You missed the effects that acid rain has on the land and the subsequent reduction in quail reproduction. When pH of the soil turns acid, lead shot that has fallen for 200 years on the critical topsoil dissolves. This lead is in the pure toxic form. Research has shown that even very low levels of absorbed lead negatively impact reproduction of all animals. For every five parts of per billion, you get a doubling of the miscarriage rate (2, 4, 8, 16 percent)!
Natural lead in the soil is bound to the elements of lime and is not toxic. Applying lime to fields increases the soil's pH and greatly reduces the negative impacts of lead toxicity. Every good farmer limes his soil.
Fred Rettinger, Springfield
I have enjoyed hunting mushrooms since I was a little girl in Franklin County with my grandfather.
Here's a mushroom hunting tip: Carry them in a mesh bag or loosely woven basket. As you walk through the woods, you will be spreading the spores of future mushrooms.
Rita Hadley, Annapolis
My entire family and dozens of friends have been serious mushroom hunters for more years than I would like to admit, and until more tangible proof can be given supporting your claim that grey, white, giant and yellow morels are just stages of the same mushroom, we choose not to accept it.
I have found dried up grey morels next to fresh white ones. I have found many greys around hickory trees, but have seldom ever found a white morel there. I have found huge yellows in hotspots that I hunted every couple of days, and I would not have missed them as either a white or giant morel.
I admit these are not scientific tests, but you can understand my skepticism.
Mark Crawford, Centertown
Editor's note: Spore testing verifies that all three forms belong to the same species. My copy of "Mushrooms of North America" lists the same four species of true morels that Mike Anderson listed in his article. Mike said he once owned an apple orchard that contained many morels and protected them from other pickers. Over the course of a decade he often watched common morels mature through the various stages. He said color and size are the poorest indicators of morel species and stages. Color is variable with some common morels never having much of a grey tone and other specimens never losing all their grey. Size depends totally on the weather and fertility. Some small specimens pass through their immature stages under the leaf litter where they cannot be observed. He noted that pits of common morels are squeezed together when they are in the small, grey stage but progressively expand and open up as they mature. Hot dry weather or cold or other factors can arrest morel growth, "freezing" the mushroom in any of its stages.
My family has always enjoyed your publication, but when I retired, storage limitations were forcing me to part with my 34-plus years of magazines, all in excellent condition. I thought you would like to know how I recycled them.
I checked with the library, but they didn't need them. I then found a science teacher in a local elementary school who was happy to receive them. Her young students could make use of some of the information in them. Just think, some of the students' parents were babies when I started receiving the Conservationist!
Ken Brame, St. Charles
As a volunteer fire fighter for the Linn area, I was concerned that your article on prescribed burning didn't suggest that landowners contact their local fire personnel to see if conditions were right for burning. Wind, low humidity and other factors can suddenly make a prescribed burn into a situation that the landowner can't handle. The fire could enlarge and burn neighboring property or parcels of land.
It's not a requirement to do so, but I urge people to call their local fire department for advice before conducting a prescribed or controlled burn.
Mike Schaefer, Linn
I enjoyed your article on vandals. I have been a silent partner of Missouri conservation. I clean my favorite accesses in Stone, Christian and Greene counties before I even get my gear out to fish. When I see vandalism, I take down numbers and turn the violators in. Others should do the same, if they want to keep Missouri beautiful.
Michael Korte, Clever
Drumming Up Birds
Here in Ray county we have rabbits, but no quail. In spring and early summer of 1999, I heard a sound like an engine starting loud and then tapering off. One day a neighbor told me I was lucky, because I'd heard a ruffed grouse drumming. I'm hoping it will be back this year.
Sherman Dooley, Forsyth
I ordered your magazine for my husband, who is an avid hunter and fisherman. Little did I know that our 17-month-old daughter, Emilee, would enjoy them just as much.
Your colorful pictures keep her entertained for several minutes. She will point and tell you what the animals are. Her limited vocabulary now includes the words, "deer," "fish" and "dog." My husband is so proud!
Janine Patey, Lebanon
The story on the wild morels by Mike Anderson was the best I have ever seen. The photographs will help so much this spring. I'll keep this for years to come.
Gene Weber, Saint Peters
The letters printed here reflect readers' opinions about the Conservationist and its contents. Space limitations prevent us from printing all letters, but we welcome signed comments from our readers. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.
Ask the Ombudsman
Q: What is meant by the "personal attendance" requirement for jug fishing?
A: Jug fishing is a popular method of taking catfish. This type of fishing appears to have originated in Missouri's major rivers, where anglers would bait, cast and follow a flotilla of jugs downstream for miles. The first jugs consisted of two brightly painted coffee cans soldered together, but today plastic detergent bottles or soda bottles or styrofoam blocks are more common. Problems developed when lake anglers started jug fishing. They sometimes would put out jugs, go home or to camp and return the next day to search for their catch. This technique resulted in an unacceptable amount of lost fish and equipment.
Fishermen using free-floating jugs now need to be in personal attendance (within view) of their jugs in order to ensure fish and equipment won't be lost. Anglers may fish with anchored jugs (these would be considered set lines) and attend them daily rather than remain in personal attendance. Many people are having good success with this method, and they don't have to invest part of the next day searching for their equipment. For more on fishing methods, see Chapter 6 of the 2001 Missouri Wildlife Code or visit <www.mdc.mo.gov/regs/>.
Ombudsman Ken Drenon will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Conservation Department programs. Write him at P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at (573) 751-4115, ext. 3848, or e-mail him at <Ken.Drenon@mdc.mo.gov>.