There has always been a certain amount of confusion about where mushroom hunters are allowed to legally hunt on Indiana DNR properties. The legal question was not whether individuals were allowed to hunt mushrooms on DNR lands (State Parks, State Forests, etc.), but whether they were allowed to leave the designated trails to do so. This year we are set to get some clarification.
First a little background.
Under 312 IAC 8-2-10, mushroom hunting and foraging for other natural goods is specifically exempted from licensure in the state. You can harvest mushrooms, nuts, berries, fruits, leaves, and greens (NOT ginseng) in any state park, state wildlife area, state forest, or any nature preserve located in one of these areas.
We had previously sought out a clarification from DNR lawyers about whether or not individuals were able to leave designated trails and still be in compliance with the rules. What we found out was there were no regulations allowing, nor preventing this. It was essentially up to each property manager or DNR agent as to how they would interpret the law. One of the questions we posed, was if a deer hunter was to leave a trail in a state forest to practice his licensed activity, where this was authorized in the code. Deer hunting was actually in the same legal conundrum as mushroom hunters, even though the state offers licenses for the activity.
Effective April 2014, there are new rules going into effect on all DNR properties. Proposed Rule Change #13-294 follows:
(d) Unless an activity is licensed or exempted from licensure under this rule, a person must not do the following:
(1) Leave the designated pathway for a trail while moving cross-country. on a trail must remain on the designated pathway for the trail. A person must not: (2) Except on a trail designated for the purpose:
(1) (A) hike;
(2) (B) bike;
(3) (C) ski;
(4) (D) horseback ride; or
(5) (F) operate an off-road vehicle or snowmobile. The part that applies to mushroom hunters is the very first sentence. Since we are specifically exempted from licensure in section 8-2-10 of this rule, the on-trail requirement is no longer applicable to foragers. Mushroom hunters, and other foragers, will now be legally allowed to leave the trail in any state park, state recreational area, or state forest in order to participate in this legally protected activity. If you have been hassled in the past about leaving the trail on state lands, that should come to an end in the near future as DNR officials are made aware of this change in their policy.
There is one other obscure rule I will mention that mushroom hunters should be aware of. That is Indiana's definition of a mushroom. It follows:
312 IAC 8-1.5-15 "Mushroom" defined
Sec. 15. "Mushroom" means edible fungi
There are many ways to interpret this rule. As some people say, all mushrooms are edible, but sometimes only once. The intent of the authors was clearly to limit harvesting of mushrooms to those species people intend to eat. But many edible species cannot be properly identified in the field, and must be taken home in order to make an accurate identification. I mention this because it is the only vague section of Indiana code when discussing the authority to harvest wild mushrooms. The code is still VERY vague when it comes to selling wild mushrooms within the state. This will be our next legislative challenge involving the Food Division of the State Department of Health. This next issue will be a significant challenge.
You can view other rules and laws involving mushroom hunting in the State of Indiana here.