Abundant ducks, habitat, spell good hunting for Missouri
Thursday, October 29, 2009
With the right weather, the 2009-2010 waterfowl season could be memorable.
|Missouri’s 2009-2010 duck season could be one of the best ever, thanks to plentiful ducks and excellent habitat conditions. Favorable weather is the only factor still needed to fulfill this potential. (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)|
For the second year in a row, ducks found plenty of nesting habitat, especially in the north-central United States. This Prairie Pothole Region produces most of the ducks that migrate through Missouri in what is known as the Mississippi Flyway.
The numbers are heartening. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) estimates North America’s total breeding duck population at 42 million. That is up 13 percent from last year and 25 percent more than the average since 1955.
Mallards are the species most sought after by hunters. This year’s estimate of mallard breeding numbers is 8.5 million, 10 percent more than last year and 13 percent above the long-term average (LTA).
Surveys found 7.4 million breeding blue-winged teal, 11 percent more than last year and up 60 percent from the LTA. Estimates of other duck species’ breeding numbers were:
· Northern pintails, 3.2 million, up 23 percent from last year but still 20 percent below the LTA.
· Green-winged teal, 3.4 million, up 16 percent from last year and 79 percent above the LTA.
· Gadwalls, 3.1 million, about the same as last year and up 73 percent from the LTA.
· American wigeon, 2.5 million, about the same as last year and down 5 percent from the LTA.
· Northern shovelers, 4.4 million, up 25 percent from last year and 92 percent above the LTA.
· Redheads, 1 million, essentially the same as last year, but 62 percent above the LTA.
· Scaup, 4.2 million, up 12 percent from last year but down 18 percent from the LTA.
· Canvasbacks, 662,000, up 35 percent from last year and 16 percent above the LTA.
Resource Scientist Dave Graber, a waterfowl biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said geese that nest in Canada did not have as good a year for nesting as ducks did. However, he noted that Missouri’s resident Canada goose population remains strong, offering good prospects for hunting this year.
Abundant ducks and nesting habitat mean lots of ducks flying south through Missouri. Even better for hunters, many of those ducks will be young birds that have not learned to be cautious when approaching decoys.
However, hunting can be mediocre even in years when duck populations boom. It all depends on migration timing and the amount of food and wetland habitat available during their migration. If food or wetland habitat is in short supply, ducks continue south until they find more attractive conditions.
“We are set up to have good habitat conditions in Missouri this year,” said Graber. “Things look pretty good from the standpoint of moist-soil vegetation – the native plants produce the foods that ducks like. We have had good production for the most part.”
According to Graber, Schell-Osage and Four Rivers conservation areas and other parts of the Osage River Basin experienced flooding that limited moist-soil plant growth or washed away seeds produced earlier in the growing season. However, this year’s flooding has not been as severe or widespread as last year, when moist soil plants never got a chance to grow in large areas. Furthermore, losses due to flooding in western Missouri were offset by the filling of higher basins that often are dry. The Grand River basin in north-central Missouri was also impacted by a series of floods.
He said this year’s above-average rainfall has been great for many private duck clubs. Wetland areas managed by the Conservation Department and the FWS have levees, water-control systems and high-capacity pumps that allow managers to maintain optimum water levels under all but the most extreme weather conditions. Most privately owned wetlands depend more on nature. This year’s weather has been nearly ideal for creating waterfowl habitat on private wetlands.
“I have talked to some private club owners and they are very excited,” said Graber. “They say they have good food conditions this year, and they have reasonable water levels going into the hunting season.”
Even with plenty of ducks and habitat, a third variable – weather – can cut short an otherwise promising season, or make for challenging hunting conditions. Asked how the weather for an ideal season would unfold, Graber said moderation is the key.
Graber said the ideal hunting season would start with the arrival of a cold front just before the season opened.
“A cold front at this time of year will bring peak numbers of early-season migrants, such as green-winged teal, gadwall, wigeon and the first mallards,” he said. “We already have more ducks in Missouri than our previous five-year average due to the unusually cool October.” Then you would want that weather to stay cool with periodic cool fronts and rain moving through to keep pushing new ducks into Missouri and keep them moving around.
