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Missouri youth hunters top nation

Although most states are losing hunters, Missouri leads the nation in encouraging youngsters to hunt. These young hunters should help keep the hunting tradition strong in the state.

A study commissioned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation gauged hunter-replacement ratios across the country. The study determined the ratio of the number of people age 16 and older who hunted in a recent year to the number of youngsters between the ages of 6 and 15 who hunted that year. The national ratio is .69, which means that in most states there are not enough young hunters in the ranks to sustain hunter numbers.

The implications of this ratio are serious. States where the percentage of hunters declines will lose out on the recreational value of hunting. They also lose the economic benefits of jobs, manufacturing, services and tourism associated with hunting. Furthermore, declines in hunter numbers could reduce the ability of wildlife management agencies to control wildlife populations, such as deer and coyotes.

Only seven states showed a hunting participation ratio that indicates growth in the number of youth hunters. Missouri is at the top with a replacement ratio of 1.16.

Missouri's hunting seasons exclusively for young hunters, as well as Conservation Department programs like Hunter Skills University and Missouri's Outdoors Women, likely contributed to our top standing.

Fishing is free June 11 and 12

Anglers who fish the weekend after the first Monday in June can leave their fishing permits at home. June 11 and 12 are Free Fishing Days in Missouri. You can fish without a fishing permit, daily trout tag or trout permit at any conservation area and most other places in the state. Requirements for special permits still may apply at some county, city or private areas. Normal regulations, such as size and daily limits, still apply everywhere.

A News & Almanac item in the May Conservationist listed incorrect dates for this year's Free Fishing Days.

Scam targets deer permit seekers

If you hear about a toll-free telephone number where you can get free deer hunting permits, don't believe it. A scam is circulating that promises free deer permits but ends up charging callers for an unrelated adult service. Deer permits are available only through the Conservation Department or designated vendors.

Forest ReLeaf plants 50,000th tree

Drive by the intersection of Natural Bridge and Vandeventer in O'Fallon's Fairground Park, and you may glimpse a landmark of sorts. The red maple seedling planted there last Nov. 9 has not attained impressive size yet, but it is nevertheless significant.

The tree is the 50,000th planted through the efforts of Forest ReLeaf of Missouri. The organization's tree-planting and education programs help citizens take an active role in greening up their communities. The 50,000 trees planted so far grace school grounds and parks, roadsides and other green spaces throughout Missouri. The group works with public forestry systems, cities, schools, churches, civic groups and individuals.

Forest ReLeaf offers free and reduced-cost trees for planting on public and nonprofit property. To learn more about this organization and its community nursery near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, visit online, or call (888) 473-5323.

Partners for pallid sturgeon

The Conservation Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are part of a coalition of government agencies working to learn more about the endangered pallid sturgeon and coax the species back from the brink of extinction.

The agencies are working together to assess the health of pallid sturgeon populations in the Missouri River from Fort Peck Dam in Montana to the river's mouth near St. Louis. They are gathering information about sturgeon numbers and changes on the river that could affect the fish's survival.

The Corps of Engineers is paying for improvements to the Conservation Department's Blind Pony Hatchery. The facility in Saline County raises pallid sturgeon for release into the Missouri River.

Other agencies involved in the project are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Springfield youth wins Arbor Day poster contest

Kristen Meinert, a fifth-grade student at Greenwood Laboratory School in Springfield, is the Missouri state winner in the 2005 Arbor Day National Poster Contest.

A panel composed of members of the Missouri Community Forestry Council and artists selected Meinert's poster as the winning entry. The contest theme was “Trees are Terrific and Energy Wise!” More than 2,000 fifth-grade students participated.

As the state winner, Meinert received a $50 savings bond from Forest ReLeaf of Missouri. Her poster was displayed at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., in April. The Conservation Department provided a tree to be planted at her school. Her teacher, Rhonda Glaser, received a Trees Are Terrific Curriculum Kit provided by The National Arbor Day Foundation.

Awareness of the relationship of trees and our environment begins at a young age,” says State Forester Robert Krepps. “Students like Meinert have learned about the importance of trees to our environment and how they can make a difference.”

The National Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit education organization dedicated to tree planting and environmental stewardship. Visit www.arborday.org for online learning opportunities.

Trappers condemn dog killings

The Missouri Trappers Association (MTA) has condemned the actions of a trapper who killed two dogs caught in his traps in Cass County earlier this year. The trapper in question was not a member of the MTA.

