meat and alerted the officers. Justice scratched; Abby barked.

During a demonstration of locating objects, Abby snuck several gulps of water from an aquarium at a nearby display. She quickly found the non-operational gun Fennig had buried in the weeds.

Reward for both animals was playtime with a toy.

Abby works the crowd

Abby works the crowd

The Right Stuff

August 13, 2009
Covered bridge from the trolley

Covered bridge seen from the trolley

Why did the tomato blush? It saw the salad dressing. You’ll hear that joke along with two other gems on the architectural trolley tour of the Indiana State fairgrounds. This is the year of the tomato at the State Fair.

The tour started at the DNR building and lasted about a half-an-hour. Our tour guides, Amy Walker and Adrienne Schmetzer of the DNR division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, provided the commentary (and the jokes) as the trolley made its way around the fairgrounds.

On the tour you’ll hear about the history of the fair and history of the buildings, all that good stuff. One of the juicy nuggets of information they share with the riders is which performer holds the record for largest attendance at a State Fair concert. Any guesses. The headline of the article didn’t tip you off. You looked up at the headline right now didn’t you? So you figured it out, right. The New Kids on the Block are the record holders with a crowd of 18,000 in 1989.

Are you interested in taking the trolley tour, stop by the DNR building at 7 p.m. on most nights. That’s the only way you’re going to hear the other two tomato jokes.
– Don