by Jim Low
When you become a hunter you aren’t just participating in a wonderful activity that binds friends and family, provides heart-smart locally grown food, gives you a greater, deeper appreciation of wild things and wild places — you are conservation. You provide the funding for more than a third of the cost of conservation in Missouri through your license fees and excise taxes on firearms and ammunition. The state of Missouri is a national leader in hunter recruitment and retention at 1.16 hunters gained for every one lost. But we can do better!
The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) in partnership with Quail Forever (QF) and the Missouri Department of Conservation will provide mentored dove hunting opportunities for first-time hunters of any age on six fields located on private land across the state.
The NWTF initiated this effort as part of its “Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.” program. Over the next 10 years, nationally, the NWTF will conserve and enhance 4 million acres, create 1.5 million new hunters, and provide access to an additional 500,000 acres.
There will be three hunts offered on each field on opening day, Sept. 1. Two more dates will be determined by participating landowners of the individual fields but will likely be Saturdays, including Sept. 6. Each field will be limited to 16-20 hunter/mentor pairs per hunt to maximize safety and provide a quality experience. In order to participate in a hunt you must first attend a hunter orientation workshop where you will learn about dove biology and management, the importance of hunters and hunting, and hunter safety. You will also have the opportunity to practice shooting a shotgun.
You can attend any workshop offered, but the field you will hunt on will be determined by applications received and availability. Workshops will be provided in:
Help protect Missouri’s white-tailed deer and our hunting heritage for your children, grandchildren, and future generations. The Conservation Department is working with hunters, landowners, businesses, and partner organizations to limit the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in free-ranging deer.
The Department is proposing common-sense regulation changes for deer breeding facilities and big-game hunting preserves to help limit the spread of CWD. Changes involve more effective fencing to separate captive and free-ranging deer, restricting the importation of live deer into Misosuri, and mandatory disease testing.
Get involved by sharing your opinions on the comment card attached to this magazine and by becoming informed about CWD. For more information, and to comment online, go to mdc.mo.gov/deerhealth.
Deer hunters will find changes to antlerless permits this year, and more changes could lie ahead.
The Conservation Commission voted in April to reduce the number of firearms antlerless deer permits that a hunter may fill in all or part of 59 counties. It also reduced the availability of antlerless permits to two in all or part of another 19 counties. In previous years, hunters could buy any number of antlerless permits in most of the affected counties. Hunters still can fill multiple firearms antlerless tags as long as they do not fill more than is allowed in a particular county.
These changes are a response to declines in deer numbers. A severe outbreak of hemorrhagic diseases in 2012 contributed to this decrease, but that isn’t the main reason for the decline in deer numbers. To understand the current situation, it helps to remember the deer-management challenges that Missouri faced 20 years ago. Back then, the state’s deer herd was growing rapidly. This led to an upswing in deer-vehicle collisions, crop damage, and other nuisance-deer problems.
The Conservation Department responded by increasing the availability of firearms antlerless permits and instituting an antler-point restriction (APR), which was intended to shift harvest pressure from bucks to does in some counties.
Those changes worked, as deer numbers — and the problems associated with too many deer — decreased. That’s when Missouri and neighboring states experienced the historic hemorrhagic disease outbreak. Losses to hemorrhagic diseases tipped the balance, and deer numbers decreased below the desired levels.
Adjusting the availability of antlerless permits is a way of reducing doe harvest without limiting when, where, and how Missourians hunt deer. It also is a gradual way to begin changing doe harvest to allow the deer population to be maintained at desirable levels. Decreasing the availability of firearms antlerless permits will allow deer numbers
to stabilize, and in some areas rebuild.
Have you ever finished a fishing trip and “liberated” your bait, thinking you were doing it or the fish in the lake a favor? If so, STOP! You could be doing serious damage to your favorite fishing hole. The trouble is that a dozen minnows, a box of worms, or a bucket of store-bought crayfish might contain an exotic critter that could change the ecology of a stream or lake with devastating effects for native fish populations. When you finish a fishing trip, put leftover bait in a sturdy trash bag and send it to the landfill. You will be doing yourself and Missouri’s multi-billion-dollar sportfishing industry a big favor.
Dove hunting season opens Sept. 1. To provide quality hunting opportunities, the Conservation Department plants sunflowers, wheat, millet, and other crops on dozens of conservation areas (CAs) statewide. Dove-field locator maps are available at mdc.mo.gov/18183. Crops grow better on some areas than others, so advance scouting is important. Heavy rains and flooding this spring affected some dove management fields, but significant opportunities remain.