In a letter to the Kansas City Star, MTA Vice President Doren Miller said the killings were “offensive to ethical trappers everywhere” and “an embarrassment to all who practice trapping responsibly.” He said the vast majority of trappers do not set traps where they have a chance of catching non-target animals. Furthermore, he said, in rare cases where domestic animals are caught in traps, ethical trappers release them without injury.

Miller said trappers working with professional wildlife managers have made great strides in fine-tuning trap designs to prevent injury to both target and non-target animals. He also expressed “heartfelt sympathy” to the owner of the two dogs that were killed.

Conservationist article inspires award-winning essay

Missouri's dwindling population of greater prairie chickens won't go extinct if Abigail Metallo has anything to say about it. The fourth-grade, home-schooled student from Edgar Springs knows quite a bit about the colorful, prairie-dwelling birds and has some thoughts about how Missourians might reverse their decline.

Metallo learned about prairie chickens by reading the Conservationist. She used her knowledge to enter Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom Kids Summit Essay Contest and won first prize at the state level.

The contest encourages youths age 9 to 12 to write about how they can help save an endangered species. Metallo's essay suggests educational projects to raise public awareness of the bird's plight, volunteer work to restore prairie chicken habitat and cookouts to raise money for prairie chicken research. She even provided a suggested cookout menu—complete with prices.

Metallo represented Missouri at the national summit in Los Angeles in May.

Quail aren't alone in decline

Many Missourians, especially quail hunters, know that bobwhite quail numbers have declined significantly in recent decades. However, they are not aware that quail are in decline throughout their native range in the eastern United States and that parallel declines have been documented in dozens of other, seemingly very different bird species.

What these birds all have in common is a need for grasslands that are managed to benefit wildlife.

Bobwhite quail and other declining bird species are all adapted to grasslands. They nest, rear their young and find food and shelter in grasslands. Missouri once had millions of acres of grassland, ranging from tallgrass prairie and savanna to brushy grassland. However, landscape changes over the last 30 years have reduced grassland, leaving bobwhites, dickcissels, shrikes, bobolinks and grasshopper sparrows with drastically reduced living quarters.

To find out what you can do to help quail and other grassland birds, contact the Private Land Services representative at your nearest Conservation Department office or visit online.

Polled suburbanites OK with hunting

Most suburban St. Louis residents recently surveyed said controlled hunting was acceptable as a way of managing deer numbers in their area. A task force with representatives from 10 west St. Louis County municipalities paid for the survey. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they thought hunting was acceptable, while 27 percent called it unacceptable.

Biologists say suburban deer populations need to be 25 or fewer per square mile to avoid unacceptable levels of deer-vehicle collisions and property damage. They have documented deer populations as high as 85 per square mile in parts of St. Louis County.

Survey respondents said their top deer management priorities were reducing deer-vehicle collisions, reducing the risk of diseases and maintaining a healthy deer herd.

New conservation area opens in Pemiscot County

The newly created Black Island Conservation Area (CA) in Pemiscot County provides much-needed wetland acreage for waterfowl, as well as a variety of recreational opportunities in the Mississippi River flood plain north of Caruthersville. The new area borders Gayoso Bend CA. The 2,087-acre Black Island is mostly low-lying cropland and forested uplands. Management plans call for restoration of the area's bottomland hardwood forest.

The area will be a haven for swamp rabbits and federally endangered least terns, not to mention birdwatchers, anglers and hunters. Black Island CA also will serve as a holding area for rainwater that otherwise would run off immediately, pushing up flood crests on the Mississippi River.

Federal aid helps build quail buffers

USDA offices throughout Missouri are accepting applications for the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program “Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds” practice, or CP33. The program encourages landowners to create strips of native grasses or other wildlife-friendly plants on the edges of crop fields to provide shelter for quail, rabbits and other wildlife.

CP33 provides landowners reliable income from field edges where crop production often is marginal. As little as one side of a field can be enrolled. There is no limit on acreage, but at least one-tenth of an acre of enrolled fields must be planted in shrubs to enhance habitat value for upland birds. Participating landowners plant a mix of native grasses and broadleaf plants in 30- to 120-foot strips along the edges of crop fields. Only land that is currently being cropped qualifies.

Landowners receive $100 per acre signing bonus plus annual payments for enrolled acreage. For more information about CP33, contact any USDA office.

Sign on for nature journaling adventure

Missourians can travel back in time 200 years with an all-new adventure booklet, “Journaling with Lewis & Clark: A Discovery of Outdoor Missouri.”

The booklet, available at conservation education sites statewide, outlines day trips and activities to get in touch with the saga of the Corps of Discovery. At each site, participants learn about modern-day connections to the expedition. They receive distinctive lapel pins representing plants and animals Lewis and Clark encountered during their journey through Missouri or expedition equipment used by the team.

