Missouri gets new state-record freshwater drum
Friday, January 30, 2009
The 26.5-pound fish was gigged at Lake of the Ozarks.
LAKE OZARK—Kenneth F. Hoener, of Hermann, set a state record for freshwater drum taken by “alternative methods” when he gigged a 26.5-pound freshwater drum at Lake of the Ozarks Nov. 7. The fish measured 38 inches long.
The Missouri Department of Conservation recognizes fishing records in two categories. Pole-and-line catches must be taken on hand-held equipment. Alternative methods include trotlines, throwlines, limblines, banklines, juglines, spearfishing, snagging, snaring, gigging and archery.
The previous “alternative methods” record was a 15-pound, 3-ounce drum caught on a trotline at Lake Wappapello in 1996. The current pole-and-line record for freshwater drum is a monstrous 40.5-pound fish caught by an Iowa man at Lake of the Ozarks in 1980.
Stone County conservation agent is Missouri's top wildlife officer
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Dan Akin, of Crane, is in the running for the national title.
SPRINGFIELD Mo.—Tag along with Stone County Conservation Agent Dan Akin for a year and you’ll learn a conservation agent’s job consists of more than traversing the woods and waterways of the state in search of violators.
An ongoing involvement in conservation education coupled with a dedicated commitment to wildlife law enforcement has earned the Crane resident the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Missouri Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award. Akin will be honored at the NWTF’s National Convention and Sport Show Feb. 19 through 22 in Nashville, Tenn. Akin’s winning of the Missouri award puts him in the competition for NWTF National Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, an award that will be announced at the convention.
Though the award is presented by the NWTF, it covers more than wild turkey management. It honors the accomplishments of individuals involved with enforcing regulations that cover the entire spectrum of fish and wildlife conservation.
“The conservation agents are the first line of defense for our resources,” said NWTF Director of Public Relations Brent Lawrence. “They are there to protect the animals and land so that everybody is able to enjoy these resources. Conservation agents also spend time teaching and educating people about the importance of the outdoors and the importance of conservation. This award honors the fine agents that serve the outdoors.”
True to this definition of the award, Akin’s accomplishments from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008, represent a diverse body of work. In the area of enforcement, Akin made or assisted in 113 arrests. These varied from ticketing out-of-season and over-limit deer and turkey poachers to arrests in a multi-state paddlefish caviar operation that violated federal wildlife laws.
Lawrence said a state wildlife agency’s commitment to enforcement is key to the success of conservation.
“Without the commitment of these individuals to protect wildlife from poachers, restoration efforts and wildlife management strategies would never succeed,” he said.
Akin and other conservation agents do more than arrest poachers, though. Agents’ educational efforts help the public understand the uniqueness of the natural resources of our state and the importance of the fish and game regulations that help conserve them. In between his enforcement duties, Akin found time to read to preschoolers at a Head Start center and conduct wildlife cooking classes for adults. Since joining the Missouri Department of Conservation as a conservation agent in Stone County in 1999, Akin has developed a strong rapport with local news media. During the past year Akin wrote newspaper articles about conservation topics and recorded public service announcements for the local radio station – PSAs that were broadcast in both English and Spanish.
“Dan’s enthusiasm and dedication to the job seems to grow every year,” said Missouri Department of Conservation Protection Division District Supervisor Ralph McNair. “Dan makes my job as his supervisor not only easy, but a pleasure.”
Akin hasn’t neglected the conservation education of his family, either. This past spring, he called in a turkey for his wife, Candis, to bag and also took his oldest of two daughters, Eryn, on a turkey hunt.
“Conservation Agent Dan Akin is a great example of the dedicated, professional employee that makes the Missouri Department of Conservation the organization that others envy,” McNair said. “Dan has developed a well-balanced program through the years, combining enforcement and education to accomplish the mission and goals of the Department.”
Goose hunters urged to watch for swans
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Incident at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area points up the need for caution.
JEFFERSON CITY—The killing of five trumpeter swans in central Missouri underlines the serious risks involved in failing to identify waterfowl before shooting
Eight trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) apparently arrived at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area (CA) in southern Boone County the night of Dec. 29. Some hunters failed to properly identify their targets and killed five of the swans, apparently mistaking them for snow geese.
Other hunters witnessed the shootings and alerted conservation agents, who confiscated the birds as evidence. A February court date has been set for the resulting cases.
