Well, they’re back; the snow birds have arrived. I’m not talking about our migrating southern-loving Hoosiers who travel south to Florida and Arizona every year to escape our Indiana winter. I’m talking about the flock of tiny Dark-Eyed Juncos now crowded under my bird feeder.
I don’t much care for the juncos, as they are true harbingers of the arrival of hard cold and snow. But I tolerate them, and they are welcome at the feeder along with the myriad of other birds, along with Earl the squirrel and Chester the chipmunk.
Dark-Eyed Juncos are a beautiful bird, contrasting vividly with their black and almost blue-tinged bodies highlighted against a blanket of pure white snow. They love to pick around under the bird feeder, cashing in on the bits of sunflower seed kernels and suet cake dropped by the other birds.
They are welcome now, but I look forward to when they leave. When the Dark-Eyed Juncos depart, the snow has disappeared and the first shoots of green grass emerge, heralding a rapidly approaching spring.
DNR urgently needs more deer for disease testing
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is asking deer hunters for continued help with a disease surveillance program in Franklin and Fayette counties. With only the muzzleloader season left, a lack of submitted samples may bring the DNR to resort to government sharpshooters to harvest deer for testing.
State biologists are sampling deer harvested from portions of the two counties for bovine tuberculosis (TB). But after a slow start to the deer firearms season, the program is running behind. Biologists have collected just 30 percent of the samples needed from hunters to reach their surveillance goal, largely because of inclement weather on the opening weekend of firearms season.
Muzzleloader season for deer runs through Christmas Eve, and is an excellent opportunity for hunters to help. DNR will continue to collect samples from deer harvested within this TB surveillance zone through Jan. 7, 2018 (excluding several days around Christmas).
The DNR is asking hunters hunting in the surveillance zone during muzzleloader and other remaining deer seasons to submit deer for sampling. The preference is for bucks 2 years old or older, but all deer will be accepted for testing. The DNR hopes to sample between 500-1,200 deer, depending on age.
If the DNR does not reach its sampling goal, the agency may take additional deer for surveillance purposes.
Hunters who submit a deer for testing will be entered into a drawing for one of 10 authorizations to take an additional buck from anywhere in Indiana (with landowner permission) during the 2018-19 deer hunting season.
Hunters who bring the DNR a buck at least 2 years old will receive 10 entries into the drawing. Hunters who bring in does at least 2 years old will receive three entries. Hunters who bring in yearlings will receive one entry. Entries are cumulative, so hunters who bring in multiple deer will have an even better chance of winning.
The surveillance zone is the area south of State Road 44 and west of State Road 1 in Fayette County, and in the northwestern portion of Franklin County, west of Brookville Lake. See a map at www.wildlife.IN.gov/9320.htm
Surveillance involves collecting and testing lymph nodes from the head and neck of deer harvested by hunters and voluntarily submitted for evaluation. Hunters can bring their deer to a biological check station at the Whitewater Canal State Historic Site maintenance facility in Metamora at 19083 Clayborn Street, or to Mustin’s Processing in Connersville or Hunters Choice in Brookville.
Give a Christmas gift of the outdoors
Indiana State Parks has stocking stuffers galore for the outdoors lovers on your shopping list this year. From campers to kayakers and more, your loved ones are covered with passes, permits, gift cards and gift packages to help them make 2018 memorable. All of the gift ideas are available online at www.innsgifts.com
A $99 holiday gift pack includes a 2018 resident Annual Entrance Permit, a one-year subscription to Outdoor Indiana magazine and your choice of a $65 inn or camping gift card. The buyer saves $31 over the regular price of the items purchased separately.
The offer is available only online or by calling 877-LODGES1 (563-4371) through Dec. 31. Senior and non-resident options are also available.
Also available are annual state parks passes, $50 for in-state residents under age 65 or $25 for in-state residents age 65 and older; DNR lake permits ($25 for a motorized boat, $5 for non-motorized); annual horse tags, $20; and off-road cycling permits, $20.
Gift cards for inns, golfing at The Fort Golf Resort in Fort Harrison State Park and camping can be purchased in values ranging from $25-$200. All passes and permits are valid Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2018. Indiana has a combined 32 state parks and reservoirs, as well as seven inns throughout the state. Passes and permits are also good at State Forest Recreation Areas.
Permits and passes may be purchased at park offices and the Customer Service Center in the Indiana Government Center in Indianapolis. The seven state park inns are also selling annual passes at their front desks.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments may contact Jack Spaulding by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to him in care of this publication.