Reflections

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FIRST DEER AWARDS

Thanks for sponsoring the youth hunting program. Your events provide special times for families and friends to open up the many opportunities hunting provides. The responsibilities on the adult companion bring out the chance to remind ourselves of the safety requirements we must constantly adhere to when hunting, especially when we are the teachers.

Please be sure to remind successful youth hunters’ adult companions of the certificate program. The chance to get a deer (or turkey) is quite a thrill for a youth. A certificate of achievement adds to a dream come true.

Jennifer (13) & Arthur FitzGibbon (45), via Internet

Editor’s Note: This past October, 10,577 deer were harvested during youth firearms season. The Department of Conservation sponsors the First Deer Award program, which provides a framable certificate to commemorate a hunter’s first harvest. Applications are available online, or by calling the Department’s Wildlife Division at (573) 751-4115.

SNAKE STORY

We heard a story that we’re hoping is not true. We were told the Conservation Department has released a bunch of rattlesnakes in Mo. because they are listed on the endangered species [list]. Also, it was said a fine of $1000 would be placed on anyone killing a rattlesnake. The man who told this story had killed one that was lying in his yard and he narrowly missed stepping on it.

Mr. & Mrs. Richard Buterbaugh, Rich Hill

Editor’s Note: Though untrue, this rumor has circulated for a number of years. The Department has done studies on snakes, but no stocking or reintroduction. Provisions in the Wildlife Code allow landowners to protect their property and destroy a snake, if necessary, unless it is an endangered species. The western fox snake, Mississippi green water snake and the massasauga rattlesnake are endangered species. If one of these is the species of concern, the property owner should contact a conservation agent for assistance.

DISCOVERING OUTSIDE IN

I always welcome the arrival of the Conservationist. Of special interest in the November 2005 issue were the articles for and about young people.

As a grandparent, I can say that our youngsters (ages 6 and 9) are inquisitive about nature and how it works. Seasonal visits to the woods and fields have prompted such questions as “Where do butterflies come from?” while observing a monarch on a flower, and “What is that hummingbird doing?” as it darts from one blossom to another. All of us should cultivate such curiosity [in children], answer questions and build a growing awareness of nature and why preserving it is important. As voting adults, they would be more knowledgeable and therefore more supportive of those candidates running for Congress and the presidency who take a public stand to protect what remains of the natural world and its biotic diversity.

Clair L. Kucera, Columbia

BITTERSWEET MEMORIES

I read with great interest the article about bittersweet written by Mr. Johnson in the November 2005 issue of Missouri Conservationist. I am a retired English teacher and enjoy the outdoors, travel and everything connected with nature but no longer roam the woods for bittersweet since turning 80. Since getting my PC, however, I have continued enjoying the benefits of nature by writing about it.

In the 1980s, my husband’s family owned land in Franklin County where we enjoyed many outings that precipitated my enthusiasm in looking for bittersweet. I have been a basket maker since retiring and like using the bittersweet vine in making rustic baskets.

Please let Mr. Johnson know I am an ardent fan of anyone who writes so in-depth as he has done. The vine is endangered, I believe, but I gathered very sparingly.

Gail Kommer, via Internet

Thanks to Willoughby Johnson for the refreshing article “Bittersweet Morning” in the November issue of the Missouri Conservationist. I am not a quail or pheasant hunter, but I eagerly look forward to fall, with its crisp air, changing leaves and the special treats of nature, such as the bittersweet that grows here in rural Barton County.

My mom began an annual fall tradition in our family. After a great Sunday dinner of her famous fried chicken and apple pie, off we would go with our snippers in hand in search of bittersweet. Mom always knew where the good stuff grew. We would laugh, talk and enjoy the outdoors together, always careful not to take too much of the orange berries and vines, so there would be more next year.

I think the adventure of bittersweet gathering is more about the simple things in life. It is a natural thing to do, as if saying goodbye to summer and bringing a small piece of it into our homes to enjoy for months to come.

Judy Gastel, Lamar

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: I know hunters can use waterfowl decoys, but is it legal to use deer or turkey decoys?

A: Yes, hunters may use deer and turkey decoys. The issue of decoys isn’t specifically addressed in the Wildlife Code; however, decoy use has a long history as an accepted hunting tactic. Federal regulations prohibit live decoys.

Hunters should be very careful taking decoys to and from the field. It’s a good idea to wrap them in hunter orange. Also, position yourself carefully once the decoy has been set up.

The matter of motion-wing decoys for waterfowl hunting is another question that comes up frequently. The Department of Conservation has done studies on the use of these items and has found that they increase the take (though by less than one bird per trip). There are no restrictions against using motion-wing decoys, and about 60 percent of Missouri duck hunters use them. A 2002 survey found that a similar proportion of hunters favor the use of motion-wing decoys as long as season lengths and bag limits are not affected.

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) 522-4115, ext. 3848, or e-mail him at <Ken.Drenon@mdc.mo.gov>.

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