“Late in the season, I personally like to see the temperature drop into the 20s in December, so wetland areas kind of freeze up during the night and then thaw out during the day. That keeps the birds off-balance, moving around. Once the cold weather arrives, shallow-water areas freeze up, and the river and reservoir hunters have a better crack at them.”
Worst-case scenarios, he said, are when lots of calm, warm, overcast days make hunting difficult. Extremely mild conditions can delay migrations and cause hunters to experience the mid-season lull of having to wait for new ducks to arrive. Similarly, severe cold weather early in the season can cause ducks to move on south before hunters have much opportunity to pursue them.
This year’s waterfowl seasons dates are:
Youth days – Oct. 24-25
Regular season – Oct. 31-Dec. 29
Youth days – Oct. 31- Nov. 1
Regular season – Nov. 7 -Jan. 5
Youth days – Nov. 21-22
Regular season – Nov. 26-Jan. 24
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently approved a new type of nontoxic shot for waterfowl hunting. Effective immediately, hunters may use tungsten-iron-fluoropolymer shot, along with other nontoxic shot previously approved. More details about bag limits and other waterfowl hunting regulations are available in the “2009-2010 Waterfowl Hunting Digest,” available wherever hunting permits are sold or at mdc.mo.gov/hunt/wtrfowl/index.htm.
Waterfowl hunting opportunities still limited at Duck Creek, Montrose CAs
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Work continues to ensure the future of waterfowl hunting at two of Missouri’s oldest and most popular wetland areas.
JEFFERSON CITY—Continuing renovations at Duck Creek and Montrose conservation areas (CAs) will limit waterfowl hunting opportunities there this fall, but hunters will find some of their favorite spots open for business again.
Duck Creek CA in Bollinger, Stoddard and Wayne counties is a small remnant of the bottomland hardwood forest that once covered vast portions of the Mississippi Embayment in southeastern Missouri. The area went into service in the 1950s, with seasonally flooded forest and wetland pools. It quickly became popular for waterfowl hunting and viewing. Many veteran Missouri waterfowl hunters have vivid memories of splendid drake wood ducks and mallards splashing down among decoys there.
Similarly, the Montrose CA in Henry County opened its doors to waterfowl hunters around 1960. Its four management units are above the normal level of Truman Reservoir and were designed to be flooded and drained at will. This permitted managers to grow crops and native vegetation during the summer and then flood those areas slowly throughout the fall and winter to create ideal feeding and resting habitat for migrating ducks and geese.
Over the decades, however, water-control structures at both CAs have worn out. Furthermore, improved knowledge of wetland-area design and management has rendered some of the area’s original infrastructure obsolete. In 2005, the Missouri Conservation Commission approved a 10-year, $16 million Golden Anniversary Wetland Initiative to replace aging infrastructure and ensure maximum productivity of the state’s premier waterfowl areas.
Hunting and other uses continue at Duck Creek and Montrose CAs during the initiative. However, renovation and construction work necessarily limit areas available for waterfowl hunting.
Work currently under way at Duck Creek prevents using water from the Castor River to flood wetland units, but water pumps permit flooding of Units A and B. Ten to 12 positions will be available to hunt at the beginning of the season. Depending upon construction progress, rainfall and the amount of water in Pool 1, parts of Pools 2 and 3, including blinds for handicapped hunters, might be available for hunting later in the season.
For more information about hunting opportunities at Duck Creek, visit www.MissouriConservation.org/2446, and click on the Duck Creek CA Updates link.
Ongoing work at Montrose CA involves replacing water-control structures with state-of-the-art structures and changing the slope of levee faces to make them easier to maintain and enhance wetland habitat. The project was estimated to require 90 working days. However, heavy rains severely reduced the number of days workers could get into the area, so the project continues into the fall.
As a result, Blinds 15, 16 and 17 will not be available at the start of the season. Blind 15 is the disabled-hunter blind. Construction work and heavy rain could reduce the number of hunting spots at Montrose by two more positions, leaving hunters with 10 to 12 positions early in the season. More positions could be available later this year, depending on weather.
Daily draw procedures for hunting at both areas remain unchanged.
Partners in the Golden Anniversary Wetland Initiative include the University of Missouri, Ducks Unlimited, Missouri Waterfowl Association, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Big Muddy National Wildlife Refuge, the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Kansas City Power & Light Company.
