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Hikers who have reverted to a wild state are putting extra burdens on state lands, forest managers say.
Feral hikers have long been a problem in Missouri, but their numbers are increasing as more and more people go into the woods without a compass, become hopelessly lost and are forced to adapt to forest living.
Attempts to eradicate the hikers have failed, largely due to their mobility and savviness. "They garland our snares with wildflowers," a researcher said.
More lethal methods of control have been opposed by sympathizers, who insist the feral hikers have become an essential component of Missouri forests.
"I like knowing wild things still exist in today's world," said a Moberly native.
Forest managers claim the feral hikers present a control problem. "We already know that they are reproducing out there, and it's possible they could hybridize with other species," a biologist said.
"And feral hikers walk full time, using up the environment day after day. Compare that to the normal recreationist, who only gets out on the odd weekend. That's disproportionate use."
"We just want to monitor this group," he said, "and, if possible, tax them."
Fish normally maintain an icy stare, but our alert cameraman caught a bluegill napping. Another fishing exclusive brought to you by the crack Outdoor Tattler news team.
Depressed, obsessed, fixated and neurotic anglers should receive intensive home therapy, including plenty of bed rest and TV watching, instead of being institutionalized, according to a new treatment plan recently announced by the American Psychiatric Association.
Anglers are prone to mental irregularities due to the nature of their sport. They frequently go into a funk after losing record fish at the boat and many of them have to be restrained and sedated after repeatedly hanging expensive lures in underwater snags.
The new policy will open exit doors of hospitals and rest homes for anglers who had been forcibly confined for treatment.
Critics charge the doctors with conspiring to "cleanse" the nation's mental health institutions of the odors of ground salamander, dead nightcrawlers and other smells commonly associated with fishermen. They also fear a glut of psychological problems will surface at state lakes, streams and recreation areas.
Don't talk calibers to members of the Primitive Predators Big Game Hunting Club. This organization of ardent outsdoorsfolk have one simple rule for hunting: nothing goes.
That means no rifles, shotguns, bows, spears, slingshots, rope, rocks or tree branches.
Ultra primitive club members believe that since other creatures - predators or prey - don't use tools, neither should human hunters.
"We're already pretty formidable animals," club president Erron Minks said. "We have fists for clubs, fingernails for gripping, teeth for rending. What do we need weapons for?"
Members practice wrestling each other in anticipation of encounters with wildlife.
Has any member actually taken any big game by hand? "Not yet," Minks said, "but each one is vying to be first."
Archaeologists poking beneath major dams in the state have put forth the startling hypothesis that Truman Lake, Lake of the Ozarks and several other major Missouri reservoirs are the direct result of huge tangles of canoes.
Exploratory probes into the bottoms of these dams yielded aluminum, fiberglass, kapok, birch wood, picnic baskets, coolers, squirt guns and other materials and paraphernalia associated with floating.
They speculated the dams were created after large numbers of canoes created monumental jams on the rivers that were impossible to break or blast apart.
"Since the canoes had already clogged the river and drowned out the river corridor landowners," Chief Archeologist Densin Omai said, "the people figured they might as well pile on a little more dirt and concrete to make a proper dam."
The jams likely formed after a few dawdling canoeists plowed into a sweeper. Their canoe blocked others, and thousands more piled behind.
"Once it starts, it doesn't stop; it's like a chain reaction accident," Omai said.
Canoe drivers used to work the busiest rivers. Laboring with peaveys and pike poles, they kept the canoes from hanging up in eddies and ramming the banks. When a jam occurred, they hopped from vessel to vessel, searching for the key canoe, that would dislodge the whole jam. Sometimes, they had to resort to dynamite.
Apparently, the canoe jams that resisted their efforts were made into dams.
Given the present canoe traffic conditions on the Current, Meramec, Eleven Point and other rivers, it's only a matter of time until those waters are also dammed, Omai speculated.
Betty Fistdiddy from Palmyra revs up her 6-horse outboard every spring. No, she's not motoring out on Mark Twain to catch crappies, she's preparing a backyard plot to grow tomatoes.
"That darn tiller I bought never starts," Fistdiddy said, "but the outboard it keeps going and going, so why not put it to good use?"
She usually proceeds at a slow troll, "but even at that speed," she said, "the prop spits stones a fair distance."
Fistdiddy mounts the motor on a small dolly, which she wheels up and down the rows. She suggests a small-diameter propeller with a 13-inch pitch. "You might want a larger prop to plow for corn," she said.
Truman's walleye population survived galactic angling pressure when a group of alien anglers failed to net a single fish during a recent visit to the big reservoir.
Their efforts were witnessed by Moe Handy, local fisherman.
"It was so weird, incredible, really," Handy said. "I mean here they were fishing with bobbers over 70 foot of water when everybody on the planet knows that walleyes stay near the shorelines and underwater reefs."
Handy described the space aliens as funny-looking, having wheels where the hands should be. He said they left in a huff, spoiling the day's fishing with a blast from their ship's booster rockets.
"I never got another bite," he complained.
It's certainly newsworthy when everything goes right on a fishing trip. Wally, Fred, Tom and Larry all planned to meet at Fred's house at 5 a.m. for a bass adventure on Norfolk Lake.
