by Jim Low
Would you donate a pound of venison if you knew it would help feed thousands of hungry Missourians? It could, according to Dave Murphy, executive director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri. Conservation Federation of Missouri coordinates Share the Harvest, a citizen-led program that has been enlisting deer hunters to stamp out hunger in the Show-Me State since 1992.
Most venison donations consist of whole deer that hunters simply drop off at participating meat processors. Contributions from statewide corporate sponsors, combined with cash donations to local Share the Harvest efforts pay the full cost of processing about three-quarters of the deer hunters donate. Last year, hunters donated more than 5,000 whole deer, which yielded 350,000 pounds of ground venison.
Murphy says he is thrilled with Share the Harvest’s performance, but he says the program still could do much more.
“Last year, Missouri deer hunters checked more than 274,000 deer,” said Murphy. “They donated a little more than 5,000 whole deer to Share the Harvest. That’s wonderful, but just think how much more of a difference we could make if hunters donated just one pound of ground venison from each of the other 270,000 deer. We could double the number of hungry people we help.”
To learn how and where to donate deer through Share the Harvest, call 573-634-2322, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit mdc.mo.gov/node/2544. Participating meat processors also are listed on pages 46 and 47 of the 2011 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, which is available wherever hunting permits are sold or as a PDF to download at mdc.mo.gov/node/3656.
Bag it; notch it; tag it; check it. That is this year’s deer and turkey tagging procedures in a nutshell. The self-adhesive game tags that hunters have been receiving when buying permits from vendors will be replaced with non-adhesive versions. Hunters no longer need to go to vendors. They can buy permits online and print them on home printers. These changes mean hunters need to provide a way of attaching permits to game. Hunters who print their own permits need a way to protect paper permits from moisture and other damage. Zipper-type plastic bags are made to order for this “bag it” part of the process. Twist ties, string, bailing wire or adhesive tape will work to attach tags to game. A sharp pocketknife will work to notch permits so they show the month and day the animal was taken. Be sure to put home-printed permits inside a zipper bag or other protective cover before attaching it to the deer or turkey. Finally, hunters need to “check it” by completing the Telecheck procedure by phone or online. You’re done!
If you have ever wished it were easier to get to the water at Bennett Spring State Park, the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation (MCHF) has a way to turn your wish into a reality.
One of the most popular places to fish and view Bennett Spring’s scenic waterfall is along the bank just upstream from the stone bridge. The concrete covered slope is hard to get up and down, and it has been undermined by erosion. The Conservation Department wants to replace it with a 72-foot walkway and viewing platform and MCHF hopes to raise $45,000 to fund the project.
If each of the 180,000 anglers who visit the park annually split the cost, the individual share would be 25 cents. Of course, not all those anglers will donate, so MCHF is encouraging anglers to give whatever they can to make the improvement a reality.
“We know that not everyone can afford a big donation,” said MCHF Executive Vice President Rick Thom, “but it wouldn’t take many donations of $5 to $100 to make this happen. We could do it if only one out of 100 anglers who use Bennett Spring pitched in $25. We already have some substantial pledges, and we hope to raise the rest so the project can be completed.”
Contributions can be made via credit card at mochf.org, or by sending a check to MCHF, PO Box 366, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0366. Donations should be marked “Bennett Spring Platform.” Donors of $1,000 or more will receive framed prints of the 1995 Missouri Trout Stamp print, signed and numbered by wildlife artist Chuck Witcher. The print features a brown trout. A trout stamp of the same number is mounted with each print. A permanent plaque at the structure will recognize donors at two levels, $1,000 and $5,000 and above.
The first year of testing yielded mixed results and mixed reviews for Quick Draw. MDC piloted the program last year at three of the state’s most popular managed wetland areas - Eagle Bluffs, Grand Pass and Otter Slough conservation areas.
Numerous studies have shown that lack of time is one of the main factors that keep people from hunting and other outdoor activities. Quick Draw saves hunters travel time by letting them know whether they have been drawn for a hunting spot before driving to a wetland area.
Quick Draw also offers more flexibility in planning hunts. Under the traditional system, reservations are assigned on Oct. 1, weeks or months before hunts occur. Quick Draw allows hunters to apply for hunts a few days to a week in advance, allowing them to make plans based on weather forecasts.
Before the 2010-2011 hunting season, MDC received more favorable comments about Quick Draw than unfavorable ones. That trend reversed after opening day. Fifty-five percent of hunter comments during the trial were negative. It’s hard to know what percentage of hunters liked or disliked the system, since individual hunters could and did submit more than one comment.
One of the most frequent objections to Quick Draw focused on the number of hunting spots set aside each day for hunters who come to wetland areas without a reservation. Under the current reservation system, these “poor line” hunters draw for at least 50 percent of available hunting spots. Under Quick Draw, only 20 percent of spots are guaranteed for hunters without reservations. However, the number of hunting spots actually allocated through the poor line at Quick Draw areas last year was virtually identical to the previous year. This is because many people who drew reservations through Quick Draw did not show up.