Lessons for a safe, pleasant hunting season
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Hunting season turns out better for those who follow these rules.,
JEFFERSON CITY—At this time of year, hunters’ daydreams are apt to involve front-page photos of themselves with whitetail bucks whose antlers sport more points than a porcupine. However, hunters who pursue their dreams heedless of safety or ethics risk making headlines in less pleasant ways.
Hunter stumbles, loses big toe when shotgun discharges
A 49-year-old squirrel hunter in Texas County shot his left big toe Oct. 14 when he stumbled over a log, causing his 12-gauge shotgun to go off accidentally. Lesson: Never walk with a firearm with the safety off or your finger on the trigger.
Fall from tree likely cause of hunter’s death
On Oct. 8, a friend found the 30-year-old hunter on the ground beneath his tree stand in Oregon County with a broken neck. Lesson: Wear a full-body safety harness while climbing to and from tree stands, as well as when sitting in them.
Judge socks swan killers with penalties topping $13,000
Seven hunters in three different parties fired on a flock of trumpeter swans in Boone County last year. The trumpeter swan – North America’s largest waterfowl and a species of conservation concern – is much larger than any other similar waterfowl. Lesson: Identify your target positively before raising your firearm.
Hunter injures relative in hunting incident
Some version of this occurs almost every year. The victims are parents, children, siblings, husbands, wives, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces. The results are awful, even when not fatal. Some of the shooters are novices, but many are experienced hunters. The causes are diverse, including victim mistaken for game, careless swinging on game, carrying loaded firearms in vehicles and not knowing if the line of fire is clear to the target and beyond.
Most firearms-related hunting incidents involve carelessness, often coupled with excitement. These incidents are far less frequent than in the past, thanks to thousands of volunteers who teach Missouri’s mandatory hunter education classes, stressing safety and hunting ethics.
As recently as 20 years ago, Missouri often recorded more firearms deer-hunting incidents in one day than occur now during a much longer hunting season.
The worst year was 1986, with 26 incidents, including one fatality. Opening weekend alone saw 10 firearms-related hunting incidents that year. It is more than coincidence that Missouri’s worst year for hunting accidents occurred just before hunter education became mandatory in 1988. Since then, anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1967, must complete an approved safety and ethics course before buying hunting permits.
The results have been unmistakable. From 1980 through 1989, Missouri averaged 16.8 firearm-related deer-hunting incidents per season. Over the past 10 years, the average has been 8.6. Last year Missouri recorded just five firearms deer-hunting incidents. Two of those incidents involved self-inflicted injuries. None was fatal.
The contrast is even more striking when you consider that Missouri had a nine-day firearms deer season in 1986 and hunters killed 103,000 deer. Last year firearms deer hunting, including the muzzleloader season, spanned 38 days, and the harvest topped 237,000.
Hunter education has achieved significant safety improvements in other types of hunting, too. A study of injury rates of various sports conducted by American Sports Data, Inc., in 2005 showed hunting 29th in frequency of injuries. Other activities not normally considered dangerous, such as cheerleading, baseball, volleyball, tennis and aerobics showed higher injury rates than hunting.
“I certainly appreciate the difference between a sprained ankle and a gunshot wound,” said Tony Legg, hunter education coordinator for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “But the fact remains that more than 400,000 hunters spent millions of hours hunting deer in Missouri last year with only five gun-related incidents. That is a remarkable safety record.”
The Conservation Department’s Protection Division works to ensure that hunting is ethical, as well as safe. Conservation agents rely on a wide range of techniques – from old-fashioned legwork to high technology – to accomplish the difficult task of patrolling hundreds of square miles of territory.
With deer season fast approaching, conservation agents have been making use of the agency’s aircraft to identify bait sites where poachers are likely to be found on opening day of the November Portion of Firearms Deer Season. Bait sites are surprisingly easy to spot from the air, and each year dozens of poachers get unpleasant surprises when they are greeted by agents with citation books at the ready.
How do agents know where to look? Law-abiding hunters and disgusted neighbors who do not appreciate game cheaters tell them exactly where to look. In addition to citizen tips, conservation agents know poachers’ habits well enough to predict the location of bait sites.
