by Jim Low
Want to take a drive to enjoy the annual spectacle of Missouri’s flowering trees? Try one of these routes.
Redbud trees blossom first, sending out rose-purple clusters as soon as late March. Dogwood blossoming normally peaks in mid-April near the Arkansas border and two to three weeks later in northern counties.
A cash donation of $43,000 from the estate of Harry H. Thurm to the Conservation Department will be used for conservation projects. Thurm was born and raised in Wittenberg, Mo., a community on the Mississippi River in Perry County. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was co-owner of a jewelry store in St. Louis for many years. Thurm retired to Lake Wappapello in southeast Missouri, later moved to upstate New York on Lake Champlain, and then to Weybridge, Vt., where he lived at the time of his death. His friends described him as a gentle and kind man who counted fishing and chip carving among his several hobbies. “It is my understanding that Mr. Thurm really enjoyed fishing at Lake Wappapello,” said Conservation Department Deputy Director Tim Ripperger. “His generosity will help with conservation projects that will serve to enhance Missouri’s forest, fish, and wildlife resources.”
Conservation Commission Governor Jeremiah W. “Jay” Nixon has appointed J. Kent Emison, D-Higginsville, to serve on the Missouri Conservation Commission.
Emison is a partner at the Lexington law firm of Langdon & Emison. Raised on a dairy farm in Lafayette County, he and his wife own 80 acres in Lafayette County, 20 of which are devoted to quail habitat. He has been a member of the Higginsville Park Board for more than 25 years.
Emison earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri and his law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Gov. Nixon has appointed Emison for a term ending June 30, 2019.
The Conservation Commission controls, manages, restores, conserves, and regulates the bird, fish, game, forestry, and all-wildlife resources of the state, including hatcheries, sanctuaries, refuges, reservations, and all other property owned, acquired, or used for such purposes, as well as the acquisition and establishment of those properties.
Fishing is a great way for kids and families to have fun outdoors, discover nature, and make happy memories together. For more than a million anglers, conservation makes Missouri a great place to fish.
The Conservation Department needs experienced anglers from all around the state to help others learn to fish through Discover Nature — Fishing. This free, statewide program provides a series of four lessons to help kids and families gain the skills and confidence needed to become successful anglers. Each of the two-hour lessons is followed by hands-on fishing for participants to put their newly learned skills to work. Equipment and bait are provided. Class size is limited, and classes are offered throughout the fishing season from April through October.
Lesson One covers equipment, casting, and proper fish handling. Lesson Two covers how to rig a fishing pole and bait a hook. Lesson Three covers aquatic biology, ecology, and conservation. Lesson Four covers fishing with artificial lures.
The Conservation Department will provide training for volunteers, who can choose to teach one or more lessons. Experienced anglers who want to pass their skills on to beginners can contact the following Fisheries Division staff for more information on opportunities in their areas. The same contact information works if you want to sign up for classes to learn to fish.
For more information on the Conservation Department’s Discover Nature — Fishing Program, go online to mdc.mo.gov/node/27175.
Deer hunters donated 227,358 pounds of venison from the 2013 Missouri deer harvest to the state’s Share the Harvest program. The program is administered by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Conservation Department to help feed hungry Missourians. Share the Harvest orchestrates the efforts of thousands of hunters, local supporting organizations, and more than 100 participating meat processors to get ground venison to people in need through food banks and food pantries. Hunters donate venison, and participating meat processors prepare the meat. Local food banks and food pantries distribute the meat to those in need. Processing fees are covered entirely or in part by local program sponsors and by statewide sponsors that include the Conservation Department, Shelter Insurance, Bass Pro Shops, the Conservation Federation of Missouri, Missouri Chapter Whitetails Unlimited, Missouri Chapter Safari Club International, Missouri Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation, Midway USA Inc., Missouri Deer Hunters Association, and the Missouri Food Banks Association.
Since the program started in 1992, Share the Harvest has provided more than 3.1 million pounds of lean, healthy venison to help feed Missourians in need. For more information, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/2544.
The Conservation Department and Bass Pro Shops were among sponsors of the first North American Whitetail Summit at Big Cedar Lodge March 3 through 6.
The Quality Deer Management Association with headquarters in Bogart, Ga., organized the meeting with assistance from groups ranging from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Forest Service to the Archery Trade Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Pope and Young Club, and several outdoor equipment manufacturers and retailers. The state wildlife agencies of Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and Virginia also contributed and sent representatives to the event.
The summit brought together nearly 200 people from the United States and Canada, representing six distinct groups: state and provincial government agencies, hunters, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), timber companies and other landowners/managers, universities and deer researchers, and manufacturers, retailers and others in the hunting industry.
The summit’s primary goals were to identify the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing white-tailed deer management, develop strategies to address them, and bring the combined energy and resources of summit participants to bear on pressing issues.
Conservation Department staff facilitated break-out meetings where hunters, academics, industry, landowners, government agencies, and NGOs decided what issues were most important to them and brainstormed ways to tackle those issues. After these small-group meetings, the six subgroups presented their priorities to the full assembly, and participants rated each issue from least to greatest concern.