Trumpeter swans bear only a superficial resemblance to snow geese, the only even slightly similar bird that is legal to hunt in Missouri. Both are mostly white. However, trumpeter swans’ size, their long necks relative to their body size and the entirely white color of adult swans’ wings makes them easy to distinguish from other native waterfowl. Snow geese are much smaller and have black wing tips.
Trumpeter swans are the the largest birds native to North America. Adult males measure 57 to 64 inches long and weigh around 25 pounds. Adult females range from 55 to 60 inches and weigh approximately 20 pounds. Their wingspans can approach 8 feet, and they fly with their extremely long necks outstretched.
The Missouri Department of Conservation urges waterfowl hunters to learn to identify legal ducks and geese and to take special care in identifying large white birds. Do not shoot if there is any doubt about a large, white bird’s identity. For help identifying swans and other waterfowl, visit www.mdc.mo.gov/9528.
Trumpeter swans are known to be in Missouri now and the possibility of swan sightings will continue throughout much of the winter. The hunting season for snow and blue geese runs until Jan. 30, and following that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Light Goose Conservation Order extends hunting for snow and Ross’s geese until April 30.
Hunters who shoot trumpeter swans risk thousands of dollars in fines and the possible loss of hunting privileges. A 2005 case in which hunters killed three trumpeter swans at Robert E. Talbot CA in Lawrence County resulted in penalties of more than $5,000 and a six-month jail sentence. The jail sentence was suspended on two year’s probation.
Trumpeter swans inhabit both North America and Eurasia. Although not classified as endangered nationally, they are considered extirpated in Missouri. The species’ Midwest population is estimated at 5,000.
One pair of trumpeter swans has nested successfully on private land in north-central Missouri in recent years, and increasing numbers of trumpeter swans from the upper Midwest and Canada migrate to Missouri each winter.
Missouri hunters set a safety record in 2008
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Firearms accidents, which have declined steadily since hunter education became mandatory in 1988, reached a historic low last year.
JEFFERSON CITY–Missouri recorded 15 firearms-related hunting accidents in 2008, the fewest since the Missouri Department of Conservation began keeping records in 1963.
Conservation Department records show that the incidence of firearms hunting accidents peaked in 1986, when 98 people were hurt in such incidents. That was not the most lethal year, however. While only seven hunters died in firearms hunting accidents in 1986, 22 lost their lives in both 1966 and 1970. Twenty perished in firearms hunting accidents in 1963 and 1967.
The number of total firearms hunting accidents hovered in the 70 to 90 range from 1976 through 1985, and Missouri averaged 11.8 fatal firearms hunting accidents during that period.
“In hindsight, those were dark days,” said Hunter Education Coordinator Tony Legg. “The annual toll was an embarrassment to hunters, and Missouri took a leading role in ending that era.”
In 1988, the Conservation Department began requiring anyone born after Dec. 31, 1966, to complete an approved hunter education course before they would buy any hunting permit. The results, documented in hunting-accident statistics, were remarkable. The number of accidents dropped by more than 50 percent in the first 10 years of mandatory hunter education. In 2008, the 20th anniversary of mandatory hunter education in Missouri, the number of hunting accidents was one-quarter what it once was. None of the accidents recorded last year was fatal.
Requiring hunters to wear hunter-orange clothing during firearms deer seasons also has played a significant role in reducing hunting accidents. However, Legg noted the frequency of accidents has decreased in all types of hunting, not just deer hunting.
Although pleased at the progress, Legg said he and the Conservation Department are far from content with the current safety record.
“Fifteen nonfatal accidents represents tremendous progress, but it still is 15 more than we would like to see,” said Legg. We think we can do better.”
One strategy the agency uses to reduce hunting accidents is aggressively publicizing the causes of hunting accidents to raise awareness of what causes them.
Legg said three-quarters of Missouri’s firearms hunting accidents consistently result from three things: victims in the line of fire but not visible to the shooters, hunters swinging on game and covering the victim and mistaking another hunter for game. One-third of last year’s firearms-related hunting injuries were self-inflicted. These most often involve victims resting the muzzle of a firearm on a foot or putting a hand over the muzzle.
“The number of hunting accidents that no one could have prevented is practically nonexistent,” said Legg. “That means hunters are almost entirely in control of the number of injuries that occur each year. A hunter who takes to heart the lessons learned in hunter education and keeps safety foremost in his or her mind in the field is almost guaranteed never to hurt another person.”