The lesson: Obey the law against baiting. If you have been distributing corn or other food to attract deer to an area, don’t hunt there.
Ethical hunters can learn another lesson: Report known or suspected baiting or other illegal hunting and fishing activities by calling the toll-free Operation Game Thief hotline: 800-392-1111.
Late nesting helps quail hold their own; pheasants still losing ground
Monday, October 26, 2009
Field reports suggest bobwhites regrouped after a wet spring and put a strong effort into second nest attempts.
|Hunters might find a few more bobwhite quail than they expected in some parts of Missouri this year. The news is not so good for pheasant hunters outside of Northwest Missouri. (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)|
Quail continue to struggle against odds that seem stacked against them, but hunters in some areas may find more bobwhites than they might expect from this year’s weather. Missouri’s youth quail hunting season is Oct. 24 and 25. The regular season runs from Nov. 1 through Jan. 15.
Resource Scientist Beth Emmerich, the Missouri Department of Conservation’s lead quail biologist, said the agency’s annual roadside quail count Aug. 1 through 15 found 7 percent fewer quail this year than in 2008. The statewide count, which is conducted by conservation agents, was down 19 percent from the average over the past five years and 26 percent from the last 10.
Good news includes the fact that the number of quail chicks observed this year was the same as last year. Emmerich said informal observations since the August survey also provide some reason for optimism.
“I have been hearing a lot of reports of people seeing more birds this year over last,” said Emmerich, “and I’m assuming we may have had a late hatch not captured by the survey.”
Quail begin laying eggs as soon as early May. Depending on conditions, some may still be laying their first clutches in early June. Cold weather and heavy rainfall during this time can chill eggs and cause nest failure. Quail are very persistent about nesting. Those that lose eggs to cold or predators make repeated attempts, renesting as late as September.
Even after hatching, however, chicks remain extremely vulnerable to wetting and hypothermia until they replace their down with more water-resistant feathers. This year’s cold spring and rainy summer almost guaranteed below-average survival of nests and chicks.
For example, the weather station at Jefferson Farm and Garden in Boone County reported 10.3 inches of rain during May and June. That is only about an inch more than normal, but more than 6 inches fell in four events. One storm on June 15 and 16 dumped 2.7 inches of rain on Boone County. Precipitation through September was roughly equal to the entire average annual precipitation in central Missouri.
“That sort of weather is bound to cut into quail production,” said Emmerich. “The anecdotal reports we are getting about more birds in some areas is a tribute to the bobwhite’s resiliency.”
Regional results from agent surveys show quail numbers down from the long-term average statewide. The worst declines occurred in western prairie counties (down 80 percent), the Mississippi lowlands (down 75 percent) and northeastern Missouri (down 72 percent).
Emmerich said the bobwhite’s difficulties are the result of habitat loss and unfavorable weather. She said the popular notion that predators are decimating quail numbers is mistaken.
“Predators do kill quail,” said Emmerich, “but that has always been true, even in the bobwhite quail’s heyday. It is also true that predators take more quail when habitat is scarce, because the birds are more exposed. But the basic problem is habitat, not predators.”
She said locally concentrated trapping of foxes, raccoons and opossums or offering bounties on potential quail predators might spare a few quail in that immediate area for a short time. However, such efforts are labor-intensive and expensive, and predators from surrounding areas quickly replace the ones removed.
“Aside from being a bad idea from an ecological standpoint, trapping predators to benefit quail usually is impractical and unnecessary,” said Emmerich. “Quail thrived 40 years ago when farms consisted of small crop fields where crop stubble remained in the fields throughout much of the fall and winter. Those small fields had broad, brushy fencerows and bordered native-grass pastures and fallow fields. Quail still thrive in spite of predation where similar conditions exist today, because they have lots of nesting and feeding areas and escape cover.”
Emmerich said the idea that turkeys are eating quail chicks also is mistaken. She said this has never been documented in Missouri or any other state, in spite of extensive studies of wild turkeys’ food habits. Likewise, releasing pen-reared quail to restore quail numbers is a dead end. Multiple studies in many states over the past 40 years have demonstrated that virtually no pen-reared quail survive more than a week or two, let alone long enough to nest.
