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Prairie chickens display at Dunn Ranch

Guided tours of prairie chicken "booming grounds" will be held at Dunn Ranch in Harrison County March 12 through May 1.

The tours, co-sponsored by the Conservation Department and The Nature Conservancy, allow eight people a day to watch dozens of the large, endangered birds puffing up bright orange cheek sacs, dancing frantically about and flying several feet in the air to attract mates.

Morning tours are by reservation only. Participants must be able to hike one-half mile uphill to reach the viewing blind. To book a spot, call (816) 271-3100 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Registrants will receive a list of equipment needs and other necessary information by mail.

APRIL MEETINGS FOCUS ON QUAIL

Missourians can attend public meetings with the Conservation Department this spring to learn about plans for an interagency quail restoration effort and to voice their ideas on this and other topics.

The citizen-led Quail and Grassland Songbird Leadership Council andConservation Department leaders will host meetings in all eight regions of the state April 2 and 9. They will outline regional quail recovery plans involving the U.S. Department of Agriculture and nongovernmental organizations, such as Quail Unlimited and Audubon Missouri. Participants also will be able to attend field trips to look over habitat management practices.

Meeting dates and phone numbers for more information are:

April 2

  • Ozark Region--Koshkonong High School in Oregon County 9 a.m. to noon, (417) 256-7161.
  • Northeast Region--Mt. Zion Christian Church, Hwy. 61, 2 miles north of Hannibal, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., (660) 785-2420.
  • Southwest Region--Robert E. Talbot CA in Lawrence County, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., (417) 895-6880.
  • Northwest Region--Grand River Inn in Chillicothe, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., (816) 271-3111.
  • Southeast Region--Millersville Elementary School in Cape Girardeau, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., (573) 290-5730.
  • Central Region--Whetstone Creek CA office, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., (573) 884-6861.

April 9

  • Kansas City Region--NECO Seeds demonstration farm in Cass County, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., (816) 655-6250.
  • St. Louis Region--The Conservation Department's St. Louis Regional office, St. Charles, 1 to 4 p.m., (636) 300-1953.

Why do you visit White River lakes?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is cooperating with agencies on both sides of the Missouri-Arkansas state line to learn more about where, when and why people visit Bull Shoals, Table Rock and Taneycomo lakes.

Survey clerks are easy to identify by their jackets or vests. They are asking lake visitors to spend about three minutes answering questions as they return from trips to the lakes. The survey will continue through October. Participation is voluntary, and all information gathered will be kept anonymous. The information gathered will help state and federal agencies plan management activities, such as fish stocking and construction of new public recreation areas.

Turkey seasons set

Missouri's spring turkey season remains the same as last year's, but those who chase turkeys in the fall can enjoy twice as many hunting days and more liberal hunting opportunities.

The Conservation Commission set 2005 spring turkey season for April 18 through May 8. This three-week season, along with bag limits and other regulations, remain unchanged from 2004. The youth spring turkey season again will be two days, April 9-10.

The fall turkey season, which previously ran for two weeks in mid-October, now includes the entire month of October. Hunters this year will be allowed to kill the season limit of two birds on the same day if they so choose. In the past, hunters could take only one turkey per day during the fall season.

Research indicates the fall season changes will have little or no eff ect on the size of the state's turkey fl ock. However, the Conservation Department will monitor population and harvest data to ensure spring hunting opportunities are not aff ected by the expanded fall opportunities.

TWO LUCKY DEER HUNTERS WIN LIFETIME PERMITS

Matthew Self and Charles Hulsey are at opposite ends of the age spectrum, but they share a love of deer hunting and excellent luck. Self, 11, and Hulsey, 72, are the winners in the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation's drawing for two Lifetime Conservation Partner Permits.

The Foundation held a drawing for the two permits, along with several wildlife art prints, as an incentive for hunters to buy 2004 deer permits early. All hunters who bought permits or acquired their no-cost landowner permits by November 5 were included in the drawing. Lifetime permit prices depend on the buyer's age, ranging from $70 for those 60 years and older to $800 for ages 16-29. They entitle the holder to fi sh and hunt for all but deer and turkey without additional state permits for life.

Meet author at Powder Valley

Nature photographer and botanist Don Kurz will be at Powder Valley Nature Center April 1 at 7 p.m.to present spring wildfl owers slide show and to sign books. Conservation Department books written by Kurz include Ozark Wildfl owers, Trees of Missouri and Shrubs and Woody Vines of Missouri. For more information or for reservations, call (314) 301-1500.

Shape up for spring

It's time to get gardens in shape, and spring cleaning should be completed before new plant growth begins.

