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Turkey Season Timing

Have you wondered why this year’s youth turkey season opens so early and the regular season comes so late? It’s just calendar happenstance.

This year, the Easter weekend falls on the dates normally set aside for youth turkey hunting. To avoid conflict between hunting and other family activities, the Conservation Commission set the season a week earlier than usual.

The regular season has, since 1960, opened on the Monday nearest April 21. That can put the season opener as early as April 18 and as late as April 24. This year, the season falls as late as possible, April 24, which happens about every seven years. For more information about the spring turkey season visit online.

Hunting accidents can happen to anyone

Recent news that Vice President Dick Cheney was involved in a hunting accident emphasizes the fact that accidents can happen to anyone. Cheney, a former hunter education instructor, accidentally shot a companion while hunting quail in Texas this past February. With Missouri’s spring turkey hunting season close at hand, Cheney’s disheartening experience is a reminder to all hunters to constantly be aware of hunting partners’ locations.

Missouri trees book now in field-guide format

Naturalists on the go will be pleased to learn that Trees of Missouri is now available in a format that is practical to carry afield. The book, originally issued as an 8-by-10-inch, 400-page text, was too bulky to fit in a backpack. Author Don Kurz has remedied that problem by paring the original text down to 147 pages and shrinking the size to a pocketable 7.5-by-4.75 inches. The Trees of Missouri Field Guide is still detailed enough to enable anyone to identify 174 tree species commonly encountered in the Show-Me State. It uses leaf shape and other easily observed characteristics to tell trees apart. Dozens of color plates and photos aid in the process. This book would be a bargain at twice the price, which is $7.50, plus shipping and handling and sales tax where applicable. To order, call, toll free, (877) 521-8632, or visit online.

Shumard oak is 2006 Arbor Day tree

The Shumard oak, sturdy and adaptable, is this year’s Arbor Day poster tree in Missouri. More than 120,000 children across the state will receive 1- to 2- foot Shumard oak seedlings to plant around their schools, homes and parks this month.

The Conservation Department observes National Arbor Day each April by giving tree seedlings to fourth-grade students in public, parochial and home schools. This year’s choice of tree was based on an ample supply of the trees and their versatility.

Shumard oaks have straight trunks, sturdy branches and open crowns that can reach 100 feet in the air, making them good shade trees. They are long-lived and grow well on wetter and drier sites than are suitable for northern red oak trees. Their leaves turn read in autumn.

Their medium-sized acorns feed deer, turkeys, raccoons, blue jays, woodpeckers, wood ducks, mice and squirrels. Their wood is suitable for cabinets, furniture, flooring, interior trim and firewood.

For more information about National Arbor Day, visit www.arborday.org, or contact the National Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Avenue, Nebraska City, NE 68410, (888) 448-7337.

Trash Bash on for ’06

Students in Traci Lewis’ class at Savannah Middle School combined creativity and functionality to win the Conservation Department’s “Yes You Can Make Missouri Litter-Free” trash-can-decorating contest. The contest challenged Missouri youngsters to communicate an anti-littering message by dressing up a trash can.

The winners turned a trash can into a wheeled trash collection vehicle with the motto, “No MOre Trash, So We Won’t Crash.” They received $500 and a trophy.

Runners-up in the contest included Northeast Nodaway Elementary in Parnell, William Yates Elementary in Blue Springs and Yeatman-Liddell Middle CEC in St. Louis. Each received a $100 prize.

The contest was part of the No MOre Trash! program sponsored by the Conservation Department and the Missouri Department of Transportation. April is No MOre Trash Month, when concerned citizens statewide organize litter pickups in parks, neighborhoods and along city streets and highways. To get involved, visit online or call (573) 522-4115, ext. 3855.

Telecheck impresses conservation agents, hunters

Missouri’s new automated deer and turkey checking system was a powerful tool for conservation agents during the 2005 firearms deer season. Agents said Telecheck gave them a better handle on poachers’ activities through instant access to checking data.

The violation most often discovered using Telecheck involved hunters who killed bucks and checked them as does. Ethical hunters were impressed when agents showed up at their houses to verify that the bucks they Telechecked had at least four points on one side. Violators were impressed, too, but not happy.

One agent inspected deer at a meat-packing house, comparing deer with information that hunters had given when Telechecking their kills. He did not find a single hunter who had abused the system.

New Quail Unlimited biologist to focus efforts in northeast

Lisa Potter has a challenging job bringing bobwhite quail back to northeastern Missouri. However, she also has a wealth of experience for the task and the support of three powerful partners: Quail Unlimited, the Conservation Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Potter’s main task as a technical services biologist will be working one-on-one with landowners to encourage quail and other grassland wildlife. Landowners who work with her will find financial as well as technical help available for quail-friendly farming practices.