“There are no shortcuts to quail restoration,” Emmerich said. “You need habitat first, and then you need a few years of favorable nesting conditions. The cold, wet springs that have been the rule in recent years simply don’t favor quail recovery, and we still have a long way to go in restoring quail habitat on public and private land.”
Pheasant season starts with a youth hunt Oct. 24 and 25 in the North Zone. The regular season is Nov. 1 through Jan. 15 in the North Zone and Dec. 1 through 12 in Dunklin, New Madrid, Pemiscot and Stoddard counties. Conservation agents conduct a roadside count of ring-neck pheasants in these areas during the same time as the quail count.
This year, agents counted .64 pheasants per 30-mile route. That was down 15 percent compared to 2008, down 66 percent compared to the previous five-year average, and 67 percent lower than the 10-year average.
Pheasant numbers were much higher in northwestern prairie counties – 1.94 pheasants per 30-mile route. The other regions with pheasant hunting – north-central and northeastern Missouri and the Mississippi Lowlands – had very low pheasant numbers.
This situation leads Resource Scientist Tom Dailey, who oversees Missouri’s pheasant management program, to describe 2009 pheasant hunting prospects outside Northwest Missouri as poor.
Like quail and other ground-nesting birds, notably the wild turkey and greater prairie chicken, pheasants have suffered from poor nest success due to weather in recent years. Dailey said this bad luck compounds an already challenging situation for pheasants.
“Missouri does not have the best combination of grassland and cropland pheasants favor,” said Dailey. “The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has helped create pheasant habitat for the past couple of decades, but those benefits are disappearing as hundreds of thousands of acres of CRP land are being converted back to corn, soybeans and wheat.”
Dailey said efforts are underway to remedy some habitat deficiencies. These efforts include initiatives and partnerships with organizations, such as Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Quail Unlimited, and the National Wild Turkey Federation. The Conservation Department also is helping develop a National Pheasant Conservation Plan through the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
Those efforts will take time, says Dailey. Besides supporting organizations involved in habitat restoration, hunters can hope for better weather.
Private Land Services Division chief assesses first decade's achievements
Friday, October 16, 2009
Ten years after its creation, the Missouri Department of
Conservation’s Private Land Services Division is taking
stock of its accomplishments and assessing new challenges.
JEFFERSON CITY – They have visited with tens of thousands of Missouri landowners and dealt with thousands of nuisance wildlife complaints. They have delivered millions of dollars to benefit forests, fish and wildlife on private land and have helped channel millions more into improving the quality of drinking water in agricultural communities. They have put in enough bobwhite quail habitat borders to reach from Los Angeles to New York City and outstripped every other state in achieving the goals of the Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative.
Who are "they"?
They are the 50 or so field workers in the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Private Land Services Division. They are the friendly faces and boots on the ground delivering conservation services on the 94 percent of Missouri land not owned by government agencies.
The Conservation Department has always recognized that its mission can only succeed with active involvement of private landowners. For many years, the agency delivered services to citizen conservationists through multiple divisions.
In September 1999, the Conservation Commission deepened its commitment to conservation on private land by consolidating landowner services in the newly created Private Land Services Section. Three months later, it underlined the importance of this mission by upgrading the section to a division equal to those for fisheries, wildlife, forestry and protection.
The new Private Land Services Division had a staff of fewer than 70 and ambitious goals:
- Contact 48,000 landowners about caring for nature on their land.
- Survey 250,000 landowners to learn how best to help achieve their conservation goals.
- Leverage private landowners’ resources with state and federal dollars to benefit forests, game and nongame wildlife
"We have a lot to say grace over," said Private Land Services Division Chief Bill McGuire. "Our 49 private land conservationists (PLCs) cover areas ranging from one to four counties. It isn't a job where you have trouble staying busy."
Private Land Conservationists (PLCs) come from the ranks of foresters, fisheries and wildlife biologists and conservation agents. To prepare for their work with private landowners, PLC cross-train in other areas of conservation. When they encounter challenges beyond their expertise, they call in specialists.
In a typical day, a PLC might receive a call about creating quail habitat, timber-stand improvement, prescribed burning to manage prairie or planting trees to address stream-bank erosion.
Private Land Services Division also has grassland, wetland and wildlife damage experts that provide specialized support when needed. Community conservationists in Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield work with local governments, developers and others to incorporate fish, forest and wildlife considerations as development takes place.
