Find hares-a-plenty at conservation areas statewide. For example, 3,469-acre Locust Valley Conservation Area in Sullivan County provides great rabbit hunting, with lots of walk-around room for hunters. Hunting areas can be accessed from numerous parking areas or area roads. Locust Creek splits the area, although you often can find a way to cross the creek unless the water is high.
As a former quail focus area, Locust Creek was the beneficiary of numerous habitat improvement practices, including prescribed burning, shrub planting and edge feathering. These practices greatly benefited other wildlife species, including songbirds, deer and, of course, rabbits. Edge feathering proved particularly good for hares, because knocking down large trees along field edges created instant brushpiles, which protect the bunnies from predators.
The area features rolling topography with lots of small fields separated by disked strips, plus numerous brushy draws and drainages. Contract farmers leave 10 percent of the crop for wildlife. Numerous food plots further supplement the diets of deer, turkey, quail and rabbits.
The Conservation Department encourages Missourians to express their feelings and offer suggestions on recent changes made to hunting and fishing permits by the Missouri Conservation Commission. Missourians have until Dec. 16 to offer feedback during the official comment period. However, comments are still encouraged, and will be accepted for consideration, beyond this deadline.
A plain-language summary of the changes is available online. The legal version is online in the Missouri Register. The 30-day comment period started on Nov. 17 closes Dec. 16. The changes are scheduled to become effective July 1, 2009.
Comments can be sent to Dave Erickson, Regulations Committee, MDC, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180 or submitted online. All comments will be compiled and sent to the Conservation Commissioners for their information and consideration. The Commission may decide to rescind, alter or continue with changes as previously approved.
Conservation Department Assistant Director Dave Erickson chairs the agency’s Regulations Committee. He said the committee began developing recommendations for permit changes more than a year ago in response to several needs. The permit changes recommended by the committee were designed to maintain revenues, simplify the permit structure and make it more consistent and encourage new hunters.
“Whatever economy measures we implement will have to take into account biological and social factors, as well as the Department’s finances,” said Erickson. “Missourians are proud of their conservation program, and they have high expectations for what they get from it. The Commission has to strike a balance between services that hunters and anglers consider essential and the growing cost of those services.”—Jim Low
When goldfinches seem fattish and you are emptying more bags of sunflower seeds than usual, you might well suspect that you are being visited by evening grosbeaks (Coccothraustes vespertius).
Evening grosbeaks don’t breed in Missouri, but these starling-size finches arrive at our winter feeders in droves. Although they don’t come every year. They are considered an irruptive species in that they don’t migrate, but masses of them will move south in response to shortages in their food supply or overcrowding. Their nomadic movements are hard to predict, but when they do visit an area, it’s usually in large, noisy flocks. Their diet mostly consists of seeds, sap, insects and berries, and they eat heartily. Counters saw one evening grosbeak consume 96 sunflower seeds in five minutes.
The birds have an ivory-color, hearty bill well suited for seed-busting. Evening grosbeak males have a distinctive yellow brow and show a lot more yellow than females, although not nearly as much as goldfinch males. Both males and females have black and white wings. Their size clearly distinguishes them from goldfinches. When perched at a finch feeder, they look like an adult at a second-grader’s desk.
Evening grosbeaks tend toward the outer branches of trees and shrubs, and they often forage on the ground for salt and other minerals. A group of grosbeaks is called a “gross.”
Hibernation seems like a great strategy. You keep the covers over your head through months of snow, sleet and freezing temperatures, then wake up to glorious spring. Missouri has several true hibernators, including several species of bats, woodchucks, chipmunks, two species of squirrels and at least one mouse species.
What characterizes “true” hibernation is the depth of sleep. Hibernators slow down their metabolism so much that they are difficult to rouse. During hibernation, for example, woodchucks lower their body temperature from somewhat near ours to about 50 degrees, their heart rate drops to single digits from a normal rate of about 160 beats per minute, and they might only take one breath per minute. Skunks, bears, opossums and many other animals sleep deeply for long periods but don’t really hibernate. Their heart rates and core temperatures drop less, and they can be wakened more easily than true hibernators.
Hibernation is useful when food supplies, such as insects or vegetation are in short supply. Many birds respond to shortages by migrating, but Missouri’s hibernators just take a long nap.
Barred owls (Strix varia) breed earlier than other birds; you can hear their courtship calls as early as December. Also known as hoot owls or, sometimes eight-hooters, barred owls call with series of eight accented notes, the last one ending with a downward pitch. The call can sound like, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?”
The wings and chest of this species are streaked or “barred.” Like most owls, they call more at night. They are typically found in mixed forests and in river valleys. They usually avoid areas occupied by the deeper-voiced great horned owl, which is a primary predator of barred owls.
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