Reflections

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The February issue is full of wonderful history and some really nice owl photographs.

I've enjoyed the magazine second-hand for about a year and a half, but we have picked up our life on the east side of Illinois and moved it to Missouri, where I was born 37 years ago. It's nice now not to have to keep asking my wife, "Did you bring it home yet?"

Missouri has so much to offer, with its beauty and things to see and do. Even now, Missouri is bringing us joy as my cat and I look out over my backyard watching the birds make their way to our four feeders.

Steven Hurt, St. Clair

Duck Dilemma

On an early morning trip to Mozingo Lake, Nodaway County, this morning, I noticed a hooded merganser that was about 4 feet out from the dam. It would dive for a second and then come right back up at the exact same spot while flapping wildly.

Figuring he was caught in something, I went down and found he was tangled up real bad in heavy fishing line. Luckily, I was able to get him out of the water and untangle him. The line was wound five times around his wing, twice around his body and a few times around his neck.

He looked pretty beat up, but I think he'll be OK. His tertiaries were messed up a little, but none were missing. It was amazing at how calm the little guy was while I was unwrapping him, and how quickly he regained his energy once he realized he was free. When I released him, he immediately dove and appeared to be doing fine.

It always feels good helping wildlife, especially a bird as striking as a hooded merganser. Now if only more fishermen would pick up their trash.

David Farmer, Maryville

Trapping to Live

Here's more about the pros and cons of trapping. In 1980, I was abandoned by my husband, was ill and unable to work steadily and had no money. In order to pay for food and utilities, I trapped. I ate the meat and sold the furs. I'm thankful I had the traps and the know-how to use them. Trapping carried me through a difficult time.

Ms L. J. Johnson, Oak Grove

Epic Guide

The Lewis and Clark epic, chronicled in your February Outside In section was a fine reminder of that mighty adventure begun in 1803, but it followed the shameful tradition of ignoring our first peace ambassador, the awesome Shoshone's woman guide, Sacajawea. She carried her infant son on her back all the way to the Pacific, and saved the expedition from death several times.

Betty Skulstad, Beaufort, North Carolina

Editor's note: Sacajawea and her husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, joined with Lewis and Clark at Fort Mandan in the Dakotas, after the expedition had passed through Missouri.

Fast Photo

Your February issue was one of the best, not only in content, but photos as well. I loved the article, "The River Before Time." I loved your animal photos, too. I am an amateur photographer and have seen prairie owls, but I have never been able to photograph one.

Allen Brandon, Kansas City

On Beings Blue

I just had to write about your bluebird article. I have bluebirds that stay every winter, normally in a bluebird house. This year, there are eight roosting in a natural gourd (used by our martins). As the days lengthen, they come in a little later each day and leave a little earlier. What a sight to behold!

Udell & Norma Hayes, Marceline

Litter Stinks

I wanted to make a comment to people that litter and don't think it hurts anything. My daughter and I were on our way home at about 12:30 a.m. We had just turned onto a dirt road by our home when we saw a skunk with a paper cup stuck on its head. We wondered whether we should help him, or even if we could help him.

We got closer and realized it wasn't just an ordinary paper cup. It was one of those cups with a dome lid on it that snaps on the cup. There was no way the skunk could even begin to get the cup off. We called the local sheriff to see what we could do but, the skunk ran off across a field into the dark of night.

Rene Jones, Urich

Gauging Information

You have published an excellent introduction concerning available shotguns. However, many may wonder at the meaning of gauge.

It is the number of solid lead balls with diameter equal to the bore of the gun barrel that it takes to make a pound. That is, if it takes 12 such lead balls to add up to one pound, then it is 12 gauge. If it takes 20 balls, then 20 gauge.

A shotgun that does not follow this rule is the 410 "gauge," for its bore is 0.410 inch.

Louis P. Pushkarsky, Trenton

Stated Confusion

Wow, am I impressed! Not only do I love living in Missouri (I was a misplaced Oregonian living in Texas for a long while), but Oregon is very like Missouri in many ways. I am so glad we found out how wonderful it is.

I got to see your magazine through a neighbor and am tickled pink! Not only is it beautiful and informative, and a wonderful study for us older kids, as well as the younger ones, but it is free! I cannot compliment you enough.

Cheryl O'Leary, Ava

Scouting Tool

I am a Boy Scout and so I already know a lot about the great outdoors, but about half the stuff I know about nature and wildlife came from reading your articles. Also, in the past year, these magazines have become very handy because we recently bought some property near Owensville, and your articles talk about how to maintain your land and keep it full of wildlife.

Paul Jamboretz, Troop 750, New Horizon

Ask the Ombudsman

Q: My friend recently received a survey form from the Conservation Department. Why didn't I get one?

image of ombudsmanA: The Conservation Department recently sent surveys to 16,400 randomly selected residents throughout Missouri in an effort to gauge how the Department is measuring up to Missourians expectations and how people feel about conservation issues. If you didn't get a survey, that doesn't mean the Department doesn't want to hear what you think. You can always call, e-mail or write us about your conservation concerns.

Public input influences our decision making. The survey is one of many methods the Conservation Department uses to gauge public opinion. Others include focus groups, telephone surveys and personal contacts. We want to deliver programs and services in a way that benefits all Missourians, as well as the fish, forest and wildlife resources in Missouri.

The Conservation Department encourages survey recipients to complete their survey form and return it in the postage-paid, return envelope.

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>.

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