There is no penalty for failing to use a reservation under Quick Draw or the traditional reservation system still in effect on 12 other managed wetlands. The no-show rate at Eagle Bluffs went from 45 percent in 2009 to 51 percent last year. At Grand Pass, it increased from 46 to 48 percent, and at Otter Slough it went from 43 to 55 percent. Some hunters said they wanted a penalty for no-shows.
Another frequent objection was that Quick Draw gives an unfair advantage to St. Louis and Kansas City residents. However, an analysis of applications from the 10 Zip Codes with the highest application rates showed that less than 10 percent of applications came from the two metro areas. Hunters living within 50 miles of the three Quick Draw areas accounted for 31 percent of those who got to hunt on those areas the year before Quick Draw went into effect. That number increased to 35 percent last year.
Some hunters also expressed concern that Quick Draw would lead to overcrowding at the three pilot areas. However, the number of parties turned away from those areas decreased by 44 percent last year. The number of days on which parties were turned away remained the same under Quick Draw.
Other hunters expressed displeasure that Quick Draw might attract more novice hunters to managed wetland areas. This actually was one of the goals of Quick Draw. In 2009, 34 percent of hunters on the three pilot areas were hunting on managed wetland areas for the first time. That increased to 38 percent under Quick Draw.
Waterfowl hunting is highly dependent on weather, water conditions and migration patterns. Statistics also have documented a large annual turnover rate among the waterfowl hunting population. All these variables contribute to dramatic changes in hunter participation from year to year. Testing Quick Draw for one year provides a snapshot of how the system worked under a particular set of conditions. MDC is testing the system at the same three areas again this year to learn how it works under different conditions. A formal hunter survey will be conducted following the 2011–2012 hunting season to get an accurate picture of how participating hunters view the system after two years’ experience.
For more information about Quick Draw, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/9532.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently announced a $534,750 grant to help MDC acquire an 895-acre conservation easement on land to protect three endangered species: the Ozark cavefish, the gray bat and Missouri bladderpod. The land in Lawrence County will remain in private ownership, but with permanent title restrictions to preserve its natural values. Caves, sinkholes and underground streams lie beneath the land. Without the protective easements, soil erosion and other human-caused changes could damage habitat that sustains the three endangered species. MDC is partnering with the Ozark Regional Land Trust, which will manage the easements to protect cave life, along with plant and animal communities, such as limestone glades, on the surface.
When disaster strikes anywhere in Missouri, you will find MDC in the thick of relief efforts. Disaster relief isn’t one of the agency’s core missions, but the agency’s resources belong to Missourians, and those resources often are uniquely suited to relief work. The tornado that tore through Joplin in May is a perfect example.
Conservation agents’ training equipped them to participate in every phase of law-enforcement work in the twister’s wake. Immediately after the storm, six agents and a protection district supervisor performed search-and-rescue work, traffic control, neighborhood security patrols, nighttime patrols and curfew enforcement.
While conservation agents worked with other law officers, 16 MDC Forestry workers organized into three chainsaw teams worked tirelessly to clear trees from streets for search-and-rescue teams. After the initial emergency phase, MDC Urban Foresters responded to assess tree survival so recovery and rebuilding efforts could begin. MDC’s national network of contacts enabled it to call in the National Urban Forestry Strike Team to train and assist 18 Missouri foresters in post storm tree assessment. MDC provided a 1-ton, 4X4 flatbed dual-axle truck and two 1 1/4-ton 4X4 pickup trucks to replace Joplin Fire Department vehicles lost to the tornado.
Working with the U SDA Forest Service and private forestry workers, MDC has requested $100,000 in federal funds to help direct the long term recovery of trees destroyed by the twister and citywide community forest assistance. MDC also is helping fundraising efforts of diverse organizations such as the National Arbor Day Foundation, Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, Southwest Missouri Resource Conservation and Development and the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation to help Joplin get back on its feet.
In the years to come, MDC urban foresters will be available to advise Joplin residents as they set about replacing the community forests they lost around their homes, parks and streets.
“MDC employees are woven into the fabric of every community in Missouri,” said Director Robert Ziehmer. “I am thrilled by the courage and dedication they show whenever the chips are down, and proud to be able to commit our agency’s resources in times of need.”
A break from the weather, along with refinements in grassland management, contributed to a boom in prairie-chicken reproduction this year. Unusually cool, rainy conditions, like those that have prevailed during the spring and summer for the past four years, drown out prairie chickens’ nests and cut deeply into the survival of chicks that do hatch. This year’s weather was relatively normal, and Missouri’s endangered prairie chickens responded with a remarkable 80 percent nesting success rate. Fifty percent is considered normal in stable populations. Missouri’s prairie chickens once numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Their disastrous decline began with the conversion of native prairie to other agricultural uses. MDC began trapping prairie chickens and moving them to Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie near El Dorado Springs in 2008. MDC crews located 29 prairie-chicken nests this summer at Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie and nearby at Taberville Prairie in St. Clair County. Of those, they determined that hens in 23 nests hatched broods.
Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
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Staff Writer - Jim Low
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