Those who visit all nine sites qualify for a grand-prize drawing for camping equipment. The program will continue through May 2006. The drawing will be held in September 2006.

To get started, visit the Cape Girardeau Conservation Campus Nature Center in Cape Girardeau, Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center (CNC) in Blue Springs, Columbia Bottom Conservation Area in St. Louis County, the Discovery Center Urban Conservation Campus in Kansas City, Lost Valley Fish Hatchery near Warsaw, Powder Valley CNC in Kirkwood, Runge CNC in Jefferson City, Shepherd of the Hills Conservation Center in Branson or the Springfield CNC in Springfield.

Wildlife not a partisan issue in Missouri

Strong bipartisan support from Missouri's congressional delegation helped ensure the continuation of a federal program that underwrites local wildlife management efforts.

Senators Christopher “Kit” Bond and Jim Talent and representatives Russ Carnahan, William “Lacy” Clay, Emanuel Cleaver, Sam Graves, Kenny Hulshof and Ike Skelton all signed letters supporting an $85 million appropriation for the State Wildlife Grants program.

The program is designed to benefit species of conservation concern before they become endangered. It makes good economic sense because it encourages “leveraging” federal money through matching grants to local governments and privately supported conservation efforts. A prime example is the creation of the Missouri Bird Conservation Initiative Council grants program.

Missouri has used its share of State Wildlife Grant money to support prairie, glade and savanna restoration, eradicate invasive plants and monitor species believed to be declining.

Breast cancer survivors invited to Casting for Recovery fishing event

Survivors of breast cancer are invited to Casting for Recovery Oct. 14 through 16 at Windrush Trout Farm near Steelville. Casting For Recovery provides no-cost fly fishing retreats designed especially for women who have or have had breast cancer. The events promote mental and physical healing through shared activities and gentle exercise in beautiful, natural settings. For more information, contact Missouri Casting for Recovery Coordinator Patti Hummert, 9601 Flora, Overland, MO 63114, (314) 423-5852, or visit www.castingforrecovery.org.

Habitat Hint: New video explains how to feather forest edges for quail

Quail benefit more from a gradual transition between fields and forest than from abrupt field-forest edges. A new Conservation Department video, Your Conservation Guide to Edge Feathering, shows you how to create this gradual transitional habitat. The 7.5-minute video comes in VHS tape and DVD versions and is available from Distribution Center, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, e-mail pubstaff @mdc.mo.gov.

For more information about managing your land for quail and other grassland wildlife, request a free copy of “On the Edge: A Guide to Managing Land for Bobwhite Quail.” For help in implementing the advice contained in the booklet, contact a private land conservationist at your nearest Conservation Department office.

Community lakes a huge fishing resource

If you think you have to drive hours to big reservoirs in order to catch big fish, think again. Ten-year-old Marc Jungle of Linneus caught this 3-pound, 10-ounce black crappie from Che-Ru Lake at Fountain Grove Conservation Area. Fish like this one lurk in many of Missouri's 100-plus Community Assistance Project lakes and ponds around the state. The Conservation Department partners with communities by managing fish populations in these lakes, which often serve as municipal water supplies. To find CAP lakes in your area, visit the MDC online Atlas.

Agent Notebook

People often ask me why we need conservation agents in urban counties.

I started my conservation agent career in St. Francois County, which is mostly rural, but I've spent the last 17 years in mostly urban St. Charles County. In both places, I helped with hunter education, spoke to students at schools and to other public groups, conducted radio shows, wrote newspaper articles and did wildlife surveys for research.

Both rural and urban areas have public lands that agents patrol for hunting, fishing and area-use violations. People visit both rural and urban conservation areas to watch wildlife, train dogs, target shoot, exercise, photograph nature, collect wild edibles and attend informational programs, as well as to hunt and fish. The only difference is the number of people involved.

Both urban and rural agents respond to animal nuisance complaints. Deer and other animals in highly populated areas sometimes create unique challenges. Imagine rescuing a deer from an empty in-ground swimming pool or catching a black snake on the third floor deck of an apartment. Aggressive nesting geese near workplace doorways often require a large net and a careful approach.

Basically, the job is the same no matter where you're at. Agents in both rural and urban areas enforce wildlife laws on private property and all laws on Conservation property. They inform people, handle wildlife and perform other duties as needed.

The traffic is different, though. At rush hour, an urban agent is no different than the normal urban commuter. — Dave Guntli, St. Charles County

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