Over the past 10 years, this diverse challenge has led to an equally diverse set of accomplishments. McGuire said his division has achieved the following:
- Made more than 50,000 site visits to offer advice and assistance to people who want to improve natural values on their land. Made more than 6,000 wildlife damage visits for everything from feral hogs to black bears.
- Provided forest, fish or wildlife management information to 150,000 landowners through workshops, seminars or field days.
- Helped another 20,000 people deal with wildlife damage through workshops and seminars.
- Provided more than $9 million in Conservation Department-funded cost sharing to landowners for forest, fish and wildlife work.
- Provided more than $2 million in Conservation Department funds to help agricultural communities improve drinking water quality through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).
- Leveraged its own CREP funding with $4.2 million from other agencies, enabling landowners to implement quail-friendly management practices that also helped keep fertilizer and other agricultural chemicals out of the water supply.
- Provided services to the agriculture community through 50 PLCs stationed at U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offices.
- Enrolled an average of 10,000 acres per year in the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP).
- Made significant strides in bobwhite quail restoration, helping Cass and Scott counties become the first and only two counties in the nation to achieve the goals of the Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative.
- Used partnerships to achieve goals shared by other organizations, from Pheasants Forever and Quail Unlimited to the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association.
"One of the hallmarks of this division has been partnerships," said McGuire. "We use partnerships to do everything from providing cost-shares to help landowners create wildlife habitat to making special equipment available to landowners to improve habitat. We currently have over 60 active partnerships."
McGuire said partnerships multiply his division’s effectiveness. In its decade of work, the Private Land Services Division has been engaged in as many as 100 partnerships at one time. He also attributes the success of the private land effort to excellent support when needed from foresters and conservation agents as well as fisheries and wildlife biologists.
A notable example is the ongoing effort to stop the spread of feral hogs. These animals are not native wildlife, so they are not the Conservation Department’s responsibility. However, because they are not confined, they are not livestock and therefore not under the jurisdiction of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, either. Nevertheless, feral hogs are potentially devastating to both nature and agriculture.
The Conservation Department joined with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the Missouri Farm Bureau and other state and federal agencies and organizations in the Governor’s Feral Hog Task Force to eradicate established populations of feral hogs in 25 counties. The Private Land Services Division is at the forefront of developing feral hog control techniques to tackle the challenge.
"This problem is too serious to ignore simply because no one is clearly in charge," said McGuire. "Everyone – government agencies, citizen conservationists and farmers – has a stake in the problem, so we are tackling it together."
One valued partnership producing tangible results is cooperation with USDA agencies, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Services Administration (FSA). This partnership has attracted national attention on many occasions regarding how the USDA and a state wildlife agency can work together with interested landowners to make a difference on the land.
Another noteworthy conservation partnership is the Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative. This effort brings together the Conservation Federation of Missouri, Quail Unlimited, Quail Forever, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Ruffed Grouse Society and other groups to work with state and federal agencies in improving upland bird habitat.
"It is particularly gratifying to be part of the progress that has been made on private land to restore habitat for bobwhite quail and many other grassland birds that have been declining," said McGuire. "For the first time in my 34-year career with the Conservation Department, we are seeing habitat improvement take place on landscapes rather than individual farms. This is happening because of partnerships."
McGuire said federal farm bill programs, especially the Conservation Reserve and Wetland Reserve, will continue to be irreplaceable in fostering public-private conservation partnerships.
McGuire recently announced his plans to retire. Among challenges he says will extend beyond his watch are eradication of feral hogs, strengthening connections to rural and agricultural communities, continuing efforts like prairie chicken restoration and the Northern Bird Conservation Initiative and improving management of non-industrial private forest land, which makes up more than 80 percent of Missouri’s forestland.
"Fish, forest and wildlife resources can be byproducts of the land when it is managed for other purposes," said McGuire, "but it seldom happens without up-front thought and attention. Our mission is to help landowners realize their land-management goals in ways that also contribute to conservation."
He said that mission will be extra challenging due to a shrinking budget, but he believes PLCs can maintain the 87-percent approval rating they currently enjoy among those who receive private land services.
