On a recent Saturday, the sun was starting to rise and a light west breeze chilled my face. Spring peepers, in a nearby pond, and whip-poor-wills in the timbered draw were busy welcoming
the new day. Each sunrise spent outdoors in Missouri is special. I had settled into my location, a forest edge bordering a warm-season grass ridge, to listen for turkeys. In the dim light, binoculars allowed me to spot the silhouette of a raccoon making its way into the timber.
My mind drifted to experiences of the past few months. These experiences clearly documented Missourians’ continued passion for the outdoors and their commitment to pass the conservation message on to others. Missouri’s citizen-led conservation system has a 73-year successful track record. Sustainable and healthy forest, fish and wildlife resources enhance our quality of life and have a positive impact on the state’s economy.
Information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation provides insight into the economic impact of the outdoors. Simply stated, forest, fish and wildlife resources are critically important. These resources support approximately 95,000 Missouri jobs and generate more than $11 billion in economic activity annually.
As an example, in January, communities across our state, such as Clarksville, welcomed visitors to annual Eagle Day events. At these events, it was easy to recognize the public’s sincere interest in wildlife and their habitats. Thousands of citizens participated to observe and learn about our national bird along Clarksville’s riverfront. The return of bald eagles, including nesting pairs, to Missouri is now a reality. Eagles are just one species pursued by our state’s more than 2.2 million wildlife watchers.
Then there was the March 1 trout opener—Missouri’s unofficial start to the annual tourist season. This year’s opener drew anglers of all ages from across the state. As individuals lined the banks of their favorite coldwater stream, the passion, family traditions and social importance of angling was clearly illustrated. Looking beyond trout, approximately 1.1 million Missouri citizens enjoy our state’s spectacular stream, river, lake and pond fishing.
As the first gobble of the morning broke across the ridge, I smiled inside. Within a few weeks, Missouri’s spring turkey season will open. Missouri’s national leadership in turkey management is no secret.
Taking a glance back in time, an April 1937 report, completed by Rudolf Bennitt and Werner Nagel, revealed fewer than 3,500 wild turkeys in the state—located across 45 southern counties. Through partnership efforts—and much hard work—involving Conservation Department staff, landowners and sportsmen, the turkey population has been changed for the better.
Today, 50 years after our first modern season, Missouri is known as one of the world’s premier wild turkey hunting destinations. Despite poor nesting success across many parts of our state the past few years, population estimates are near 600,000 and the annual spring harvest is anticipated to be near 50,000 birds. Tens of thousands of hunters, a portion of Missouri’s more than 590,000 hunters, will participate in the upcoming season.
Missouri provides citizens some amazing outdoor experiences. Take time to enjoy and introduce friends to our state’s natural resources. I would be interested in hearing about your adventures. Drop me a note and a photo from time to time.
Robert L. Ziehmer, director
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