Dove-hunting season opens September 1 and runs through November 9, with a limit of 15 doves daily and 30 in possession. Finding a place to hunt doves is a breeze. The Conservation Department plants sunflowers, wheat, millet and other crops on dozens of conservation areas statewide to provide food for doves and other wildlife. Doves swarm those fields when the crops ripen, creating excellent hunting opportunities. To make managed dove fields easy to find, locater maps are available at www.MissouriConservation.org/18183. You can sort the list by area name, by county or by region.
Knowing that an area has managed dove fields does not guarantee good hunting. Even in the best years, crops grow better on some areas than others. Excessive rainfall can delay crop planting on some, and crops planted late may not be ready for birds by September 1.
The shooting can be fast and the mood festive at managed dove fields on opening day. Keep safety foremost in mind when hunting fields with numbers of other hunters. Wise hunters space themselves at safe intervals and take positions that avoid interfering with one another or shooting in others’ direction. Do not shoot at birds lower than 45 degrees above the horizon, and let other hunters know if you have a dog that will be retrieving birds. Politely call attention to safety issues the first time they arise. Most hunters want to be safe, but novices might need some friendly coaching about what is appropriate in a crowded dove field.
Hunters are asked to report any doves they shoot that have leg bands. This can be done by calling 800-327-2263 or online at www.reportband.gov. Regardless of the reporting method, hunters provide the band number, and where and when the bird was killed. Full details of dove hunting regulations are found in the 2010 Migratory Bird Hunting Digest, available wherever hunting permits are sold.
The Conservation Commission has directed its staff to reinitiate plan development that would permit elk restoration around Peck Ranch Conservation Area while addressing concerns raised nearly a decade ago.
At the July Commission meeting, the Commission received a report on an elk-restoration feasibility study conducted in 2000. That effort was suspended due to the emerging issue of chronic wasting disease and concerns about adequate habitat.
The Commission requested the presentation in response to inquiries from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, citizen inquiries and media coverage of possible elk restoration. Following the presentation, the Commission directed staff to reinitiate plan development, based on current information and knowledge, incorporating the following:
The area around Peck Ranch CA has suitable elk habitat, a high percentage of public land, low density of public roads and limited row crop and livestock production. Director Bob Ziehmer said several things have changed since the Conservation Commission first considered the idea of elk restoration.
“The Department has continued to stay engaged on the restoration topic since 2000. There have been significant improvements in habitat for elk on public land around Peck Ranch in the past 10 years,” Ziehmer said. “Efforts to restore natural communities on a landscape scale have paid off in ways that would benefit elk—a species native to our state. We also have a better understanding along with testing options for chronic wasting disease than we did 10 years ago. Other states have developed and successfully implemented protocols to address animal health concerns.”
Commission Chairman Chip McGeehan said that Arkansas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin have restored limited elk populations. He said these restoration programs have provided significant economic benefits through eco-tourism and hunting, without adverse affects on agriculture or wildlife.
“The elk is one of Missouri’s native species,” said McGeehan. “Bringing elk back to the Show-Me State is in line with our longstanding commitment to landscape-scale conservation. We will engage citizens by providing information and working to gather their thoughts about elk restoration.”
The Department will hold public meetings in the area around Peck Ranch to gather citizen input. Details of public meetings on possible elk restoration will be announced later. The Conservation Department will accept public comments at any of its offices statewide and at www.MissouriConservation.org/contact-us/contact-form. Staff will prepare and submit a report with findings to the Conservation Commission regarding the elk restoration program at the October 2010 Commission meeting.
Hunters who plan to apply for reservations at Conservation Department managed wetland areas should remember that reservations for three areas will go through a new system this year.
You can apply for reservations at 12 wetland areas from Sept. 1 through 18 at www.MissouriConservation.org/7559. However, at Eagle Bluffs, Grand Pass and Otter Slough conservation areas, the Conservation Department is testing a new reservation system called Quick Draw. A Quick Draw on Monday of each week will assign hunting slots for the following Friday through Monday. A Quick Draw each Thursday will assign slots for the following Tuesday through Thursday.
The traditional system assigns reservations months in advance. Quick Draw allows hunters to take weather and other conditions into account when deciding when and where to apply. It also is designed to reduce the number of hunters turned away from wetland areas each morning and get hunters to their spots more quickly.
Neither Quick Draw nor the traditional system allow nonresidents to apply for reservations. However, resident hunters who draw reservations can include nonresidents in their hunting parties. Also, nonresidents can take part in the daily, on-site “poor-line” drawings under both systems.