More information about the summit and next steps will be available at qdma.com. For information about QDMA chapters in Missouri and how to start a chapter, see qdma.com/directory.
A series of public meetings this spring and early summer will allow the Missouri Department of Conservation to gather comments and update hunters on deer management plans, including possible changes to hunting seasons and regulations. The Conservation Commission set dates for the 2014–2015 hunting season in December to enable hunters to plan vacation time. However, there is still time for changes to hunting regulations.
Without trees … hammocks would just be blankets on the ground. Without trees … hide and seek would just be seek. Without trees … what would we do? Trees are so important to us, it’s almost impossible to imagine a world without them. But that’s exactly what we want you to do. Finish the phrase “Without trees …” and you could win the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Trees Work slogan challenge. Get creative, have fun, and send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org before April 30. The winning entry will be made into a poster. Any Missouri resident is eligible to enter, and multiple entries are encouraged. Visit treeswork.org for more information, to see previous posters in this series, and for details about prizes.
The spread of zebra mussels in Missouri waters could have profound consequences for Show-Me State anglers and boaters. They can damage boat motors and other marine equipment, clog water intakes, and smother native mussels. They also eat plankton, the same microscopic plants and animals that are the foundation of the food chain for bass, crappie, catfish, and other aquatic animals. Boaters have a critical role to play in preventing ecological damage by this invasive, exotic species. Visit mdc.mo.gov/node/4681 to learn how to avoid spreading these and other dangerous exotics.
The March Commission meeting featured presentations and discussions regarding the cold-water hatchery system, Shepherd of the Hills Conservation Center Feasibility Study, renovation of the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center, and Southwest Missouri Quail Ecology Project. A summary of actions taken during the March 6–7 meeting for the benefit and protection of forest, fish, and wildlife, and the citizens who enjoy them includes:
The next Conservation Commission meeting is April 16 and 17. For more information, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/3430 or call your regional Conservation office (see Page 3).
The Niangua darter grows to about 3–4 inches long as an adult. Breeding males are brilliantly colored, with an orange-red belly and a series of iridescent blue-green bars along their sides. This fish probes for food in crevices between rocks with its long, slender snout, eating mostly nymphs of stoneflies and mayflies. In the first part of April, adults spawn at swift, gravelly riffles where the fast currents keep the substrate free of silt. Males compete with each other for females and for prime spawning territories in these riffles. Darters complete about half of their total growth during their first growing season; they usually only live one or two years, though a few live as many as four.
In Missouri, Niangua darters are classified as endangered. The largest remaining populations in the state are probably in the Niangua and Little Niangua rivers; elsewhere, they are declining or have disappeared. Most of the year they occupy shallow pools and runs that have a slight to moderate current and silt-free, gravelly bottoms. The decline of this species is due to habitat loss from the construction of reservoirs, disruption of stream channels, and runoff from livestock production.
— photograph by Jim Rathert
Starting in mid-April, mouthwatering morel mushrooms begin popping up on forest floors throughout Missouri. Morel mushrooms are popular because they’re easy to identify and delicious to eat. Three species are commonly found in Missouri, so morels will vary in color from gray to tan or yellow, averaging 3–4 inches tall.
If you’re a beginner, play it safe. Either tag along with an experienced mushroom hunter or take a good reference book along on the hunt. It’s as simple as knowing when and where to look.
Best locations to find morels are moist woods, river bottoms, and south-facing slopes early in the season and on north-facing slopes later on. Morels are often found near elm trees — the older the better, and recently dead is the best. Also check near ash, basswood, or cherry trees. Look in old orchards, burned areas, and recently logged areas.
Make sure you can identify morels before eating them. Get hunting and identification guidance online at mdc.mo.gov/node/3397. The first time you eat morels, don’t eat a lot. As with many foods, some people might be allergic. Slice them in half, clean, and soak overnight in salt water. Rinse well and drain at cooking time. Find 17 mouth-watering morel recipes at mdc.mo.gov/node/18921.
Know the three most dangerous groups: amanitas, false morels, and a catchall category called little brown mushrooms. Review photos and learn more at mdc.mo.gov/node/5113.
Most public lands allow mushroom collecting for personal consumption (noncommercial purposes) and no permit is required. Collecting is allowed on conservation areas except on the grounds of several conservation nature centers and Department headquarters grounds in Jefferson City (check area rules before you go). Missouri’s state parks allow collecting and specify a limit of 2 gallons per person per visit. Mark Twain National Forest allows collecting with no quantity specified.
Watch the Conservation Department’s morel mushroom hunting video at mdc.mo.gov/node/10277.
You may purchase Missouri’s Wild Mushrooms: A guide to hunting, identifying, and cooking the state’s most common mushrooms, by Maxine Stone, for $14, plus tax and shipping and handling, from the Conservation Department’s Nature Shop at mdcnatureshop.com or by calling 877-521-8632.
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