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Fall Activities Close to Home

I can remember my dad instructing me in the use of a BB gun, his original Daisy air rifle well-worn and old enough to sport a wooden stock. The only time I was allowed to use it was at our weekend cabin on the Illinois River near a small town called Pearl, in Illinois. The town was named after its mussel industry, where large piles of dead mussel shells were stacked taller than most buildings. Mussels were harvested for the button industry, and the entire community was built around commercial fishing. Another favorite attraction was the floating fish market, where I observed boatloads of buffalo, catfish and carp processed for market. My interest in fisheries was sparked by this early childhood fascination with the river and commercial fishing.

When I turned 8, my dad announced that I could accompany him squirrel hunting. He instructed me in the art of still hunting, a technique he perfected, as witnessed by the numerous squirrel dinners we enjoyed. I remember my first shotgun, a single-barrel 20 gauge, and the detailed instructions my dad provided on its proper use and safety.

Duck hunting soon became my favorite sport, as it was with my dad. I remember the first teal hunt in the 1960s on the Mississippi River. By this time we had traded the Illinois River cabin for one along the “Batchtown pool” known for its outstanding duck hunting. I was instructed in the art of setting decoys, calling ducks and eventually training retrievers.

The love of the outdoors extended into the summer with camping trips to many states to fish for sunfish, catfish, trout, etc. During these outdoor family vacations, my dad emphasized conservation and appreciation for fish and wildlife. We had plenty of time to talk during these outings, and he urged me to think about a career where I could love my job and make a difference.

My parents urged me to attend college and supported me in applying for a summer fisheries internship with the Illinois Department of Conservation, a turning point in my decision to pursue a conservation career. Degrees in biology and fisheries management provided me with the educational necessities to begin this dream. Two years working on the Illinois River with a consulting firm gave me the experience required for jobs with state agencies. In 1976 I was lucky enough to land a fisheries biologist job with the Missouri Department of Conservation. I am thankful to have served in several capacities in the Department. My current position is chief of the Resource Science Division, where I am privileged to lead an outstanding workforce that is dedicated to providing the best scientific information on which to base management and policy decisions.

Legacy is defined as “something handed down from one who has gone before or from the past.” My dad definitely instilled in me a love for the outdoors and a need to conserve our resources. Handing down a conservation legacy to my daughter, an accomplished deer hunter and angler, and now my grandson, will be my most important accomplishments. So leave your own conservation legacy by instilling an appreciation of fish and wildlife, by getting involved in conservation and teaching youth about the wonders of the outdoors. Thank you, Dad, for leaving a conservation legacy with me!

Ronald Dent, resource science division chief

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