Dove season opener falls on Labor Day this year, ensuring large numbers of participants. This makes safety consciousness particularly important on public hunting areas. Hunters should space themselves at safe intervals. Don’t shoot at birds lower than 45 degrees above the horizon. Politely call attention to safety issues the first time they arise. If you plan to introduce a new hunter to doves, leave your own shotgun at home, so you can devote your full attention to your protégé.
Two Missouri state fishing records fell in April and May, one on rod and reel and one with archery tackle.
Tyler Goodale, of Poplar Bluff, reeled in a 3-pound, 10-ounce spotted sucker measuring 18.2 inches long at Duck Creek Conservation Area on April 3. It is Missouri’s first state-record spotted sucker in the pole-and-line category. The current state-record spotted sucker taken by alternative methods was caught by snagging at Lake Wappapello in 1992 and weighed 2 pounds. Spotted sucker are slender, coarse-scaled fish with short dorsal fins. It is distinguished from other Missouri suckers by the presence of several parallel rows of prominent dark spots along the flanks. Adults are commonly 9 to 16 inches long and weigh up to 2 pounds. They are common in the lowlands of southeast Missouri and adjacent sections of the Ozarks.
Evan Miller, of Indianapolis, Indiana, shot a 6-pound, 10-ounce quillback while bowfishing at Bull Shoals Lake on May 1. Both the weight and length (23.5 inches) of Miller’s fish were unusual. The Fishes of Missouri says this species seldom exceeds 19.2 inches or 3.7 pounds. Quillbacks are most common in northeastern Missouri. They inhabit clear rivers and creeks with large permanent pools. The previous alternative-methods record for quillback was 1 pound, 14 ounces. The current pole-and-line record is 2 pounds, 12 ounces.
For more information about Missouri record fish, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/2476.
The Conservation Department is accepting applications for the next class of conservation agent trainees. Selected candidates will undergo 26 weeks of intense training in all facets of law enforcement and resource management. Those who make the grade will receive county assignments and become the face of conservation in their assigned communities — enforcing the Wildlife Code of Missouri and helping the public with such issues as nuisance wildlife and land management.
To qualify, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to the natural sciences or criminal justice. For more information, including salary range, duties and responsibilities, degree requirements, qualifications, and special-ability requirements, and to apply, visit the Job Openings section at mdc.mo.gov/about-us/careers. The application deadline is Aug. 18. Contact MDC Protection Programs Supervisor Cheryl Fey at 573-751-4115, ext. 3819, or Cheryl.Fey@mdc.mo.gov with questions.
The Conservation Department is offering classes at locations around the state for trappers who want to be certified to use cable-restraint devices. Classes will teach participants to use cable restraints safely and legally. Material covered includes regulations, proper set selection, and cable restraint construction. Pre-registration is required, and class sizes are limited. Classes are available at:
When used correctly, cable restraint devices hold animals alive and allow trappers to release nontarget animals unharmed. The devices can be used to take furbearers during the trapping season by trappers who successfully complete a Department-approved training course.
This insect is easily identified by the coglike “wheel” on its back. As with other members of the assassin bug family, the wheel bug has a clawlike beak with three segments that can fold into a groove beneath the insect’s body. Adult wheel bugs are usually gray or brownish; the immature nymphs are red with black legs, and can look rather spiderlike. Only the adults possess the crest or wheel-like structure on the back. Wheel bugs are North America’s largest assassin bug, growing up to 1½ inches in length. They prowl around flowers, gardens, trees, and grassy areas, hunting other insects. Most people consider them beneficial, as they help control many insect pests, including caterpillars.
A wheel bug bites its prey, delivering a subduing venom that causes the prey insect’s tissues to liquify. Assassin bugs are top predators in the world of insects. But in the world of vertebrates, they are prey, and their jagged body armor is one way they avoid being eaten. —photograph by Noppadol Paothong
One of the ways the Conservation Department helps people discover nature is through exhibits, live programs, and hands-on activities at the Missouri State Fair. This year’s fair runs from Aug. 7 through 17. Attractions at the Conservation Pavilion near the south end of the fairgrounds will include appearances by a live bald eagle and great-horned owl on opening day, fish cooking and cleaning demonstrations using Asian carp, examples of the wild edible harvest, a working portable sawmill, tips for tree stand and firearm safety, tree health information, and learning about angling equipment. Perennial favorites, such as the air-conditioned Conservation Kids Room and aquariums and terrariums with Missouri fish, amphibians, and reptiles (including the popular Peanut the Turtle with a message for No MOre Trash), will be back, along with a few surprises. The Conservation
Pavilion is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The Kids Room hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Editor In Chief - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Managing Editor - vacant
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer/Editor - Brett Dufur
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler