Bizarre Foods of Indiana

August 11, 2010 by

This past Saturday, I ventured into the epicurean wilderness…the Taste of the Wild cookout at the DNR. Oh my, was the turnout surprising! Now, it may have been the fact that it was totally free and the spread was very diverse, but I like to think that everyone attending was just as curious about what was being offered as I was. I made the decision to pass on more “normal” fare like salmon, venison, and turkey, and satisfy my more adventurous tooth and partake of the turtle soup, barbecued turtle, and barbecued beaver.

Surprisingly enough, all three were rather good. They had been well-prepared and didn’t taste the least bit gamey, as I had originally expected. The turtle had a clean flavor, and was a bit more fibrous than the beaver. One of the gentlemen that I spoke to said that turtle had 7 different flavors of meat in it. Now personally, I couldn’t discern each individual flavor, but I can understand where he was coming from. It was a very different taste and each chew brought a new flavor, but I could certainly never put a finger on where each was coming from.

The barbecued beaver was very sweet and tender. The texture was more like a traditional pulled pork and it wasn’t musky, nor did it taste of lake water. It didn’t taste much different from beef or pork, although it seemed slightly heavier. I did have a tough time eating it though, as I love beavers and don’t see them as a food source. I tried it and didn’t hate it, but I don’t think I’ll be eating it again.

As I learned from Andrew Zimmern, don’t push something away until you’ve tried it twice. I tried everything twice, and although nothing tasted terrible, I think I’ll stick with traditional fare…until something weirder and more unusual crosses my path.


Reach, Throw, Paddle, Go

August 10, 2010 by

Officer Tholen before the rocky waters of the Fishin' Pond capsized him.

The FishIN Pond in the backyard of the DNR building is used for more than fishing. Conservation Officer Matt Tholen took a dip in the pond water as he intentionally flipped his kayak to demonstrate boat safety. Both Tholen and Conservation Officer Rodney Clear stressed the importance of wearing a life jacket and how it can easily be made into a routine, like putting on a seatbelt. Life jackets today come in more forms than the standard orange vest. Compact vests with an inflatable pull tab are slender and range from around $80 to $120.

Officers Clear and Tholen removing water from the kayak.

To remember how to safely save someone the officers recited the catchy phrase, “reach, throw, paddle, go”. Find something long enough to reach to the person in the water like an oar, broom, rope or net. Throw something nearby to help the struggling person float,  like a basketball, life preserving ring or beach ball. Paddle your way out to the person in a boat, once you reach the person throw them a flotation device and lastly go. Go, not in the water to save them, but to get something to throw, reach or paddle with to spare not only teir life, but yours too. It is common that a  person drowning will grapple for help and likely pull you under the water with them.

With 34 drowning deaths in Indiana this year, it can’t be stressed enough to wear it Indiana.

For more information on boating safely visit or attend one of our sessions at the State Fair:

Wednesday, August 18

12 p.m. – 2 p.m. Paddling Safety, Fishin’ Pond

Thursday, August 19

12 – 2 p.m. Paddling Safety, Fishin’ Pond
Friday, August 20
12 – 2 p.m. Paddling Safety, Fishin’ Pond


Swimming with the Fishes

August 9, 2010 by

Not exactly swimming but SCUBA diving. Indiana Conservation Officer Matt Tholen gave the crowd a hands-on demonstration of how conservation officers in the state use SCUBA in their job.

Conservation Officer Matt Tholen showing the crowd his gear.

There are about 25 conservation officers in the state that are certified to dive. Officers dive in lakes, rivers, creeks and really any water to look for evidence or worst case, find missing persons.

Officer Tholen dives reguarly in the Wabash river, as he puts it, the water is so dark you can’t even see your hand in front of your face.

The gear they use is pretty sophisticated, including a walkie talkie system within the head mask so officers can communicate with one another on a search. They also have computers on them that monitor the amount of air left in their tanks.