Nobody slept in, everyone came on time. All seemed refreshed and exuberant. The weather report promised perfect conditions.
Each angler carefully packed his gear in Fred's van, breaking no rod tips nor overturning any tackle boxes in the process.
A more agreeable group of guys you'll never encounter. During the long ride they mutually concluded that local taxes were reasonable, that the summer was wetter than last and that all religions were okay.
All of them preferred country music on the radio and no one discussed politics.
When they stopped at Rosie's Diner for breakfast, all four simultaneously reached for the check. Nothing could spoil the day.
Except that when they arrived at the launch ramp, they couldn't find the boat.
Fred called home to learn it was still in his driveway. He had apparently neglected to hook it up to the trailer hitch.
Faster than a laser beam, more powerful than a Japanese commuter train, able to leap from lake to lake, that's the Spilluro, dubbed the fish of the future, which scientists are busy creating today.
Building a more exciting fish has been a top priority because potential anglers are being drawn to video games, instead of going fishing.
"Their motivation is simple," Project Technical Supervisor Biggy Mullett said. "Fishing just doesn't provide the thrills of video games. I mean, how exciting can the `ploop' of a bobber be to an 11-year-old who single handedly blasted over 10 million hairy Plutonian body-munchers on his home computer?"
Mullet said spilluro grow to the size of a personal submarine, but will have fry of legal length. They are pollution-resistant and, of course, waterproof.
The high-tech fish have stilletto teeth, wire cutter jaws and fillet knife fins. They won't eat swimmers, because they prefer plastic, which they break down into organic components.
Hooks won't penetrate a Spilluro's tough mouth, so lures must be coated with a Velcro-like weave that will fasten tightly to rough areas on the fish's tongue.
"Catch and release fishing should be a snap," Mullett predicted, "or should I say a rip?"
When Zippy, the Carter's Labrador retriever, wearing a new plaid pooch sweater to protect him from the October chill, sports on the park lawn, it's hard to believe he's the grandson of Thor, who once swam a mile down the icy Mississippi to chase a crippled black duck and then paddled back upriver to deliver the bird to his master's hand.
"Modern dogs are sissies," lamented Branson dog breeder Rip Antuck. "They get creamy food and cushy beds," he said, "and if they whine just a bit, they're whisked straight off to the veterinarian."
Dogs also watch too much TV and don't get enough exercise, he said.
"As goes the dog, so goes the civilization," Antuck philosophized.
If you were born under the sign of:
AQUARIUS the waterbearer (Jan. 20-Feb. 19): Fast-maturing maggot and waxworm baits may disrupt marital harmony. Keep off the ice on Wednesdays.
PISCES the fish (Feb. 20-March 19): A tall, attractive uniformed lady is in your future. She will ask to see your fishing license.
ARIES the ram (March 20-April 19): Keep wader belts cinched and wear a hat that floats. The period of the new moon will be bad for digestion.
TAURUS the bull (April 20-May 20): Try crankbaits off shallow points for white bass. Avoid anglers in skin tight, pastel coveralls.
GEMINI the twins (May 21-June 20): Discourage the use of triple hooks in your boat during all the summer months.
CANCER the crab (June 21-July 22): Don't tempt fate by storing crappie minnows in the toilet tank.
LEO the lion (July 23-Aug. 22): Beware the dorsal spines of catfish. Hook a bobber to your key chain.
VIRGO the virgin (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Avoid long road trips without a spare tire for your boat trailer. Love interest possible during turkey season.
LIBRA the scales (Sept. 23-Oct. 23): Weighing fish in front of witnesses could be your undoing. Use marker buoys sparingly.
SCORPIO the scorpion (Oct. 24-Nov. 22): Avoid tucking dead squirrels under your belt while hunting.
SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 23-DEC. 21): Your arrows will fly dead straight into small saplings that stand between you and the game.
CAPRICORN the goat (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Your fate is to always bag the fewest fish and the least game. Everyone will seek you out as a hunting and fishing companion.
Anglers can increase their catch tenfold if they would learn to use their heads when fishing, claims ESP guru Wayne Blithe in his new book, "It's the Thought That Counts."
"Fish are such simple, doltish creatures," Blithe writes, "that they respond without fail to our telepathic messages."
Blithe said he often helps fisheries biologists sample lake populations by mentally herding fish into nets or into small bays to be counted.
"Think fetching thoughts and you'll attract lots of fish," Blithe promises. "If you make good connections, you probably won't even need bait."
Blithe hopes anglers won't abuse his system. "Practice restraint," he suggested, "and don't think more fish into the boat than the law allows."
LUNAR FISHING: We'll take you to the lakes on the dark side of the moon to experience a terrific night bite!
CARP SAVES STRANDED ANGLER: The amazing story of how a helpful carp carried a fisherman to shore and safety.
MAN RECALLS JURASSIC FISHING: "I remember it quite clearly," he says of his past life. "I hoisted in the record phromaticicth."
Editor - Kathy Love
Assistant Editor - Tom Cwynar
Managing Editor - Jim Auckley
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Artist - Dave Besenger
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Staff Writer - Charlotte Overby
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