Potter also will be an educator, speaking to school and FFA groups and teaching classes at the annual Missouri Quail Academy for teenagers.

Northeast Missouri landowners who are interested in quail management can contact Potter at USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, 18771 Highway 15, Paris, MO 65275, or by phone at (660) 327-4117.

Wings of Spring Festival is April 29

Join in the first Wings of Spring Festival to celebrate birding. The festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 29 at the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary near Alton, Ill. Visitors will find programs and events for all levels of birding interest, including speakers, guided birding tours and vendors of birding-related goods. Birds likely to be visible at the sanctuary include land, water and shore birds, such as white pelicans, egrets, sandpipers, ducks, gulls, warblers, vireos, orioles, tanagers, cuckoos and brown thrashers. Organizers plan to make the festival an annual event. For more information, visit online, or call (800) 258-6645.

Partnering for Fire Protection

Missouri’s spring wildfire season is upon us. Dead vegetation, combined with the low humidity and high winds typical of the season, make wildfire a greater risk. Each year, about 3,700 wildfires burn more than 55,000 acres of forest and grassland.

Partnerships are important to the Conservation Department, and this is nowhere more evident than in the area of fire protection. Every year, the agency provides approximately $375,000 in matching funds through the Rural Community Fire Protection Program to help rural fire departments upgrade equipment that is used to protect private property as well as forests and other public resources. It also offers used firefighting equipment to rural fire departments on loan or for purchase at discounts of up to 50 percent.

Citizens can also partner with the Department to protect forests and grasslands from fire. Always check with your local fire department or District Forester for local burning conditions before attempting any open burning, and report suspected forest arson by calling toll-free at 1 (800) 392-1111.

Turning Gobblers Into Decor

If you want a lasting and inexpensive memento of a memorable tom, follow these easy steps for mounting a turkey cape.

Slice the breast meat from the bone and cut off the legs, taking care not to damage the skin and feathers on either side.

Cut the skin at the base of the bird’s neck, then down either side to the base of the tail. Carefully separate the skin from the carcass, working from the neck down. Then cut the tail free of the body and remove as much fat and flesh as possible from the inside of the tail without damaging the plumage.

Smooth all feathers, then lay the cape and tail flesh side up on a board and stretch the skin out with push pins. Use sewing pins to spread and hold tail feathers in fanned position.

Sprinkle exposed skin liberally with borax laundry powder. Put the board in a cool, dry place until dry.

Brush off excess borax, unpin skin and tail. Trim the edges of the cape and make final adjustments to the plumage. Mist lightly with hair spray to hold feathers in place.

Fasten the cape to a wooden plaque with bronze upholstery tacks around the edges.

Voyage of literary discovery pays off

Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery trekked for more than two years without finding the object of their expedition, a water passage to the Northwest. Participants in the Conservation Department’s “Journaling with Lewis & Clark” program fared much better. All got to discover new adventures in Lewis and Clark’s footsteps, and a few got cool camping gear as a bonus.

The “Discovery of Outdoor Missouri” challenged participants to visit eight of nine designated conservation areas around the state and record observations about each. They got a stamp in their journal book at each area, plus an enamel lapel pin memento. Those who visited at least eight sites got a special pin and were entered in a drawing for prizes at the close of the program in December.

Ellen Ashbee of Springfield was the grand-prize winner, taking home a tent, two sleeping bags and two camp pillows donated by Bass Pro Shops and a lantern, a cook stove and a cooler donated by The Coleman Company of Wichita, Kan. She, her husband and their two sons completed their journey of discovery.

Runners up Larry A. Williams of Kansas City, Patricia Collier of Florissant and Travis Gemmell of Barnhart each won a Coleman two-burner camp stove.

Belle FFA’s bluebird conservation work

FFA students at the Maries County R-2 School found a natural ally in the United Sportsmen’s League. The St. Louis group underwrote efforts by Agriculture Teacher Hillary Stanley’s FFA group to provide nesting habitat for Missouri’s state bird.

“My wildlife class liked using the woodworking shop, so they decided to build some kind of habitat,” said Stanley. “They each made a nest box, and they really enjoyed it. I told them what a good community service project it would be, and some of them were excited about that.”

To fuel their excitement, Stanley applied to the Conservation Department for a $500 grant funded by the Sportsmen’s League. Excitement spread, and before long the youths had made more than 250 bluebird and wren nest boxes. They hung them at the elementary school, a nursing home, the city park and other public places. They gave them away at FFA and school functions and to churches, and they continue to monitor and maintain the boxes.

