With most of the fall and winter hunting seasons behind us, it’s easy to plunge into a bit of a slump. Consider heading out to the woods and fields in search of shed antlers. Shed hunting is a great way to beat the winter blues while simultaneously attaining the extra benefit of getting some quality exercise. Winter is also a great time to be outside enjoying nature.
Another benefit is learning more about the deer herd in your area. Since whitetail bucks generally don’t shed their antlers until after the breeding and hunting seasons are over, there is a good probability the buck that shed the antlers will be around for the next year’s deer season. Other benefits include the many possible uses for the shed antlers you may find. Some people may just want them for a good set of rattling antlers, while others may want them to decorate their homes.
Before you head out shed hunting, there are certain things you should keep in mind. First and foremost, be safe. Make sure you are in good enough health for strenuous, cold-weather activity. If you are going to shed hunt on private property, make sure to get the landowner’s permission first. If you find a dead deer with the antlers still attached to the skull plate and take those into possession, you must contact a conservation agent within 24 hours to receive possession authorization. Shed antlers not attached to the skull plate found while afield may be possessed, bought and sold by any person without possession authorization.
Q: What are the requirements for becoming a conservation agent?
A: Conservation agents must be 21 years old and have a Bachelor of Science degree in any number of conservation fields, such as forestry, fisheries, wildlife management, natural resources, conservation, law enforcement or biological sciences. They must be able to learn to swim, obtain a Missouri driver’s license, lift heavy items such as outboard motors and work outdoors in extreme hot and cold weather. The selection process is very challenging and includes interviews, a background check, a physical fitness test, a psychological exam and a drug test.
Once hired, they must complete a 26-week training course that includes more than 1,000 hours of law enforcement training. After completing the training, they must accept assignment anywhere in Missouri and be willing to transfer to new assignments when requested. Here’s a link to more information on a career as a conservation agent: http://go.usa.gov/rFBG. It’s a great career for the right type of person. Interest is usually high when new agent positions are available.
Q: Last summer I passed a sawmill in the Ozarks where the logs stored on the yard were being sprayed with water. What is the reason for keeping the logs wet?
A: If the cut logs are allowed to get too dry before they are processed in the mill, the wood can develop tiny cracks, called “checks,” which will reduce the quality of the final wood lumber. You may have noticed such cracks in the ends of stacked firewood that has begun to dry. Of course, the cracks don’t matter for wood that will be burned.
Last summer’s high temperatures, lack of rainfall, and low humidity were the worst-case scenario for the fast drying of logs. The sprayed water slows the drying process until the logs can be sawn in the mill. Reducing the checking is more important with the higher-quality logs such as those from which veneer will be cut or from which furniture will be made. After sawing, the lumber is often dried in kilns using a process that also minimizes checking.
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