Since we moved to Missouri two years ago from Nebraska, I have been keenly interested in the little lizards in our yard. But your August issue contained a wonderful article and very definitive photos of the various species of this animal. Thank you.
Duane & Mary Lang, Lake Pomme de Terre
I was quite interested in Jim Low's article about hunting squirrels with a muzzleloader, especially his decision to take only head shots and no offhand shots.
Squirrel hunting is my favorite sport, but it was also an important source of food when I lived in south Missouri. I tried to make it as efficient as possible. I used a scope and shot offhand. Since we had no refrigeration, I tried to get only enough for a meal; I never tried to get a limit.
Carlyle Lark, Jennings
Gene Kelly's story about the chickens reminded me of a similar situation in the middle of the night one summer evening in the late '30s. My folks and I heard a terrible ruckus in our chicken house, and my mother insisted that my dad get his rifle and go shoot whatever was bothering the chickens.
My dad took his time getting to the chicken house but reported back that he could not see anything wrong.
The next morning we all looked out the kitchen window and saw a mother skunk leading several baby skunks through the meadow and toward the woods. I realized the reason Dad had been so slow with his gun the night before was he guessed that if he killed the mother skunk the whole family of babies would perish without her.
Dad made a good decision, as we lost no more chickens and the feline family survived.
Anita B. Gorman, Kansas City
I read with interest your piece about blue herons. About five years ago I ran across a nesting colony on Camp Creek north of Napton and could hardly believe what I saw.
There were about 25 nests in one large sycamore tree. This was at night under moonlight. My coon hounds may have disturbed them because there were a few flying about and giving out with low-key squawks. When they landed on their nests they kept flapping their wings for a time, as if to keep their balance.
Harold Tichenor, Napton
Your article on great blue herons advises that birds grab not spear their prey. An article in another state magazine says, "their dagger-like bills easily thrust through large fish.
Jim Smith, Pleasant Hill
Editor's note: According to Robert W. Butler in "The Birds of North America", a great blue heron locates prey by sight and catches it crosswise with a rapid forward thrust of its neck and head, then holds it between mandibles before swallowing it whole. They may spear and shake larger fish to break or relax the spines before eating them.
I cannot speak highly enough of the "Becoming an Outdoorswoman" program you announced in the Conservationist. My friend and I ate turtle and quail and saw wood-peckers and river otters. We navigated by compass. We tracked deer. We even hit the bull's-eye. The staff never made us feel that they were "dumbing it down" for us, and it seemed like every woman there was happy and friendly.
Madonna Lowell, Crestwood
I've been watching fishing shows on TV and thinking that some of those anglers should come to Missouri. One show claimed Wisconsin had the best walleye fishing in the world, and the fish they caught looked like our sauger. My grandson caught a 12-pound walleye in Stockton, and I've heard that a boat brought in a 22-pound walleye. I was wondering what the state record was.
Dale Hicker, Springfield
Editor's note: The largest recorded walleye caught by pole and line in Missouri weighed 21 pounds and 1 ounce. It was caught in Bull Shoals Lake on March 26, 1988, at 11:30 p.m. by Gerry Partlow from Linneus. He was spin fishing with nightcrawlers with 10-pound test line. The fish was 33.5 inches long and had a girth of 25 inches.
Standing on the porch at 1:15 a.m. waiting for my little dog, I heard cries that sounded like something between a bird's chirping and a small frog. Later that night, I remembered hearing many years ago that coons have a song.
In an old National Geographic, I later read that in addition to a quavering evening call, a raccoon has "a squall of rage that is almost a snarl, a series of birdlike twitters and a startling cry he gives when hopelessly trapped." It is wonderful what one can see, hear and learn by watching wildlife.
Catherine Gaines, Kansas City
In "Gone Wild," the author states that "Barren Fork Creek in Shannon County holds a population of wild rainbow trout from County Road AD to the confluence with Sinking Creek." This wrongly implies that fishing is permitted on this entire stream. Fishing is allowed only where Barren Fork Creek flows through Sunklands Conservation Area. The rest of the streamside property is private.
William Rohrer, Timber
Whither Your Web?
I was told by a conservation agent that there was a web site for the Missouri Conservation Department, but we both looked in the magazine and couldn't find the address. I think it would be a good idea to put the address at the beginning or end of your letters page.
Thomas Camden, West Plains
Editor's note: We've included the Conservation Department's web address on this page for months, but it is hard to find. Look at the end of the paragraph just above the Conservation Department logo in the shaded area on the right of the page.
I have been so awed by the great color photos of wildlife in your magazine that I cut them out for future viewing. I suggest that you set aside one page in each issue for a spectacular color print suitable for framing.
Jim Ray, St. Joseph
Like you, conservation agents have a busy work week. They spend most of their time patrolling the county, processing complaints, helping landowners manage their property or giving educational programs.
The short of it is that conservation agents are almost never in an office waiting for your call. The best way to contact them is through the sheriff's office, at the agent's home or through the regional Conservation Department office.
Many problems are best handled by other agencies. For example, the sheriff's office normally deals with trespass complaints, unless a wildlife violation is involved. Local animal control or law enforcement agency should be called for many animal nuisance complaints, particularly those involving domestic animals.
Agents usually can't respond immediately to reports of suspicious activity, so you might as well call at a reasonable hour, after determining a pattern to the activity.
Nor can we arrive in time to stop a violation in progress. After making sure a violation has occurred (hearing gunshots does not necessarily mean a violation), make note, without endangering yourself, of the type of vehicle, license number and descriptions of the people involved, then call your agent or the Operation Game Thief hotline at (800) 392-1111 immediately.
You will get the most benefit from your agent's time if you use it as wisely as you would our wildlife resources.
Don Long, Christian County