Outdoor Indiana - March/April 2010 - Feature Stories

Director's Column
Creature Feature
Hoosier Profile
Getting butternutty

Director's Column

Youth program leaves positive mark
Robert E. Carter, Jr.

Robert E. Carter, Jr. A program comes along every once in awhile that looks like a no-brainer.

That’s certainly the case with the Young Hoosiers Conservation Corps launched last summer by Gov. Mitch Daniels.

The YHCC tapped funds made available to Indiana through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The money came with federal restrictions on who could be hired and how long they could work, but it allowed the DNR to partner with the Department of Workforce Development to give summer jobs to nearly 1,900 young adults.

Beginning with the first wave in May, YHCC employees spent the next six months working on 750 projects at more than 75 DNR properties across the state. You can read more about their achievements in staff writer Brandon Butler’s report on Page 24, but it goes without saying that most of the projects that were tackled would not have gotten done without YHCC workers.

They constructed new trails, upgraded hundreds of miles of existing trails, renovated or repaired more than 400 buildings, constructed 15 new ones, and treated or removed invasive plant species from thousands of acres.

I was able to see first hand the work being done by the YHCC as I visited state properties last summer. I frequently came away impressed with their efforts as well as the ingenuity shown by their DNR supervisors.

For example, Pokagon State Park property manager Ted Bohman was faced with some significant erosion problems. He realized the materials needed to fix the situation were right under his feet—an endless supply of glacial rock scattered around the park. So, Ted had his YHCC crews collect 1,200 tons of the stuff, which they used to build a massive retaining wall along the Lake James shoreline.

Along the way, YHCC workers picked up assorted job skills in painting, landscaping, building construction, housekeeping, masonry and more.

What they left behind is a legacy that enhanced our state properties much the same way as the YHCC predecessors—the Civilian Conservation Corps—did in the 1930s and ’40s.

We appreciate their efforts and look forward to working with the YHCC program again this summer.

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Creature Feature

River otter (Lontra canadensis)
By Scott Johnson

River otter (Lontra canadensis)A canoeist idly paddling down the Blue River watches a female river otter and her three pups emerge from the overhanging roots of a sycamore tree and slip silently into the dark water. On the frozen Tippecanoe River, an otter alternates between a loping run and a belly slide, leaving its distinctive “dot-dot-dash-dot-dot-dash” track pattern in the fresh snow. Thanks to the continued success of river otter restoration efforts, both sights are becoming increasingly common throughout the state.

When European explorers first ventured into the Ohio and Mississippi valleys more than 300 years ago, otters were common residents in the area that would later become the state of Indiana.

These sleek, powerful, semi-aquatic mammals, however, began to slowly vanish from much of the landscape due to widespread drainage of wetlands, alteration and degradation of rivers and streams, and unregulated trapping for their luxuriant fur. By 1900, otters were a rarity in Indiana, and although afforded legal protection in 1921, they essentially had vanished from the state by 1942.

During the 1970s, advances in furbearer management, established trapping regulations, and comprehensive national programs to improve water quality and restore wetlands created a near- perfect environment for a return. In 1995, Indiana became one of more than 20 states to start a program to re-establish otters in portions of their historic range.

A river otter inspects the bank of the waterfowl area at Tippecanoe River State Park.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

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Hoosier Profile

Jesse Schultz
By Brandon Butler
Big fish on campus

Jesse SchultzFishing can be more than a pastime. For Jesse Schultz, a 21-year-old Indiana University senior from New Albany, it’s a way of life. He balances the usual demands of college with his labor of love—serving as president and catching fish for the school’s bass fishing club.

Fishing is in Jesse Schultz’s blood. When he was 3 years old, he and his family spent Memorial Day 1991 at a private lake in Harrison County. While he was splashing around in the water, his mother Jenifer was casting a top-water bait nearby. He said he vividly recalls the scene.

“I remember my mom hooking a huge bass, and everyone getting real excited. It weighed 14 pounds, 12 ounces, and became the Indiana state record largemouth,” he said. The record still stands.

When he decided to attend IU in 2006, Schultz, by then an avid angler, intended to join the school’s bass fishing team but learned it had been disbanded.

“From what I understand, a reporter tagged along to a tournament with some of the fishermen from the IU and Purdue teams. I guess this reporter took a photo of someone with beer, and wrote that the club’s events were nothing more than drinking parties,” Schultz said.

