The shell was fused and fired. It was found about 20 feet off of the tour road. Very nice condition. Since Pea Ridge was so early in the war (March 1862), Doug was speculating if someone was trying to cheat the government, although your idea sounds a whole lot more plausible.
We also found 2 spherical case rounds (6# & 12#) that were fused and unexploded. The 6-pounder was found about 6 feet from the tour road. Both had intact Borman fuses. Both the fuses were punched out. These were fired into the Confederate position on the Big Mountain (Pea Ridge). I can't remember what the fuse setting was, but it appears that the Federal gunners did not take the elevation into account when the set the fuse. Both fuses appeared to have been snuffed out when the rounds impacted.
In case you hadn't heard, Doug Keller passed away suddenly last year. I'm still in contact with the folks at Pea Ridge and will pass along any information that you can provide to them.