Stanley has moved to a teaching job at Northwestern School in Mendon, where she hopes to duplicate the program with another United Sportsmen’s League grant.

The grants are available only to FFA chapters. To learn more about the United Sportsmen’s League Wildlife Conservation Grant Program, contact Matt Seek, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180, (573) 751-4115 or e-mail him at Matt.Seek@mdc.mo.gov.

Three Missouri chapters make the DU President’s Top 100 list

Duck hunters are a passionate lot, but some are more motivated than others. The Grand River, St. Louis and Columbia chapters of Ducks Unlimited (DU) prove what a difference such passion can make. In 2004, they raised $268,871 for waterfowl habitat restoration. That is enough to protect, enhance or create 1,075 acres of waterfowl habitat. It was also enough to earn each of the three chapters a place on the DU President’s Top 100 List. In all, Missouri DU chapters raised more than $1.5 million for habitat work. That is enough for 6,246 acres of habitat and ranks the seventh in the nation. DU has more than 3,700 chapters nationwide. To get involved, visit online.

Johnson’s Shut-Ins damage assessment includes fish & wildlife

Conservation Department workers are part of the multi-agency, multidisciplinary

team assessing damage from the failure of a dam at AmerenUE’s Taum Sauk hydroelectric power plant in Reynolds County Dec. 14. The failure released more than a billion gallons of water into the East Fork of the Black River. No human lives were lost, but the flood changed the landscape and the stream, affecting plants and animals.

The torrent deposited mud, sand and debris on the stream valley. It also scoured the gorge for which Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is named and carried material into Lower Taum Sauk Lake. The lower lake’s dam held, in spite of being overtopped. That prevented severe flooding downstream, but muddy water fouled the East Fork and the Black River far downstream.

Conservation Department biologists are assessing aquatic habitat loss, fish numbers and variety, tree losses, changed stream-flow patterns and soil erosion. Most of the fish and wildlife living in and along the East Fork upstream from the lower reservoir probably were either killed or washed downstream. Biologists will be watching to see how quickly fish populations recover. One interesting early finding is the discovery of madtoms, tiny catfish that normally are found only in streams, in the lower reservoir.

AmerenUE used chemicals to settle sediment suspended in the reservoir water. The treatment, which is also used in municipal drinking-water supplies, is considered safe, and the effort cleared the reservoir’s water substantially. Long-term water quality will be another factor the Conservation Department helps track.

Johnson’s Shut-Ins Fen Natural Area, which harbors several rare and unusual plants, was smothered by mud and debris. State and federal agencies are working with consultants for AmerenUE who are removing the mud by hand in an attempt to save as many plants as possible. The calendar is on their side, as most of the plants are dormant in winter.

Quail Forever chapter spans generations

It didn’t take long for Don Walker of Nixa and Phil Fels from Strafford to decide they were on the same sheet of music. Their preferred tune is the familiar call of the bobwhite quail.

One day last December, Walker, a quail-hunting veteran of 68 seasons, met with Fels, one of the founders of Missouri’s newest chapter of Quail Forever. The setting was a farm in Douglas County, where they found two coveys of quail and a lot of common ground.

Fels told Walker about plans for quail restoration once the Ozark Plateau Quail Forever Chapter gets rolling. Those plans include working with private property owners to restore quail habitat on their land. Having heard what Fels had to say, Walker volunteered, “I think I need to join.”

Southwest Missouri residents who want more information on this new Quail Forever chapter should contact Mike Brooks, (417) 207-6766, mbrooks401@aol.com, for more information. For information on other Missouri Quail Forever chapters, contact Jim Wooley, 641/774-2238, jwooley@quailforever.org. The chapter’s first fundraising banquet is set for April 1. The event will include live and silent auctions, raffles and door-prize drawings.

Agent Notebook

In these electronically connected days, many people believe that they no longer have to carry their fishing permit. That’s not true. The Wildlife Code still requires you to carry your permits on your person at all times while fishing.

Many anglers worry about getting their permits wet or losing them in the river. Today’s permits are waterproof and, if lost, can be replaced at any permit vendor for $2.

While working Missouri’s float streams for most of my career, I have seen some ingenious methods to make sure the fishing permit remains handy. Maybe one of the following will work for you:

  • Place the permit in a pill bottle.
  • Carry your permit in a plastic pocket or plastic bag taped to the lid of your tackle box.
  • Laminate the permit and pin it to your pocket.
  • Pin the permit inside your hat.
  • Tape the permit to the handle of your fishing rod or top of the tackle box.

Make sure you can read the whole thing without having to remove the tape.

Whatever method you choose, don’t worry about getting it wet; just make sure it’s handy. —Rob Brandenburg

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