Use pruning shears to remove dead foliage and stems that you may have left to provide habitat for wildlife during the winter. Also rake away leaves. Clearing away last year's litter gives you a good look at native asters and lanceleaf coreopsis.

Because spring weather promotes good shoot and root growth in newly separated plants, now is the perfect time to divide large clumps. Native plants that benefi t from division include showy evening primrose, sweet conefl ower and native phlox.

For help planning a native-plant garden, visit Grow Native! online. Click on "Landscape Guide" and then "Easy Landscape Plans." You'll find 11 wildlife-friendly plans, complete with planting guides and plant lists.

You also can request a printed home landscape guide by going to "About GN!" and clicking on "Contact Us." Mail requests to Grow Native! P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180. -- Barbara Fairchild

Experimental hand-fishing season will allow data gathering

Responding to requests from some Missourians, the Conservation Commission has approved a limited hand-fishing season. This experimental season will allow Conservation Department biologists to gather data about the effects of hand fishing.

The season will run from sunrise to sunset June 1 through July 15 in parts of the Fabius and Mississippi rivers in northeastern Missouri, and part of the St. Francis River in southeastern Missouri.

Hand fishing is more commonly known as "noodling." The practice also is known as "grabbling," "tickling" and "hogging." Fifty-one percent of catfish anglers surveyed were in favor of a regulated hand-fishing season as long as it does not harm catfish populations.

Hand fishers must have a resident or nonresident annual fishing permit, a daily fishing permit or an exemption and a $7 Hand Fishing Permit, available only from the Conservation Department Central Office in Jefferson City. The daily limit is five blue, flathead and channel catfish in the aggregate, with a possession limit of 10. Flathead and blue catfish less than 22 inches long must be released unharmed immediately. Hand fishers will be required to report all fish they take.

The Conservation Department is designing studies to explore the effects of hand fishing on catfish populations. For more information, see the 2005 Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations, available wherever fishing permits are sold.

OUTDOORSWOMEN Contribute to Deer Harvest

Women hunters, such as Shawna Andrews, now make up 11 percent of Missouri deer hunters, up from 8 percent in 1996. Missouri's 19,806 women deer hunters help control deer numbers statewide. For information about programs designed to help women enter the ranks of hunters, visit "Becoming and Outdoorswoman" online.

Nature Center volunteer passes 2,000-hour mark

Kathy Magruder Miller has always had a strong interest in the outdoors. Growing up in St. Charles, she frequently walked nature trails at August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area. Despite a busy career, she shared her interest in nature by becoming a Conservation Department volunteer. That started the volunteer naturalist on a path that recently led to recognition by the Conservation Commission.

Miller has presented programs and organized events relating to eagles, vultures, wetlands, fishing, camping, recycling and a host of other subjects. Her volunteer career began at Busch Conservation Area. It moved to Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery when she and her husband moved to the Branson Area in 1999. Her desire to share her love of the outdoors also has taken her around the state with the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman, Wonders of the Outdoor World and Hands On Outdoor Training programs.

Last year she received the Association of Missouri Interpreters' Distinguished Volunteer Interpreter Award. Conservation Commission Chairman Cynthia Metcalf marked a milestone in Miller's outstanding volunteer career in November, when she presented a 2,000-hour volunteer service award to the dedicated citizen-conservationist.

VOLUNTEERS REACH NEW HEIGHTS

Nadine Marshall, left, and Carolyn Brunner have done what no other volunteers at Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City have done before. Each of the devoted conservationists has donated 5,000 hours of their time to share nature with others.

Marshall has been volunteering since 1995. Brunner began her career as a volunteer naturalist in 1992. The pair, with the help of fellow volunteer Golda Trower, developed one of the state's most popular nature center programs, called "The Wildlifers." It blends nature learning with quilt making.

Grants help schools

The new Conservation Field Trip Grant program helps teachers from kindergarten through high school take students on field trips to explore the state's fish, wildlife and natural habitats.

Conservation Department officials devised the program when they learned that budget cuts were forcing some schools to drop field trips to conservation areas and other nature-related sites.

Conservation Field Trip Grants provide up to $700 to cover the costs of taking students to places that bring scientific principles to life. To qualify, applicants must use the money for field trips for at least 25 students between April 10 and May 20. Trips must address specific science or other academic instructional goals and be connected to classroom instructions. The money can only be used for transportation and can't exceed $7 per student.

Applications must be submitted between March 1 and March 15. Applicants will be notified by April 1 whether their proposals will be funded.

