Whether you love hiking, bird watching, fishing, or hunting for small game, deer, or turkey, this Callaway County area offers a variety of ways to enjoy the great outdoors. Nothing beats the crisp, cool feel of the October air while you’re outdoors listening to the very distinguishable call of the northern bobwhite quail. This species is a common find on Whetstone Creek.
Federal Pittman-Robertson funds, collected through an 11 percent excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition, helped purchase the area near Williamsburg in 1976. The 5,147-acre area is managed as a Quail Emphasis Area, or an area where management efforts include techniques intended to improve habitat for quail and other small game. The area’s namesake creek is an excellent example of an Ozark border stream and is designated a state natural area.
Management of the stream focuses on maintaining a healthy forested stream corridor so that the state threatened blacknose shiners continue to find suitable habitat.
Prior to settlement, Whetstone Creek was home to tallgrass prairie, savanna, woodland, and forest habitats. Although this habitat diversity was present, the majority of the property consisted of upland woodlands and was managed for cattle production through the 1900s. The area even had high fences to contain and raise bison from around 1960 until the Department purchased the property in 1976.
When the Department purchased the land, major habitat work included removing fescue, planting the area in native grasses and forbs, and creating quality woodlands. Through the use of permittee farming, prescribed fire, woodland management, and the creation of early successional habitat, the area has grown strong populations of rabbit, squirrel, and turkey that may be hunted during prescribed seasons.
Deer have also benefited from the overall management of the area. The Department conducts several deer density surveys each year, and Whetstone currently has about 45 deer per square mile. Deer hunting is allowed on the area only through the managed hunt system.
But hunting isn’t the only attraction at Whetstone. The area also has about 65 acres of stocked lakes and ponds that offer a good selection of bluegill, bass, and channel catfish. Morel hunting, bird watching, and wildflower viewing are also great reasons to visit. If that’s not enough, Whetstone Creek has two geocaches, two designated camping areas, several miles of trails for hiking, and an unstaffed shooting range. Whetstone Creek Conservation Area provides the public with many opportunities to come out, enjoy the outdoors, and discover nature.
—Nicky Walker, area manager
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