Here is the gear in its natural environment - the water. On top of his head you see a flashlight. Remember he dives in the Wabash river.

Officers use the traditional wet suit when diving, but they also have a dry suit. The dry suit is for you guessed it, keeping them dry and warm in cold conditions. It’s not always sunny and 80 degrees outside when officers have to dive. At times officers have to dive after ice fishermen who fall through the ice.

On a hot, sunny Monday at the fair, all of us in attendence were certainly not thinking about icy weather, in fact, I’m sure most of the crowd would have liked to jump into the Fishin’ Pond along with Officer Tholen.
– Don

As if it isn’t Hot Enough-DNR Front Porch Heats Up With Fire Demonstration

August 9, 2010 by

Cummings helps a participant gets suited up in fire gear.


Not all fire is “bad” fire, informed the demonstrators at the FIRE! How the DNR Uses Fire as a Tool, presentation on the Front Porch of the DNR building. Jeff Cummings a Naturalist at Ft. Harrison State Park told onlookers the benefits of prescribed fires. It was explained that controlled fires are used for many reasons a few being ecological restoration (which will be done to restore the plants on the front porch of the DNR building after the state fair), disease and insect control, and hazardous fuel reduction.

Participants lined up on the Front Porch of the DNR building to see who's fire started first.

After a demo on the equipment used for prescribed fires, participants lined up to set fire to eight natural resources testing which one would ignite the quickest. A match was taken to everything from wood to pine needles and an attempt at igniting fresh grass. Everyone at the demonstration walked away with a souvenir Smokey the Bear frisbee inscribed with the infamous phrase, but instead of saying, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” the motto has been appropriately updated to “Only you can prevent wildfires.”


Stay safe Indiana – Wear It

August 8, 2010 by

Mark Farmer impressing the crowd with his vast knowledge of life preservers

The Wear It Indiana crew was out at the state fair led by conservation officer Mark Farmer. Patrons at the DNR building had a chance to sign up and win a $500 Bass Pro Shops gift card. By signing up the public gets a chance at the gift card and the conservation officers get a pledge that when out on the water boaters will indeed wear their life jackets.

Never a lack of interest in the Wear It Indiana display

The winner of the gift card will be drawn at the Hoosier Outdoor Experience at Ft. Harrison in September. Last year the prize went to 12 year-old Spencer Patton, who filled out his pledge card at the State Fair. Everyone that fills out the pledge card still gets a free gift, a t-shirt, a bag or a towel.

Life jackets have certainly come along ways. Every once in a while, when a large crowd gathered around, the conservation officers would demonstrate how their life jackets work. One looked like a fanny pack hanging around the waist and with the pull of a cord would inflate within two seconds. The other looked like a thick necklace that you would also pull and would thicken and expand out with air. Both are so easy to wear and not very intrusive at all. The life preservers we normally think of are a thing of the past.
– Don

Wild animals all over the DNR building

August 7, 2010 by

It’s true there were wild animals all over the DNR grounds at the State Fair. Just not live ones, they were cooked. The Taste of the Wild featured meats you and I might have on a regular basis like turkey and salmon, but we also got a taste of not so common foods like beaver and turtle.

Frying up salmon, my favorite

I’m not really one to branch out and try exotic foods like beaver, I like to stick with my favorites, fried salmon and venison.

Never a shortage of people sampling the food.

Every year more and more people come out and sample, which is testament to the wonderful cooks who prepare the great food.

Sunday is Wear It Indiana day at the DNR building. Stop in and check out DNR’s finest, the conservation officers, as they demonstrate boating safety.
– Don

There’s a “fly” on you…

August 7, 2010 by

Thank goodness for Patti Beasley and the other members of Reel Women – Reel Men of Indianapolis. Without them, I still wouldn’t understand the allure of fly fishing (Get it? ALLURE?…nevermind). I had always wondered how the back-and-forth motion used to cast could be successful at hooking a fish. When I was learning to fish, I used a similar motion, always to the annoyance of my uncle. Apparently you shouldn’t do that when reel-fishing. I’m far too impatient to wait out the bobber going under. After today, I think fly fishing might be right up my alley. And believe me, that back-and-forth motion is pretty darn successful. A young fair-goer and budding fisherman showed me that, no matter what age, you CAN become a successful fly fisherman pretty quickly.

