Summer or winter, he's got his eye on you
Jacob Carlile grew up hunting in the woods surrounding Dowagiac, Mich., sitting for hours stalking deer and turkeys. Nowadays, he continues to sit in the woods, stalking hunters without licenses and other ne’er-do-wells. He’s a conservation officer for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, covering the region. In the summer, you’ll find him patrolling the many lakes, looking for drunken boaters and scofflaw fishermen. But he hasn’t lost that love of being outdoors on warm and frosty days alike. Find out the strangest encounter he’s had and why his dog is named Cider as we play 20 Questions.
1. How did you become a conservation officer?
It’s been my career goal as long as I could remember. My dad was a biology major, and we spent a lot of time outdoors hunting and fishing. A conservation officer is the pinnacle of outdoor sports.
2. What’s your biggest concern about the environment?
Habitat destruction. The amount of development we’ve seen (means) that habitat that’s gone will never come back. There’s five new houses down the road from where I live, and I used to watch turkeys in the field. There will never be another deer in that area, not another turkey.
3. What’s the stupidest thing people do in the winter?
Not dress for the weather in anything they’re doing. You can have a car breakdown at any time. When we had the arctic blast last year, we had people stranded in their cars, and I had to walk to (reach) them and I got frostbite on both my ears through a knit cap. You should have an extra coat and pair of gloves in the vehicle.
4. What’s the stupidest thing people do in the summer?
Drink. If alcohol didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have a job. I have no problem with having a drink with friends, but knowing your limits is almost impossible to get across to people. It’s never one drink – it’s eight.
5. How do you stay warm while out in the field?
I try my best to stay dry and dress in layers. Having extra layers is super important. The most important thing is to stay dry and keep extra clothing with you.
6. What’s the strangest encounter you’ve ever had?
I saw a nude photo shoot. That was pretty random. And it was at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning.
7. Is there really a bobcat on the loose in Allen County?
There are bobcats throughout Indiana. It’s not uncommon for young deer, turkey or bobcats to roam and establish their own territories.
8. Where’s your favorite spot in nature in this region?
The Pigeon River corridor through Steuben County. It’s beautiful. In the summer it gets a lot of use, but right now it would be beautiful.
9. How much conservation do you get to do instead of law enforcement?
Law enforcement is conservation. Conservation is the wise use of nature. Law enforcement is a way to ensure that we’re using (nature) in a wise manner.
10. What’s the most dangerous situation you’ve been in, and was it a person or an animal?
Definitely people. I’m not concerned with the animals. People are intending to hurt you. Animals are not out to get you. I’ve had a couple of foot pursuits with felons. There was one felon I was very, very close to shooting. I could see another officer having shot him.
11. What’s your usual mode of patrol transportation?
It depends on the time of year. In the summer, it’s boating. This time of year I’m on foot or in my pickup truck.
12. Has being a conservation officer been what you expected?
It’s not what I expected. It’s a lot more diverse. It’s a lot more challenging than I would have ever thought.
13. What do you like about hunting?
I got my first deer at 13. It’s a huge challenge, but at the same time, you get the opportunity to hope (you’ll get a deer). There’s a lot of adrenaline. You get out (in the woods) and have to be on alert, and you have thousands of things going on around you. I had a mink go under me one time.
14. Why is nature important to you?
It’s the experience of being part of everything that’s going on. I still (think) it’s better to be outside than to be in a cubicle.
15. What’s your best “big fish” story?
I was working at Geist Reservoir (near Indianapolis), and there was a little bitty lady behind the dam. I tried to sneak up behind her (in the water) to check if she had a fishing license, and in one step I went from knee-deep to over my head. I got soaked trying to get to her, and she had a 4-foot-long catfish and she was just about 4 feet 10 inches tall herself. I have no idea how she got that home. And, yes, she had her license.
16. What kinds of endangered animals have you seen?
There’s paddlefish in southern Indiana. They’re one kind of fish you get caviar from. I’ve seen Massasauga rattlesnakes – they’re very rare. Then there’s the bobcats, some ornate box turtles, Eastern box turtle. When you’re dealing with animals like the box turtle, everything has to be a certain way. If you remove it from its habitat, you’re basically killing it.
17. You have a golden retriever named Cider. How did she get her name?
Corey Ford, the outdoors writer, in one of his books he had a picture of his dog named Cider and I liked the name, and since my dog is a very dark red, it fits. No matter how horrible my day is or how miserable, hot, cold, hungry or tired I am, she’s just a ball of happy energy.
18. What do you do when you’re not working?
My dog training has taken up a lot of time lately. Hunting and fishing and everything that surrounds those. I run. I did two triathalons this year in Kendallville and Bluffton.
19. What does a conservation officer do with a big city like Fort Wayne in the midst of all this land?
Especially in Fort Wayne, there’s going to be problems with people and wildlife. Whenever you have a larger city, you’re going to have people who have no idea what to do with wildlife they encounter.
20. Who is your hero?
My dad, Gary Carlile. The way I was raised, everything he does is outdoors. Anything I do, it’s stuff I did with him.
First appeared in the January 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.