Educators in all Missouri elementary and secondary schools or school districts--including public, private, parochial and home schools--may apply. Applications are available from Conservation Department education staff and regional offices or may be downloaded from the agency's public website. Click on keywords "Education" and then"Conservation Field Trip Grant."

Now is a great time to see ducks

Each spring and fall, waves of migratory birds fly across Missouri. March is an especially good month to see ducks, geese and swans at wetland areas.

Places where you can see migrating waterfowl include August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area (CA) in St. Charles County, Diana Bend CA in Howard County, Grand Pass CA in Saline County, Bob Brown CA in Holt County, Nodaway Valley CA in Holt County, Ted Shanks CA in Pike County, Eagle Bluffs CA in Boone County and Four Rivers CA in Vernon County. For maps and more information about these and other wildlife viewing areas, visit our online atlas.

Rare birds on display

Throughout March, the Missouri Botanical Garden Ridgway Center will host an exhibit showcasing the Cracidae family of birds of Central and South America. Considered the rarest bird family in the Americas, nearly one-third of the Cracidae species are endangered.

The exhibit, which runs Feb. 25 to April 8, features 40 oil paintings of various Cracidae species from Nigel Hughes.

On April 8, researchers from the Missouri Botanical Garden's Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development will present a joint lecture on Cracidae birds and their environment.

Also, the Saint Louis Zoo features a temporary display of two members of the Cracidae family at the Bird House. They are the helmeted curassow, with its unusual bluish-gray forehead, and the piping guan. For more information, call (314) 577-9400 or (800) 642-8842; or visit online.

Conference focuses on forest stewardship

The annual Tri-State Forest Stewardship Conference April 2 at the Grand Theatre in Keokuk, Iowa, will address landowner concerns and questions about private forest management in Missouri, Illinois and Iowa.

Sessions will cover wildlife, agroforestry, woodland management, forest health and community forestry. Wildlife sessions will focus on game birds, non-game species, backyard birding and pond management.

Registration is $40 per person ($35 before March 25). For more information, contact Julie Rhoads, University of Missouri, 203 ABNR Building, Columbia, MO 65211, (573) 882-3234, <RhoadsJ@missouri.edu>.

Notorious poacher goes to jail

U.S. Magistrate Lewis M. Blanton has sentenced John H. Partney of Van Buren to three months in prison for illegal trapping in the Mark Twain National Forest. Partney also received $5,000 in fines for his latest conviction.

Partney previously was the subject of one of the largest poaching cases in Missouri history. In 1996, state and federal agents raided his home and found 196 sets of white-tailed deer antlers, 248 turkey beards, the horns of a bighorn sheep killed in Glacier National Park, and the antlers of a 12-point bull elk killed in Yellowstone National Park, along with photographs and diaries recording alleged illegal activities dating back to 1961.

In that earlier case, he received a 21-month jail sentence, paid $7,500 in fines, lost $12,205 worth of confiscated firearms and other equipment and had his Missouri hunting and fishing privileges revoked for life. Under the terms of the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact, Partney also is barred from hunting or fishing in 18 other states.

Conservation agents Mark Wilcoxon and Ryan Houf arrested Partney in February 2004. Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith D. Sorrell, of Cape Girardeau, handled the prosecution.

Conservation duo wins accolades

Outreach Programs Supervisor Kirk Keller and Web Developer Joshua Bullock are all about helping Missourians get the information they want about state government. The duo received the 2004 Governor's Award for Quality and Productivity for setting up a portal on the Missouri State Web page where users can click for news from any agency. Essentially, this portal allows Internet users one-stop information shopping. To see how easy it is, visit them and click on "Get Missouri News."

AGENT NOTEBOOK

Conservation Agents are willing and happy to serve, but many Missourians aren't sure how to contact us.

We have 165 Conservation Agents in Missouri. Most counties have at least one agent. A few counties have two agents, and urban counties may have three. If you do not know who your local agent is, you can find out at any Missouri Department of Conservation office.

Conservation Agents have home offices, and their telephone number are listed in the local directory. Local law enforcment offices also can provide the name and number of your agent. Because of their varied work schedules, agents are sometimes not able to answer their home phones. However, every agent has an answering machine on which you can leave your name, a call-back number and a short message. Agents will return your phone call as soon as possible.

If you need a response quickly and can't reach your agent at home, you can call your local Missouri Conservation Department office during regular business hours. Also, to report wildlife violations, you can call Operation Game Thief, toll free, at (800) 392-1111, or contact your local law enforcement office.

Keep the number of your agent near your phone so it's handy when you experience wildlife damage, need clarification on regulations or want to report a wildlife violation. --Ken Polley

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