The Conservation Department offers hunter education in a classroom format or as a self-directed online course. The classroom version lasts about 10 hours. The Internet option includes an online test and a field exercise where participants demonstrate their mastery of key information.
For more information, call the nearest Conservation Department office or visit www.mdc.mo.gov/8821.
Archery deer harvest sets record
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
|Bowhunters checked 44,434 deer during the 2008-09 archery deer season, setting a archery harvest record and boosting the combined firearms and archery deer kill to 283,253. (Missouri Dept. of Conservation photo)|
JEFFERSON CITY—Bowhunters checked 44,434 deer during the 2008-09 archery deer season, setting a record and boosting the combined firearms and archery deer kill to 283,253.
Missouri’s archery deer season begins Sept. 15 and runs through Jan. 15, with an 11-day hiatus during the November Portion of Firearms Deer Season. Archers checked approximately 400 deer per day during the 111 days of bowhunting season. Slightly more than half the deer taken by archers (22,409) were does. Mature bucks made up 37 percent (16,434) of the archery harvest, and button bucks accounted for 13 percent (5,591) of archery kills. The previous archery deer harvest record, set in 2006-07, was 42,322.
Top archery deer harvest counties were Jefferson with 976, Jackson with 913 and St. Louis with 909.
Bowhunters also checked 2,484 wild turkeys during the archery season. That is down 339 from the previous year. Top archery turkey-harvest counties were Texas with 54 turkeys checked, Franklin with 52 and Wright with 51.
Distemper taking a toll on Missouri raccoons
Thursday, January 15, 2009
|High raccoon population densities throughout much of Missouri are contributing to an outbreak of canine distemper among furbearers, with raccoons particularly hard-hit. (Missouri Dept. of Conservation photo)|
JEFFERSON CITY—Missourians are seeing more than the usual number of sick or dead raccoons this winter, but the Missouri Department of Conservation says the animals pose no threat to people or to properly vaccinated pets.
Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer said he is receiving a larger-than-normal number of reports of sick raccoons. Tests on diseased raccoons show that approximately 60 percent have canine distemper.
The canine distemper virus affects unvaccinated dogs, along with foxes, coyotes, skunks, minks, otters, ferrets and bobcats. It does not affect domestic cats or humans. The virus spreads through direct contact between animals or by contact with infected animals’ feces, urine or body secretions. Obvious symptoms include runny nose and eyes, cough, diarrhea and vomiting.
The raccoon (Procyon lotor) is the Show-Me State’s most recognizable furbearer, with its ringed tail and trademark black face mask. It also is one of the state’s most common furbearers. The species’ amazing adaptability enables the 7- to 20-pound animals to survive almost anywhere, from urban areas to wilderness and from swamps to prairies. They have adapted so well to changes brought about by humans that Missouri has more raccoons now than at any time in history. With an average population density of approximately 20 per square mile, raccoons number approximately 1.4 million in Missouri.
The success of the species is not always good news for individual raccoons, however. More raccoons means more opportunities to come into contact with each other, and more opportunities to spread diseases. That creates ideal conditions for spread of the canine distemper virus.
Beringer said coyotes and other furbearers also are affected by the current canine distemper outbreak. However, raccoons are particularly at risk because of their large numbers and because of their habit of denning together in hollow trees and other enclosed spaces during cold weather.
Although canine distemper is effective in controlling raccoon numbers, it also represents the loss of valuable resources. Trappers get $5 to $21 for each raccoon pelt they take to market, and some sell raccoon carcasses to people who prize them as the main ingredient for barbecued or baked raccoon.
Missouri’s annual raccoon catch is more than 100,000 animals. Trapping activity in Missouri increases or decreases according to world demand for pelts. The global nature of the fur trade is evident in pelt price declines when Eurasia experiences a warm winter or an economic downturn. This year, political and military tensions between the Russian Federation and Georgia have cut into fur prices.
The increased trapping activity that accompanies high fur prices tends to keep raccoon numbers in check, reducing the severity of distemper outbreaks.
“Raccoon numbers can vary dramatically,” said Beringer, “but where food and cover are abundant and harvest is missing, they can be superabundant. That leads to situations like we are seeing in Missouri this year. Trapping keeps the raccoon population smaller and healthier.”
Most wild raccoons live five years or less. Pioneering mammalogists Charles and Elizabeth Schwartz estimated it takes approximately 6.5 years to replace all the individuals in a raccoon population.
