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Wildlife "Firsts"

Aug 12, 2011

Many years ago I had a teacher who said people remember the first deer they see, but not the first golf ball. Regardless of which critter or object you choose, the general idea holds some merit—living creatures, especially those we rarely see, are just more fascinating than even the oddest common objects.

This is true even for veteran researchers. I recall a seasoned researcher describe with excitement the first time he saw a collared lizard. There was literally a twinkle in his eye! Whether it’s a deer, collared lizard, strutting turkey or indigo bunting, our first glimpse of a wild animal strikes a chord.

The Ozarks offers many places to experience “wildlife firsts.” All you need for the adventure is water, a snack, binoculars and a camera. One of the latest wildlife-viewing hot spots is Peck Ranch Wildlife Refuge in Shannon County. For decades it has been one of the best places around to see collared lizards, deer, turkey and other wildlife, and now it is home to Missouri’s restored elk herd.

Visit the Bottoms During “Bobcat Hours”

Unfortunately, because we have just few dozen animals in a very large area, seeing an elk at Peck Ranch is not a sure thing. However, you can increase your odds of success.

Our elk like what I call “bobcat hours”--the times of day when it isn’t completely light and it isn’t completely dark. That would be early morning or early evening. At those times, you may see them browsing the taller rye fields in the bottoms. During the day they retreat to the cooler wooded areas, making them hard to see from the road.

Before or after touring the loop for a glimpse of elk, try heading up to Stegal Mountain to visit the desert-like habitat of the collared lizard, scorpion and tarantula. Remember that many of the Ozarks’ conservation areas, including Peck Ranch, have rough gravel roads, so try to travel in an all-wheel-drive vehicle if you have access to one.

Peck Ranch CA is open seven days a week during daylight hours. For more information on local conservation areas and wildlife-viewing opportunities, call 573-325-1381, or stop by Twin Pines Conservation Education Center for information or maps of the Peck Ranch driving tour. We’ll even give the kids a backpack with a pencil and journal so they can record the experience or draw pictures.

What “wildlife first” will you capture with family and friends? The only limit is the time you spend exploring.


Linda, THanks for taking the time to let us know about your experience at Peck Ranch.  We have been telling people tha come to Twin Pines about H Highway,  We think it is a bit easier as well.  I'll pass along the suggestion about the calcium chloride but in today's economic times that may not be possible.  We did pass your comments along already to the area manager about the signs.  At one point they were very well marked but sometimes signs don"t stay where they are put unfortunately.  It is our goal for you to have a pleasant experience while touring Peck Ranch and if you see an elk, well that is just icing on the cake.  We have had several people recently that have come in to let us know the good luck they had.  One lady called from St. Louis just to say thank you for the great day she had.  I guess the signs weren't missing yet then... Thanks again for letting us know Linda and Give it another try sometime in the near future. 

Peck Ranch is awesome, but the new Elk tour is not marked well at all. There are food plot signs out, but they need number's on the roads to correspond with the map they are handing out. We thought we took the # 3 road and wanted to do the 3-7-5-1 loop. We ended up at the old elk pen and it was a complete turnaround and go back the way we came in. By that time it was getting dark on us, even though there was a huge full moon, the area is suppose to close at sunset so we had to leave. There are plenty of trees out there that can have a # painted on them to guide folks around. We saw scores of beautiful deer in the food plots on road # 1. We were impressed with the condition of the roads also. They really should consider using calcium chloride to hold down the dust, city folks are not going to enjoy eating the dust like we are used to. They need to include somewhere on the map that the route in on P road is full of low water crossings and the route in off of highway H is much easier to travel. The big craft show and the Haunting are coming up and the area will be full of visitors, I hope many of them will try the Peck Ranch tour, but I hope they will have better luck following the loop tour than we did.

Great review, I like your article.

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