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Published on: Dec. 28, 2010

and reptiles and amphibians, including the flathead snakes, king snakes, fence lizards and box turtles, also enjoy this woodland habitat.

Travis Mills, the area manager at Peck Ranch CA, says habitat diversity is the key for woodland management as well as in managing for most wildlife species. He says the rebounding wild turkey population has proven it.

MDC foresters realized some time ago that woodlands need fire, so they incorporated prescribed fire into their management of the area. The woodlands also needed some thinning to balance the system. Part of this is related to Missouri’s historical logging industry. By about 1910, most of Missouri’s forests had been cut heavily with little regard for sustained forestry. A hundred years ago, a ridge-top view like the one at Stegall Mountain on the front cover would have revealed hillside after hillside of stumps and sprouts—a stark contrast to the lush hillsides found there today.

As the land began to heal through the ’20s and ’30s some changes took place. Pines were replaced by red oak species that were able to stump sprout and regenerate more easily than the pine. Limited fire on the landscape didn’t help the pines and allowed a forest of thick red oaks to jump up in their place.

In 1937, turkey season was closed statewide because of the dramatic decline in the wild turkey population. In response, the Conservation Commission purchased Peck Ranch for wild turkey management in 1945. In the 1940s, only 3,000 turkeys remained in the entire state of Missouri. In 1952, biologists at Peck Ranch only recorded nine turkeys, according to Houf. From the beginning of the turkey restoration program in 1954, to the spring of 1979, wild turkeys were relocated from Peck Ranch to 142 areas in 87 counties. A total of 2,611 turkeys were trapped and released in Missouri.

Woodland management continued to improve, and the wild turkey population grew in response. Foresters who paid attention to the red oak decline in the 1990s began to see the wisdom in spacing the woodland trees a bit more to give hearty trees a chance to thrive. They also witnessed how pines thrived on hot, sunny, rocky sites with poor soil, which showed pine to be the best choice for the site. Pine made a great host for the ground cover below that many species use for forage and insects.

“The wild turkey was on the

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