"It has been a wonderful opportunity to lead Private Land Services Division," said McGuire. "I will be working to ensure that PLS Division continues to be able to provide the technical assistance and support that private landowners value most."
Urban deer harvest up 83 percent
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
This year’s harvest is the fourth-largest in the history of the Urban Portion of Firearms Deer Season.
|Hunters checked 1,242 deer during Missouri’s Urban Portion of Firearms Deer Season Oct. 9-12. The total is nearly double last year’s figure and more than twice the 2007 harvest. (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)|
Boone County led harvest totals with 247 deer checked, followed by St. Charles County with 160. Greene County was third with 139. The harvest consisted of 80 percent does.
Other county harvest figures were Cass, 89; Christian, 10; Clay, 121; Cole, 39; Franklin, 86; Jackson, 85; Jefferson, 81; Platte, 93; St. Louis, 92.
This year’s Urban Portion deer harvest was nearly double last year’s and more than twice the 2007 harvest. Unseasonably warm weather, with daytime highs in the 70s and 80s, probably played a role in holding down deer harvests those years. Deer use less energy in warm weather and are less likely to move around, reducing their visibility.
Past harvest totals from the urban portion of firearms deer season are 2003, 129; 2004, 2,077; 2005, 1,838; 2006, 1,348; 2007, 554; 2008, 678.
The Missouri Conservation Commission approved the first urban deer hunt in 2003. The Urban Portion encourages hunters to shoot female deer around the state’s main urban centers.
Controlling deer populations in and around the St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia-Jefferson City areas has been more difficult than in rural areas, where hunting is more common. The growth of deer numbers in those areas resulted in increased frequency of deer-vehicle accidents and damage to landscape plantings and crops. In extreme cases, deer browsing can cause ecological damage.
Nominations being accepted for Missouri Arbor Award of Excellence
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
MDC and MCFC encourage nominations of local tree stewards for award recognition.
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the Missouri Community Forestry Council (MCFC) are accepting nominations for the 2010 Missouri Arbor Award of Excellence. The annual award recognizes communities, institutions and individuals that act as good stewards for trees in their communities through significant and sustained efforts to improve community forest health.
“Trees are visible and valuable assets to any community,” explained Justine Gartner of the MDC’s Forestry Division and award coordinator for the Department. “They greatly contribute to a community’s appearance and character. They also provide many benefits, such as increased property value, improved air quality, energy savings, protection for watersheds, wildlife habitat and more.”
She added that the overall health and attractiveness of any community's trees depends on many people practicing good tree stewardship on public and private property.
“Well designed tree plantings and sustained long-term care of existing trees are important parts of assuring a healthy community forest,” said Gartner. “We encourage people to consider the wonderful tree work done in their communities and to nominate those who made it possible.”
To win recognition, nominations must outline how the care of trees has significantly contributed to their town or area, and show that the work is part of a sustainable long-term effort.
The award nomination deadline is December 4. For more information and nomination forms, visit www.missouriconservation.org and search Arbor Award.
The Missouri Community Forestry Council strives to promote safe, healthy, attractive trees in our town and cities. For more information, visit www.mocommunitytrees.com.
The Conservation Department is available to assist in the development of sustainable community forests throughout Missouri. For more information, visit www.missouriconservation.org.
Youth waterfowl clinic and hunt still has room
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Space is limited to 40 participants.
BLAIRSTOWN, Mo. – Call soon to reserve a place in the 15th Annual Wilderness Lodge Youth Waterfowl Clinic and Hunt Oct. 24 and 31.
Participants spend the first Saturday of the event learning about duck and goose hunting rules, safety and calling, waterfowl identification and retrieving-dog training. They also practice wingshooting and learn how to choose the right combination of shotgun and ammunition for ethical, effective hunting. The program takes place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The second Saturday is devoted to a guided waterfowl hunt. Breakfast and lunch are provided both days, and all activities are free of charge, courtesy of Everhart’s Wilderness Lodge, Kansas City Safari Club International and the Missouri Department of Conservation. This portion of the event runs from 6 a.m. until noon.
Everhart’s Wilderness Lodge is at 651 NW Highway O, Blairstown, 6 miles northwest of Clinton. To reserve a place, contact Johnny or Linda Everhart, 660-885-5049.
