Our photographers have been busy exploring the intricacies of outdoor Missouri. See if you can guess this month’s natural wonder.
Q. My wife and I would like to see and hear the elk bugle at Peck Ranch Conservation Area. Can anyone tell me when the bulls go into rut and start calling in Missouri?
A. A male elk’s urge to bugle coincides with the arrival of the rut. The peak bugling season is mid-September through November, but male elk continue to bugle some throughout the winter. Day length and temperature are believed to trigger the hormonal changes that prompt mating and bugling. As temperature and day length change slightly from year to year, bugling start times may vary.
The Missouri Department of Conservation offers self-guided driving tours, and maps are available online at short.mdc.mo.gov/ZJJ. Please be aware the facilities are closed during spring calving season, fall firearms deer season, and managed deer hunts.
Q. When is a good time to start harvesting pecans?
A. Pecans begin to ripen in early November, and they are easy to harvest — simply pick them up off the ground as they drop from the tree.
A member of the hickory family, pecans are eaten by a variety of wildlife — including larger birds, squirrels, opossums, raccoons, and deer — making harvesting them a challenge.
After harvest, pecans should be air dried in a cool, well-ventilated place for two to three weeks. Leaving them in the shell will help retain their quality, and whole nuts can be frozen for up to a year.
Q. I would like to obtain some milkweed seed to plant in my garden. How do I know if the seedpods I see are ready to pick?
A. Although milkweed seeds can be purchased from private nurseries, you can also harvest the seeds from pods, which tend to open between late September and the end of November. If you collect the seeds too early, they may not be viable. Your best bet is to let them mature on the plant.
You’ll know they are ready when the outer husk turns a golden-brown to yellowish color, or possibly a little gray. When a pod appears ready, you may test the seam. If the center pops with gentle pressure, the seeds can be harvested.
Storing the seeds in a paper bag reduces the risk of mold and mildew. However, milkweed seeds must be planted in the fall or winter to ensure exposure to the cold, moist soil conditions necessary for germination. Milkweed seeds can be planted anytime between November and the end of March, but January and February are best.
You can collect seeds on private land with the permission of the landowner. Milkweeds — both plants and seeds — can also be purchased from Missouri’s many native plant dealers. Visit GrowNative.org for more information. To learn more about how to plant milkweeds, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZJ3.
Missouri’s firearms deer season is rich in history and memories for many new hunters. Most people can remember how excited they were to go deer hunting for the first time in Missouri’s beautiful outdoors.
My uncle introduced me to deer hunting when I was 13 years old, and that first deer hunt is an experience I will never forget. It was an early morning and I was asleep in a brush pile just as the sun was coming up. My uncle woke me to a four-point buck standing 25 yards in front us. Shortly after, I was fortunate enough to harvest my first deer. My uncle and I still talk about that experience and all the memories we made that day.
Deer hunting is not always about harvesting a deer, but more about taking the time to introduce someone to the outdoors. A new hunter will always remember their first time in the field. Looking back on that morning makes me appreciate that someone took the time to familiarize me with the sport of deer hunting.
If you get the chance this November to introduce someone to deer hunting and the outdoors, please take the time to do so. You will make memories that will last a lifetime.
Lucas McClamroch is the conservation agent for Boone County. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office.
Mallard ducks are common statewide and found on lakes, rivers, ponds, and marshes, where they forage for seeds, grass, aquatic vegetation, and invertebrates. Considered the most common dabbling ducks or puddle ducks, you may often see them with their head underwater and tail up in the air. Adult male mallards are easily identified by their green head, while females are brownish with an orange bill and dark saddle markings. The two form pairs in the fall, and females lay eggs in nests along lakeshores and in marshes in early spring. The clutches are comprised of one to 13 eggs, which are incubated in 23–30 days. The newly hatched chicks can follow their mother within a day and will grow to be 23 inches from bill to tail. These transient birds are common in the winter months when most other waterfowl have migrated farther south. Listen for the female’s descending quacking sound and various softer hey-hey-heys. The male doesn’t quack, opting for a loud graeb-graeb or a whistle instead. —photograph by Noppadol Paothong
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler