Missouri offers a wealth of outdoor opportunities, and the Missouri Department of Conservation continues to look for ways to make it easier for people to enjoy our fish, forests and wildlife. Citizens who engage in outdoor activities, whether it is bird watching, hiking, nature study, hunting, fishing or photography, are more likely to take meaningful action to protect those resources. Hunters and anglers have traditionally played an important role in supporting conservation efforts by purchasing permits, insisting on the effective management of harvest and populations, and complying with bag limits and seasons.
Regardless of the number of new young hunters and anglers, the total number of these groups will decrease as the baby boomer population grows older. To help skilled hunters share their knowledge, the Conservation Commission approved the Apprentice Hunter Authorization. By purchasing the Apprentice Hunter Authorization for $10, an adult novice hunter can purchase firearms permits without investing the time to take a hunter education course. In return, the apprentice, age 16 and older, must hunt in the immediate presence of a properly licensed hunter 21 years old or older who is hunter-education certified. The mentor must have a filled or unfilled permit for the prescribed season.
The Apprentice Hunter Authorization allows the holder to purchase firearms permits throughout the permit year, and it can be purchased for two consecutive permit years. After the second year, the apprentice hunter will be required to become hunter-education certified if he or she wants to continue hunting on a firearms permit. Currently, Conservation Department staff is developing an online hunter education course, which will help adults work this important safety tool into their schedule. The online course will be available this summer.
The Apprentice Hunter Authorization, along with the Youth Firearms Deer & Turkey Hunting Permit and the Youth Firearms Antlerless Deer Hunting Permit, provide additional opportunities for experienced hunters to share their knowledge and love of the outdoors with their friends and family who may not have been introduced to hunting and are not yet hunter-education certified.
In another effort to make hunting more accessible, the youth spring turkey hunting season April 12 and 13 will allow youth age 15 and younger to pursue turkeys from 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset. The regular 2008 spring turkey hunting season will continue to end at 1 p.m.
The additional time in the afternoon on the youth weekend should help these young hunters have a successful hunt. According to biologists, all-day hunting should have little effect on the turkey population. Studies in states with all-day hunting have shown that hen disturbance by hunters is not a problem. The theory that more disturbance by hunters may decrease gobbling has not been scientifically tested, but Conservation Department scientists are conducting preliminary data on gobbling rates so they can study changes in the future.
Protecting migratory birds
Many hunters enjoy hunting on privately owned hunting areas, and many hunting preserve operators want to include mallard duck hunting on their licensed game bird hunting preserves. The Conservation Department wanted to allow people this option, but biologists were concerned with the threat of disease from the captive birds spreading to wild populations. Wildlife managers in other states have reported cases of disease transmission associated with releasing captive-reared mallards, and some states restrict the locations where these ducks can be released to limit their interactions with wild birds.
To protect wild mallards, the Conservation Department worked with preserve owners to establish regulations that would permit the hunting of captive-reared mallards on licensed hunting preserves in a manner that is consistent with sound management of native wildlife populations in Missouri and North America. To keep wild and captive ducks separate, holding facilities must be designed to re-capture captive-reared birds after a hunt, and a reasonable effort must be made to re-capture them each day to prevent their escape to the wild. Captive mallard ducks also may not be used on preserves that are located within 5 miles of conservation areas and wildlife refuges that have wetlands frequented by wild mallards.
As with many regulation changes, not everyone was completely satisfied. Some operators would prefer to release captive-reared waterfowl without being required to re-capture them daily. However, the Commission felt this compromise would provide more opportunities for people to hunt mallard ducks, while minimizing contact between captive ducks and wild migratory birds.
Because of the inherent danger and potential liability associated with the possession of bears, mountain lions, wolves and their hybrids, the Conservation Commission now requires owners of these animals to identify each individual with a microchip embedded under the animal’s skin. The owners also must submit a blood or tissue sample for DNA analysis. All animals must be registered with the Department when acquired, born, at death, or when sold. This will aid enforcement of illegal sales of these animals and will help Department biologists distinguish escaped and released captives from wild animals.
Everyday Pond at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph is the latest addition to the popular winter trout fishing program that now includes more than 25 lakes around the state. It offers catch-and-release trout fishing from Nov. 1-Jan. 31. Only flies, artificial lures and unscented soft plastic baits may be used. The rest of the year, statewide methods and limits apply. Trout permits are required if trout are kept.
According to electrofishing samples on the Meramec River, the annual mortality of goggleeye is over 70 percent and few reach 8 inches in length. Because these fish are highly sought in the Meramec River basin streams and to accommodate anglers who want to catch larger goggle-eye, an 8-inch minimum length limit is in effect on Courtois Creek from the Highway 8 bridge in Crawford County to its confluence with Huzzah Creek, on Huzzah Creek from Willhite Road in Crawford County to its confluence with the Meramec River and on the Meramec River from the Highway 19 bridge in Dent County to Pacific Pallisades Conservation Area.
On Blind Pony Lake, Hunnewell Lake, Lake Paho conservation areas, only Department-owned boats may be used and only electric motors are permitted. Waters from these areas are used to supply hatcheries. Due to the recent spread of zebra mussels into more areas of Missouri, this regulation change will help protect hatchery equipment from the damage caused by these exotic mussels and avoid spreading the mussels to other lakes where hatchery fish are stocked. Because boats and motor use will be restricted, the daily rental fee will be eliminated for Department-owned boats. In another effort to stop zebra mussels spreading to hatchery waters on these conservation areas, bait transported or held in containers with water also will be prohibited.
From Feb. 20 through April 14, walleye and sauger can be taken and possessed only between 1/2 hour before sunrise and 1/2 hour after sunset in the unimpounded portions of all streams, except the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The regulation previously stated that these fish could be possessed from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Central Standard Time. Referencing legal fishing hours to sunrise and sunset is a more accurate way to define daylight hours. Allowing anglers to possess walleye and sauger during daylight hours enables them to fish for these species while protecting spawning walleye at night when they are easy to locate.
On the Osage River within 225 feet below Bagnell Dam in the no-fishing zone, live bait may be taken by dip net and throw net only. This allows anglers to take live bait while protecting game species in this no-fishing zone.
The 1 fish daily limit and 24-inch minimum length limit on flathead catfish on Longview Lake have been removed. The restrictions were put in place three years ago to protect stocked flathead until they became established in the lake. The initial flathead stocking has resulted in a reproducing population, and sampling the last two years has revealed good numbers of naturally reproduced fish.
The length limit of 12 inches has been removed on gizzard shad taken by live bait methods. These fish commonly reach lengths greater than 12 inches, and are highly desirable as bait. Removing the length limit allows anglers to use this abundant resource.
Holders of the Resident Fur Handlers Permit can now possess, process, transport and ship their own pelts starting Feb. 16. The date was changed from March 2 to coincide with the furbearer hunting and trapping seasons.
The Resident Trapping Permit, the Resident Cable Restraint Permit, the Resident Fur Handler Permit and the Nonresident Furbearer Hunting and Trapping Permit all are now valid from date of purchase through June 30. This change makes all these permits valid for the entire trapping season.
Starting this fall, firearms deer hunters will be able to use air-powered guns, .40 caliber or larger, charged only from an external high compression power source (external hand pump, air tank or air compressor). This change was the result of a suggestion from the public. Before it was passed, staff members tested large bore air rifles powered by compressed air and found them suitable for hunting deer.
Every day, the department receives letters, email messages and phone calls about regulation changes. Each idea is recorded and sent to the Regulations Committee for review to see how it will affect the resource and how other Missourians use that resource. The Department also surveys Missourians to see if the regulations are fitting their needs. Not all suggestions can stand up to review. For example, in a 2002 statewide catfish angler survey, 55 percent of Missouri River anglers said they favored some form of harvest restriction so larger catfish could be harvested, although the portion of the river to be regulated was not specified in the questionnaire.
Based on harvest and population research, staff biologists recommended a portion of the Missouri and Lamine rivers for restrictions that would promote the growth of larger catfish. After a series of meetings held in the areas near those rivers, the Department decided not to pursue special regulations due to the negative response to the proposal.
Your opinion counts!
Since December, we have been asking for Missourians opinions on deer seasons. We are looking at possibly changing the dates of firearms season and either expanding or eliminating the antler-point restriction. If you aren’t able to attend a meeting, you can view the presentation and give your opinion online.