Wildlife Code changes now in effect
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
The Conservation Department reminds hunters that several changes went into effect July 1.
JEFFERSON CITY–Changes to Missouri’s Wildlife Code that went into effect July 1 affect youth and nonresident permits, the antler-point restriction, urban deer hunting zones and the timing of the antlerless and muzzleloader portions of firearms deer season.
The Youth Deer and Turkey Hunting Permit, which has been around since 1999, no longer is available. However, hunters who bought the discontinued permit before July 1 still can use it for fall deer and turkey hunting. The $17 permit entitles holders age 6 through 15 to take one turkey in the spring and one in the fall and one deer during any firearms deer hunting season segment. The Youth Antlerless Deer Hunting Permit also was discontinued July 1.
Instead, young hunters – whether residents or nonresidents – can buy regular firearms deer hunting permits at half the price paid by adult Missouri residents.
The order of the muzzleloader and antlerless portions of firearms deer season is reversed this year, with the antlerless portion taking place Nov. 25 through Dec. 6, and the muzzleloader portion running from Dec. 19 through 29. The Conservation Commission changed the timing of these events at the request of hunters.
Also new this year is a requirement that youths be at least 6 years old to receive landowner permits. Reduced-cost nonresident landowner deer and turkey hunting permits are no longer available, and prices for nonresident hunting and fishing permits have increased.
Another set of changes is aimed at bringing consistency to requirements for mentors of firearms hunters who have not completed hunter education. Until this year, hunters as young as 17 could serve as mentors under the requirements for some permits, while other permits required 21-year-old mentors. In certain circumstance, mentors faced no age restrictions.
This year when mentoring a firearms hunter who is not hunter-education certified and not hunting on a landowner permit, all mentors, including landowners on their own land, must be at least 18 years old and hunter-education certified unless they were born before Jan. 1, 1967.
Qualifying nonresident students may purchase resident permits this year, except lifetime permits.
New areas with the antler-point restriction include Ste. Genevieve County and the portions of Cass and Jefferson counties not included in the new urban deer zones. The antler-point restriction no longer applies to the portion of northeastern Franklin County now in the Urban Zone.
Archery antlerless deer permits now may be used in Cape Girardeau County, and qualifying air-powered guns may be used during firearms managed deer hunts.
Finally, deer-hunting methods and seasons have been changed on some conservation areas in an effort to improve game management and hunting quality. Details of this and other regulation changes are explained in the 2009 Summary of Missouri Hunting and Trapping Regulations and the 2009 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations & Information booklet. These publications are available wherever hunting permits are sold or at www.missouriconservation.org.
Prospects bright for flashy fall foliage
Friday, October 02, 2009
The usual spectacular display is expected in most areas.
|Northeast Missouri is the only exception to this year’s bright fall foliage forecast. Cool, wet weather there has contributed to leaf diseases that could result in fall colors more bronze than gold. (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)|
JEFFERSON CITY–It’s October, when leaves blaze yellow, orange and red. Foresters with the Missouri Department of Conservation say this should be a good year for autumn color.
Warm, sunny days and cool nights favor the development of brilliant foliage. Trees stop producing green pigment when nighttime lows fall into the 50s and 60s, and sugars stored in leaves undergo chemical changes that turn them every outrageous shade in the rainbow.
Fall color almost always peaks around Oct. 15 in Missouri, and this year appears to be typical. Trees in the northern and southern parts of the state may change colors a week earlier or later.
Certain local weather conditions can cause fall colors to be less vivid. For instance, heavy rains at this time of year can flush pigments out of leaves, reducing color. Foresters in northeast Missouri say wet, cool conditions there and increased prevalence of leaf diseases could make colors more bronze than gold in some areas.
Drought or strong wind sometimes causes premature leaf drop. But barring such conditions, Missouri’s fall color outlook is bright.
For fall color updates, visit mdc.mo.gov/nathis/seasons/fall/.
For more suggested fall color viewing routes and information about why trees turn colors in the fall, visit mdc.mo.gov/nathis/seasons/fall/, or write to: MDC, Follow the Show of Missouri’s Fall Colors, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180. You also can e-mail email@example.com and request “Follow the Show of Missouri’s Fall Colors.”