2009 turkey seasons structure remains unchanged
Thursday, January 08, 2009
JEFFERSON CITY—The broad outlines of Missouri’s spring and fall turkey seasons remain the same as last year’s, but some details, such as permit types and hunter-education requirements for mentors, have changed.
At its December meeting, the Missouri Conservation Commission approved the following 2009 turkey hunting seasons:
· Spring youth season: April 4 and 5.
· Spring season: April 20 through May 10.
· Fall firearms season: Oct. 1 through 31.
As in recent years, the limit for the spring season is two bearded birds, with not more than one taken during the first week of the season and not more than one taken per day. The limit for the fall season is two birds of either sex. Both birds may be taken on the same day during the fall season.
Hunting hours during the regular spring season are one-half hour before sunrise until 1 p.m. Central Daylight Savings Time. Legal hunting hours for the spring youth season and the fall firearms season are one-half hour before sunrise until sunset.
One change this year relates to youth turkey hunting permits. At its September meeting, the Conservation Commission voted to eliminate the $17 Youth Deer and Turkey Hunting Permit, which allows hunters age 6 through 15 to take one turkey in the spring and one in the fall, plus one deer. Instead, resident and nonresident youths will be able to buy the same permits as adult resident deer and turkey hunters, but at a 50-percent discount.
However, this change will not go into effect until July 1. Consequently, youngsters who want to hunt in the spring season can buy a Youth Deer and Turkey Hunting Permit. That permit remains valid through the 2009 fall deer and turkey seasons.
Youths who do not buy a Youth Deer and Turkey Hunting Permit can choose from regular fall deer or turkey hunting permits at the reduced prices. The discounted permits will go on sale until July 1.
Age and hunter-education requirements for hunting mentors also have changed this year. Previously, these requirements varied, depending on what game was being hunted and what permit the novice hunter used. Under some circumstances, mentors could be as young as 17 or as old as 21. In other cases, there was no age requirement at all.
To make mentorship rules more consistent, regulations now require that all hunters mentoring firearms hunters who are not hunter-education certified be at least 18 years old. Mentors must be hunter-education certified unless they were born before Jan. 1, 1967. The new requirements apply to all mentors, including landowners and lessees hunting on their own land.
Finally, starting July 1, the minimum age for obtaining a landowner deer or turkey hunting permit will be 6 years. These and other regulations will be outlined in the 2009 Spring Turkey Hunting Information booklet and the 2009 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Information booklet. Both will be available later this year wherever hunting permits are sold.
Youth deer harvest third-largest on record
Monday, January 05, 2009
Hunters age 6 through 15 checked 12,172 deer during
the two youth portions of Missouri’s firearms deer season.
JEFFERSON CITY—Young hunters checked 1,772 deer during the final youth portion of Missouri’s firearms deer season, bringing the year’s youth harvest to 12,172 and the total firearms deer harvest to 238,319.
The 2008-2009 firearms deer hunting season was the first to offer two youth hunting segments of two days each. This year’s youth harvest fell 95 short of last year’s number, a decrease of less than 1 percent.
Top harvest counties during the late youth hunt were Macon, with 50 deer checked, Franklin with 42 and Osage with 38.
Missouri's first youth firearms deer hunt took place in 2001. Hunters checked 6,277 that year. The youth harvest peaked in 2004, when young hunters checked 13,466 deer. The only other year with a larger youth harvest than this year was 2007, when hunters checked 12,267 deer.
The January youth hunt brought Missouri’s 2008-2009 firearms deer harvest to 238,819. That is 21,343, (8.2 percent) fewer than the number of deer checked during the 2007 firearms deer season. The Missouri Department of Conservation attributes the decrease to several factors, including the implementation of minimum antler-point restrictions in 35 new counties, an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease in some areas, difficult hunting conditions during some segments of the season and the success of long-term efforts to reduce deer numbers in some areas.
Sixty-three percent of deer harvested during the final youth segment Jan. 3 and 4 were does. Seventeen percent were button bucks, and the remaining 20 percent were antlered deer.
The Conservation Department recorded one nonfatal firearms-related hunting accident during the first youth portion of firearms deer season and four nonfatal accidents during the November Portion of Firearms Deer Season. This brings the number of accidents during 2008-2009 firearms deer season to five, one more than were recorded the past two years.