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Hunting Fever


E. Sydney Stephens

Even though summer is in full force, I’ve been thinking about my favorite preparation of deer roast. Mary Werdenhause is a family friend whose mouth-watering recipe fills the kitchen with such delicious aromas it’s hard to wait for dinner. So, if I’m going to satisfy this hunger this fall, I had better use August to prepare for a successful deer hunt.

Preparation is important no matter what game you pursue. Finding the right place and scouting the area before the season greatly increase your chance of success. Honing firearms marksmanship and archery skills are also necessary preseason activities. Above all, one of the best ways to get prepared is to complete a hunter education course taught by knowledgeable and dedicated instructors.

Hunting is steeped in our state’s culture and tradition, and nearly a half million hunters enjoy their sport in Missouri each year. Deer and turkey hunting draw the greatest numbers, but many are equally enthusiastic about doves, waterfowl, quail, furbearers and other small game.

In my hometown newspaper, The Current Local, photos of successful hunters routinely appear. I especially enjoy the pictures of excited girls and boys showing off their deer and turkey harvests. Special youth hunting seasons are now so popular that Missouri leads the nation in engaging the next generation in hunting. The credit goes to the thousands of adults who mentor kids to experience hunting in a safe and responsible manner.

Hunters in Missouri also aid society’s less fortunate. Last year, 6,500 hunters donated a record 322,469 pounds of venison to the Share the Harvest program. The program uses meat processors and food bank networks to distribute this healthy protein to families across the state.

Much of our modern conservation movement started with determined hunters seeking to protect and manage wildlife. Hunters were the first to recognize the decline in habitat and wildlife populations, and, to change that, they were willing to pay license fees for professional management and hunting regulations based on sound science. In Missouri, conservation success began in 1936 with the voters’ resounding approval of an initiative petition to create a citizen Conservation Commission. The effort was spearheaded by a group known as the “Restoration and Conservation Federation of Missouri,” led by E. Sydney Stephens, an ardent hunter from Columbia, who later became the first chairman of the new Commission.

Many writers have tried to define the reasons why we hunt, but the motivation to hunt and the satisfaction from the experience is a uniquely individual matter. Some prefer a solitary event; others a social adventure with friends and family. Clearly, though, hunting provides a critical connection with the outdoors and stirs a deep passion in many that participate.

For me, the crisp autumn air is sharper when punctuated by that moment when the game is close, your heart rate is up and a clear shot is imminent. It’s particularly satisfying to hunt on land where our family has worked hard to manage for wildlife and to share the bounty of the hunt at the family table.

Start preparing for your hunting adventures. Take advantage of the Department’s shooting ranges, publications and informative programs. And if deer hunting is on your agenda, try celebrating your hunt with Mary’s recipe for deer roast (see this month’s Letters section for the recipe).

John Hoskins, director

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