At 4 years old, Luke might not have been your typical candidate for a skilled fisherman, but this kid gets my vote for rookie of the year. After reeling in a fish caught by Miss Patti, he cast the line like a pro (with a little help and instruction from Miss Patti herself, of course) and in no time at all caught his own fish: a pretty little bluegill-sunfish cross about 4 inches long. Watching Luke, seeing how easy it was for him to handle the full-size rod (which are surprisingly light), and seeing all the other ecstatic faces when they caught a fish, I’d venture to guess that fly-fishing is definitely a sport pretty much anyone can enjoy.

That’s all for now! Here’s what you can look forward to reading about tomorrow: Snakes Alive demo, Taste of the Wild Cookout (I’m so excited!), Roving Naturalist: Indiana Arachnids, Flint Knapping, and the ever-popular Take Flight Live Raptor Show. It’s a busy day, full of the weird and wonderful happenings at the DNR building at the 2010 Indiana State Fair: The Year of the Pig!
– Jess

A Different Angle-Learning to Fly Fish

August 6, 2010 by

Patti Beasley, Founder and President of Reel Women - Reel Men teaches me to fly fish

The line hits the water in a clumsy tangle. Fly fishing looks graceful, but my first try was not a picture perfect one. “Try again”, encouraged Patti Beasley Founder and President of Reel Women – Reel Men of Indianapolis fly fishing club.

My second cast was better, after all kids from four years old and up had been catching fish about every third cast. I angled the pole in the air making a “D” shape, with the straight edge of the D being the rod and the fishing line being the curved part. As it angled over my head, I cast again. Like all of the other first time fly-fishers I caught one.

Luke, a four year old, the youngest fisher that morning displays the catch he reeled in.

To my surprise this sport has no age restriction and covers a wide spectrum of people interested. For those not partial to casting, they may find their niche with the intricate fly tying. Demonstrations for fly tying are offered alongside the pond as well.  During a casting demonstration, Beasley mentioned that she combines her bird hunting hobby with fly fishing by keeping the birds feathers to make flies.

Fly fishing can be a fun alternative to regular rod and reel fishing. Beginners can get fly fishing kits starting at $39.99 at Dicks Sporting Goods to $99.99 at Gander Mountain. Like any sport an endless amount of money can be spent. Beasley suggests spending more money on the fly rod rather than the reel.

To reel in the experience first-hand join us at the DNR building for more fly fishing.

Saturday Aug., 7 from 2-3 p.m., Reel Women – Reel Men of Indianapolis with their program Anyone Can Learn to Fly Fish.

Saturday Aug. 14 from 12:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Fly Casting Demonstrations with the Fly Masters of Indianapolis at the FishIN pond.

Saturday Aug. 14 from 2-4 p.m., Fly Casting Demonstrations with the Fly Masters of Indianapolis on the DNR Front Porch. 
– Krista

Schedule of Events

August 6, 2010 by

Here is a schedule of DNR exhibits and activities during the State Fair. The fair gets underway today. Tune in later to read about our adventures of the day.

Tomorrow features Taste of the Wild cookout. Always a fan favorite. That begins right outside the DNR building at 11 a.m.

2010 Indiana State Fair, Aug. 6-22

June 7, 2010 by

Once again we will be blogging from the DNR building at the 2010 Indiana State Fair. I hope you will stop by and visit the DNR at the State Fair and also check out the blog daily to catch up on the action. It should be another exciting year.

So long from the State Fair

August 24, 2009 by

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.