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Remembering Wolf Bayou

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1998

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

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Many years later, when working in Detroit, I mentioned squirrel hunting, and a man in the group asked, "Why in the world would you kill squirrels?" I replied, "We eat them."

And with a look of profound disgust, he exclaimed "Man, don't you know that squirrels are rodents?" They are, of course, but they are tasty rodents.

Quite a few hunters did their hunting at night for raccoons, and I tried it with them, but there was far too much walking and too little shooting to suit me. Later, we moved into a community that included fox hunters. At that time we ran a country store, and several of the hunters would congregate there and rehash their most recent hunt.

There was lots of talk about how well "Old Blue" or "Sport" or whatever, had performed on their most recent hunt. I kept waiting for the finale, and finally asked about the kill. I was informed indignantly that there was no kill.

Pressing for details, I found that they would drive to a back road somewhere near and turn the dogs loose. The dogs would cast about until they picked up the scent of a fox, and the chase began. The hunters, in their cars, would move from road to road, and when the dogs finally ran out of gas, the hunters would pick them up and go home. Sometimes the fox, they said, would go by a circuitous route and return to its own burrow.

For a couple of years in the late 1950s, Robert O. Pierce, who owned Wolf Bayou at that time, allowed us to have a place gratis at the north end of the bayou to rent boats and sell bait. Our sons ran the place through the warm weather months. They made a little money and gained some business experience.

The only rent that he wanted was the use of a fishing boat once in a while. I think he used a boat one time. In our family lore, he has hero stature. His father, Otho Pierce, owned and farmed the land that had been Cooper's Lake near the bayou but on this side of the levee land, and my father-in-law, Albert Ball, owned land nearby that was divided by the levee.

Part of his land was Brushy Lake, which was filled each time the river overflowed its banks. When the backwater went down, Brushy Lake would drain through a ditch that had been dug for that purpose. Usually, it would be pretty late by the time the lake drained and the land got dry enough to plant a crop. Otho Pierce, if his neighbor was in trouble for time, would send over some of his equipment and help him get the crop planted. We need more people in this old world like the Pierces.

The forest around Wolf Bayou was cut at some time in the past. I understand that a band of timber was left standing. Since then, Wolf Bayou was acquired by the Conservation Department, and the area is returning to a more natural state. A visit never fails to stir old memories for me.

Wolf Bayou Conservation Area

Most visitors to Wolf Bayou Conservation Area in southeast Missouri come to sightsee or fish in the four natural lakes or bayous that total 43 acres of water. The fish are replenished when Mississippi River floods inundate the bayous. Of the four bayous-Wolf, Sample, Hosler and Mud- Wolf is the largest at 30 acres.

The 264-acre area is largely forested, a remnant of the once extensive bottomland hardwood forest that covered over 2 million acres of the Missouri Bootheel prior to draining and farm use. The bayous were formed at some time by the river itself, though their exact origins remain unclear.

Wolf Bayou Conservation Area includes two parking lots and a concrete boat ramp. Hunting, as well as primitive camping and fishing, is allowed on the area. Electric motors only are allowed on boats.

Because of the unique habitat provided by the Mississippi River lowlands, the area is home to several rare and endangered species of wildlife, including swamp rabbits, alligator snapping turtles, birds called Mississippi kites and a plant called primrose willow. The Conservation Department manages the area to protect these species and to provide outdoor recreation.

Wolf Bayou Conservation Area is in Pemiscot County, north of the city of Caruthersville. To reach the area, take the Wardell exit off Interstate 55 and follow the east outer road south to Hwy. BB. Follow Hwy. BB over a levee and watch for Conservation Department signs.

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