Hunter in Goose Pond F&WA accused of shooting at sandhill cranes

A large number of sandhill cranes were flying into an area of Goose Pond Fish & Wildlife Area, but very few ducks or geese, on a day when an Indiana Conservation Officer heard gunshots being fired. After his investigation, a duck hunter is being summoned to appear in court for the taking of a migratory bird.

Victor C. Correa of Indianapolis will receive a summons ordering him to appear in Greene Superior Court on March 18 for an initial hearing on a charge of the taking of a migratory bird – a violation that is knowing or intentional, a Class C misdemeanor.

This charge came about as a result of an investigation by Indiana Conservation Officer Greg Swanson, Indiana DNR Law Enforcement Division.

ICO Swanson was on foot patrol at Goose Pond F&WA in Greene County, in the area of GP 10 South around 8 a.m. on January 5 when he heard gunshots being fired to the west. Swanson said on this particular day, there were very few ducks or geese flying and very few shots being fired in and around the Goose Pond area, but there were a large number of sandhill cranes flying south from GP 10 South into GP 8. In addition, Swanson knew none of the property to the west of his location was open for hunting waterfowl. He continued to hear gunfire and around 8:30 a.m., he walked back to his truck to drive west on County Road 200 South.

Near the intersection of County Road 1400 West, he located a pick-up truck and two hunters on the south side of CR 200 South – they appeared to be waterfowl hunting. They had a blind set up and had duck decoys placed on ice in the field. Swanson said he did not see any waterfowl in the area, but soon realized they were in the direct path of where the sandhill cranes had been flying.

Swanson said both of the hunters were Hispanic and he recognized them from a previous encounter a month earlier. Swanson said neither one spoke or understood English very well and he ended up communicating with them through Correa’s wife on a cell phone.

Correa allegedly said he was the only one hunting because they only had one firearm. Correa knew they were on DNR property and Swanson informed him in order to hunt waterfowl they were required to go through a draw that was conducted at 5:30 a.m., and he informed him the area they were in was not open to waterfowl hunting on that day.

Through Correa’s wife, Swanson said Correa was shooting at the sandhill cranes. Correa said he was not shooting at them but was shooting at ducks and geese.

In the probable cause affidavit prepared by ICO Swanson, he wrote, “I asked Mr. Correa where his shotgun shells were and he opened a backpack that contained two boxes of 12-gauge shotgun shells. One box was steel, non-toxic shot, as required for waterfowl hunting but the other was lead shot. Mr. Correa pointed to the box of steel shot several times indicating that was what he was shooting. After looking where the blind was set up, I located seven expended shotgun shells and only one was steel shot. I explained to Mr. Correa that he was not able to possess lead shot or shoot lead shot at waterfowl.”

Swanson seized the expended shotgun shells as evidence along with one lead shot shell from the opened box, and he issued a citation to Correa.