Under Quick Draw, the computer drawing determines the order in which successful applicants are allowed to select hunting spots. It also determines where hunting spots for the poor line will fit in the daily order of selection. On any given day, the No. 1 spot can be in either the Quick Draw or poor-line portion of the draw.
Having a reservation under the traditional system is not always good for reservation holders. Reservations do not always coincide with those days when large numbers of ducks and geese are present. The only way to concentrate your hunting efforts on the best days of the year is to stand in the poor line. Quick Draw gives hunters more flexibility by letting them try for guaranteed hunting slots on the hottest hunting days of the year.
Driving to wetland areas to stand in the poor line is a costly gamble for those who live far from their favorite hunting areas or who must take a day of vacation for a hunt. Quick Draw will provide an opportunity for parents who want to take their children hunting during breaks in the school year.
Most of the oak trees that turned brown after being attacked by an insect parasite this summer will survive the experience. Trees from St. Louis to Branson were attacked by a wasp that lays eggs in leaves, causing the growth of small, button-like galls. The problem was especially severe in the area around Rolla, Lake of the Ozarks, Springfield and Table Rock Lake. Each of the pinhead-sized galls provides food and shelter for a wasp larva. In severe cases, entire leaves turn brown over much of a tree. Healthy trees recover fully by the following year. However, trees that are stressed by ice or wind damage are more vulnerable to declining health if they lose most of their leaves to gall damage. These trees can benefit from supplemental watering during dry weather and fertilizing next spring. To reduce the severity of future outbreaks, burn or compost fallen leaves. More information about jumping oak galls is available at www.MissouriConservation.org/22967.
Breeding bird counts for blue-winged teal are in, and the news is good again this year. The 2010 early teal season will be 16 days long. Teal migrate earlier than larger ducks. The early teal season provides an opportunity to hunt these species.
Most of the teal seen in Missouri during the early season are blue-winged teal. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bases the season length on how many of this species are counted in surveys of their nesting areas early in the summer. If the blue-winged teal breeding population estimate is 4.7 million or more, the early teal season runs for 16 days. If the breeding population estimate is at least 3.3 million but less than 4.7 million, the season lasts 9 days. A breeding population estimate of fewer than 3.3 million birds triggers cancellation of the early teal season.
This year’s blue-winged teal breeding population estimate is 6.3 million, so the season will run from Sept. 11 through 26, with limits of four blue-winged and green-winged teal in the aggregate daily and eight in possession. Shooting hours are from sunrise to sunset. Last year’s breeding population estimate was 7.4 million.
The Missouri Conservation Commission would like to recognize citizens who make outstanding contributions to conservation. Nominations are being sought for the Master Conservationist Award and the Missouri Conservation Hall of Fame. The Master Conservationist Award honors living or deceased citizens while the Missouri Conservation Hall of Fame recognizes deceased individuals. Those who can be considered for either honor are:
Anyone can submit a nomination, which should include a statement describing the nominee’s accomplishments and a brief biography. Criteria and nomination forms for each award are available on the MDC website at www.MissouriConservation.org/node/7763 and www.MissouriConservation.org/node/7759. Please submit nominations by Sept. 1 to Denise Bateman, Missouri Department of Conservation, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180 or e-mail to Denise.Bateman@mdc.mo.gov.
A screening committee appointed by the Department’s director meets annually to consider nominees, with the Conservation Commission conveying final approval.
The Conservation Department has joined a federally led effort to help migratory birds whose winter habitat along the Gulf Coast has been damaged by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service announced the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (MBHI) in June, and concluded sign-ups Aug. 1.
The goal is to maximize migratory bird habitat and food resources on private land, providing critical wintering habitat for a significant number of waterfowl, wading birds, sparrows and other birds. Missouri counties eligible for MBHI assistance are Bates, Vernon, Lafayette, Johnson, Saline, Cooper, Moniteau, Cole, Bollinger, Scott, Mississippi, Stoddard, Butler, New Madrid, Dunklin, Ripley, Cape Girardeau and Pemiscot.
The MBHI encourages farmers, ranchers and other private landowners in Missouri and seven other southern states to receive payment incentives to provide feeding, loafing and resting areas on lands that can immediately provide this type of habitat, such as rice fields and wetland acreage. The Conservation Department’s role in the initiative includes advising landowners and helping the NRCS design management practices on enrolled acres. The need is urgent, since migrating birds began arriving in Missouri on their southward migration in mid-July.
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