If he wanted to be part of an IU bass fishing team, he was going to have to start a new one.

Getting started

After clearing the required administrative hurdles to start a club team on campus, Schultz began recruiting.

The first person to join him in drumming up new members was Ryan Queen, then a junior, from Mooresville, who became vice president. Schultz and Queen began their efforts with grass roots word-of-mouth.

“Word spread pretty quick, and before long we had a dozen or so members,” Schultz said.

Today, there are roughly 40 members of the IU Bass Fishing Club; about half actively fish tournaments. The club not only fishes tournaments on local waters like Monroe and Patoka lakes, but also travels as far away as Missouri and Texas.

Bill Embry, founder of an Indiana-based tournament series, said, “In this world, there are doers and there are talkers. (Schultz) is a doer. If it weren’t for him, there wouldn’t be an IU Bass Fishing Club.”

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

Jesse Schultz with a largemouth bass caught from Monroe Lake during practice. Monroe is the home water of the Indiana University bass fishing team.

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Getting butternutty

Shoot a branch, save a tree
By Terence E. Hanley
Photography by Frank Oliver

Purdue forester Brian Beheler aims at a butternut branch in Tippecanoe County.Peak hunting season has passed, but Brian Beheler shoulders his rifle and crosses into the Jennings County woods from an overgrown field, hoping to get a shot at an uncommon quarry.

He knows it won’t move an inch as he approaches—or even when lead starts to fly.

That’s because he seeks a butternut tree, a species once common in Indiana and used for many different purposes—and part of regional lore—but now ravaged by disease, in decline throughout its range.

The woods are leafless, making it easier to spot the trees’ silvery bark on this sunny afternoon. Beheler, a forester whose name is pronounced Buh-HEE-ler, seeks a large specimen, one sure to stand out among surrounding saplings.

He finds an impressive tree for the species; 80 feet tall and 19 inches in diameter, but like so many of its brethren, it’s infected with butternut canker, Sirococcus clavigignenti-juglandacearum.
But that’s the point of the hunt.

If you’ve never seen a butternut tree, this fungus is probably why. Although butternut was known to be in trouble by the 1960s, the fungal cause wasn’t discovered until a decade later.

The origin of the fungus is unknown, but its effect is clear. Butternut canker has wiped out at least 80 percent of butternut trees in some states by U.S. Forest Service (USFS) estimates. The South has been hit particularly hard. The species is faring better in its Northern reaches, but even here in the lower Midwest, a butternut tree is becoming a rare sight in the woods.

Butternut matters

No one knows how common butternut once was in the United States, but the butternut culture of the pre-Civil War frontier provides clues. The settlers of the upper South and lower Midwest were called “Butternuts” because they dyed their homespun clothes with a yellow-brown butternut stain. So were the Confederate soldiers who donned butternut-dyed uniforms.

Butternut at one time was capable of supporting a wood-using industry in Indiana. Despite its relative scarcity, butternut lumber remains a favorite of duck-decoy carvers and other craftsmen. Easily worked and polished, the wood has a rich, satiny look when finished, perfect for veneer, woodwork, cabinetry, altars and lecterns.

Native Americans used butternut to treat infections, ulcers and toothaches. Researchers are looking anew at its medicinal properties. Native Americans also mixed butternut oil and nutmeats to produce a rich, nutritious food.

Viking explorers appear to have relished butternuts, too. Hulls have been found at their abandoned settlement in Newfoundland. When Europeans came to stay, they made beer from butternut bark. They also developed and seem to have passed on a taste for the nuts.

Though butternuts are protected by rock-hard hulls, many modern nut lovers favor them. The nuts can be substituted for black walnuts when baking. Syrup can be made from walnut and butternut sap. In his book “Stalking the Wild Asparagus,” Euell Gibbons offers a recipe for pickled butternuts, a treat he says “some people consider the finest product of the walnut tree.”

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

Purdue forester Brian Beheler aims at a butternut branch in Tippecanoe County. Such branches are grafted to produce multiple copies for nut-producing orchards and disease screening. Beheler says the best wood for grafting is at the top of the tree and shooting is the simplest and preferred method unless the tree location is unsafe for the use of firearms. .

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