Outdoor Recreation

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From Missouri Conservationist: Nov 2008

Scout it Out

Deer Hunting at Saline Valley

  • Area Name: Saline Valley Conservation Area
  • Location: Miller County, 2.3 miles southeast of Eldon on Highway M off of Highway 54.
  • For more info: visit our online atlas, keyword "Saline".

Finding a secluded spot to hunt deer at Saline Valley Conservation Area on opening weekend of the firearms seasons might be difficult. After all, you might see as many as 150 vehicles belonging to deer hunters in area parking lots and along roads that provide access into the 4,783-acre area. The hunting justifies the crowds, though. Saline Valley manager Dennis Rhoades said hunters take many “nice, full-bodied deer” from the area.

Rhoades credits the good hunting to habitat improvements Conservation Department staff have undertaken on the area. Over the past 10 years, they have “recaptured” many fields that were choked with honey locust and planted them in native grasses. They’ve also been feverishly eradicating autumn olive and have been mowing and brushhogging the edges of fields to make them more wildlife and hunter-friendly. “This year, we’ve also got a great sunflower crop, and we’ll have corn on the ground,” Rhoades said. “Everything seems to be in an upswing.”

Although opening weekend crowds keep the deer moving, the pressure soon dissipates and hunting becomes a more solitary activity. The deer recover, as well, and resume their normal movement patterns.

Hunt/Fish Calendar

New! A calendar focused on outdoor recreation.

Missouri’s Outdoor Heritage is a new calendar designed to keep outdoor-oriented people up-to-date. Each month provides an almanac of season information and outdoor tips, topped by photos of wildlife or hunting and fishing moments. To order, call toll free (877) 521-8632 or visit the online MDC Nature Shop. The price is $7 each, plus shipping, handling and sales tax, where applicable. You can also find them at nature centers and Conservation offices where Nature Shops are located.

State-Record Striper

Man caught a striped bass that outweighed his child.

Hannah Blair, 4, who weighed 52 pounds in mid-July, thought it was pretty neat that her dad caught a fish that weighed more than her. Greg Blair, her father, thought it was pretty neat, too, especially since his catch was a state record.

Greg caught the 56.35-pound striped bass in upper Bull Shoals Lake early in the morning July 13. He was using an oversized jerk bait called a King Kong. He weighed his catch on a certified scale at Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery.

Download complete information about state record fish online.

Birds of a Feather


High up in the sky this month you may spot V-formations of canvasback ducks. You can recognize canvasbacks on the wing by their sloped forehead and bill, which gives them a distinctively long head profile, and by the black chest of the males. Although the birds—especially breeding males—appear very white from a distance, up close you’ll see a fabric-like pattern among their back feathers that is likely the source of the canvasback name. Their bills are black and their head and neck range from chestnut-red on males to a pale rust on females.

The species name, Aythya valisineria, comes from the name for wild celery, Vallisneria americana, a preferred winter food of the canvasback. These large diving birds fold their wings and paddle with their big feet to reach food. On the water, flocks of canvasbacks are often accompanied by American coot and other waterfowl, which feed on material brought up or stirred up by the larger ducks. Biologists refer to this feeding relationship as “commensal.” Canvasbacks, in turn, sometimes follow feeding tundra swans.

Canvasbacks find new mates each year. The birds build bulky nests among emergent vegetation. Adult males leave while the female incubates the eight to 10 eggs. The young can feed a few hours after hatching. Late-nesting females often leave their young before they are able to fly.

Frost Flowers

Violence on a small scale delivers ephemeral beauty.

Having someone hand you a bouquet of frost flowers is a sure sign that your relationship has gone cold. That’s because frost flowers, which really aren’t flowers at all, won’t survive a warming. In fact these icy blooms often crumble at the slightest touch of a hand or the sun.

Frost flowers form when icy conditions chill juices in plant stems. The expanding moisture bursts through the plant’s skin like water from a frozen pipe. Numerous cracks along the plant’s stem often give frost flowers a ribbon-like appearance. Air bubbles in the ice make these flowers almost weightless and snow white.

Look for frost flowers on cold fall mornings. You can often see patches of them alongside rural roads. They are usually more abundant in wet years or in wet areas. Frost flowers only occur on plants that still contain moisture. Yellow ironweed and white crownbeard mature late in the year and often produce frost flowers when conditions are right.

Be early, and be quick with a camera. Frost flowers may linger for half a day in protected or shaded areas, but they usually “wilt” quickly under the rising sun.

What a Nut!

Make picking pecans a fun event for the family.

Many people gather pecans for profit and, given the amount of bending and lifting necessary, they certainly earn what they make. If you reduce the size of the enterprise to gathering just enough pecans to make a pecan pie or two, however, what might seem work ends up as family fun—with a scrumptious pie, to boot.

Like sweet corn and fish, pecans are best when fresh. If you can’t use them right away, freeze or refrigerate them to preserve flavor. There are more than 500 varieties of pecans, so experiment with nuts from different trees. Collect fallen pecans in a bucket or bag. Expose the meat with a nutcracker.

This Issue's Staff

Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair
Art Director - Cliff White
Writer/Editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler