As any die-hard muskellunge angler can tell you, it takes a lot of casting to get the explosive-striking, hard-fighting muskie to take a lure. If chasing the elusive fish is how you get your kicks, you must fish Hazel Creek Lake. Located about three miles north of Kirksville, the 530-acre Hazel Creek is one of five lakes the Department of Conservation regularly stocks and manages for muskie. This year’s fishing prospects for muskie are described as fantastic. Anglers can expect a high proportion of fish caught to measure 36 inches or longer.
Mid-September through November is one of the peak times of the year to pursue muskie. Fish the timber stands and brushpiles near deep water. The most popular technique for catching muskie in Missouri is casting large, artificial lures. The length limit for muskie at Hazel Creek Lake is 42 inches with the daily limit of one fish. By city ordinance, gasoline powered boats are prohibited on Hazel Creek Lake, but electric motors may be used. For more information on muskie fishing at Hazel Creek Lake, call (660) 785-2420.
Trapping is essential for controlling furbearers and a good way to enjoy time outdoors. Learn trapping basics at the Department of Conservation and Missouri Trappers Education Foundation trapping clinic Oct. 13 and 14 at the Land Learning Foundation near Triplett, Mo. Clinic courses include hands-on training in setting and checking traps. Participants also will learn about trapping equipment, skinning and handling fur, and trapper ethics and responsibilities. Meals and accommodations are provided free-of-charge. Preregistration is required for the two-day seminar. To register and get more information about the clinic call Clay Creech at (660) 288-3127.
The Every Member Draws procedure for waterfowl hunting slots is now in effect at seven conservation areas. The procedure allows every member of a hunting party to participate in the daily drawings for unreserved hunting spots at Bob Brown, Columbia Bottom, Eagle Bluffs, Grand Pass, Marais Temps Clair, Otter Slough and Ten Mile Pond conservation areas. Letting everyone draw puts more hunters in the marsh by creating an incentive for hunters to team with family and friends—up to the maximum of four hunters—instead of hunting alone or with just one partner. Details on the Every Member Draws procedure are available online.
Just as graying hair can indicate that a human is no longer young, molting—the shedding and replacement of feathers—sometimes can help determine a bird’s age. Feathers, like human hair and nails, can’t be repaired when damaged, so birds must molt regularly to replace damaged feathers and to produce feathers appropriate to their age and sex.
Because molting requires a lot of energy, it occurs when birds are not engaged in other high-energy activities, such as nesting or migrating. In a complete molt all feathers are replaced. In a partial molt only some feathers are replaced.
As a bird grows, the small feathers produced early in life are not large enough to carry out the functions necessary for an older bird. A young bird will pass through one or more immature, or subadult, plumage before reaching the definitive plumage of a mature bird. Long-lived species such as eagles and gulls are among the birds that take several years to grow adult plumage. The herring gull is an excellent example of a bird that can be aged by its plumage. Herring gulls pass through four different immature plumage before reaching the white and gray definitive plumage at four years of age.
Information from the Handbook of Bird Biology by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology was used in this segment.
For a few weeks each September, Missouri becomes a butterfly haven as monarch butterflies wing their way south for the winter. Take advantage of the mass migration to observe the butterflies. Monarchs reside in Missouri only during summer because they cannot survive our long, cold winters. Each fall, monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains migrate to forests high in the mountains of Mexico. Western populations overwinter in central, coastal California. Their migration is driven by seasonal changes.
North American monarchs make an annual two-way migration. They travel much farther than other tropical butterflies, up to 3,000 miles. Monarchs born in late summer enter a nonreproductive phase known as diapause, during which they fly to overwintering sites. In early spring they return to the U.S., migrating as far north as Texas and Oklahoma, where they reproduce. It is usually the second, third and fourth generations that we see in Missouri. How the species manages to return to the same overwintering spots over a gap of several generations is still a subject of intrigue.
Brighten your hikes with a glimpse of fall color. While the peak of fall color occurs in mid-October, the leaves of blackgum and flowering dogwood change color in late September. Browse the outdoors in southern Missouri for blackgum. Its bright scarlet leaves have made it a fall favorite. Look for blackgum in wooded slopes, ridges, ravines and lowland forests. The bright red berries and red to maroon-colored leaves of flowering dogwoods offer a spectacular fall display. you’ll find flowering dogwoods along wooded slopes, ravines, bluffs, upland ridges and old fields. To learn more about viewing fall color, see the links listed below.
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