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From Missouri Conservationist: Sep 2015

By Kristie Hilgedick

Grouse Habitat Starts With Forest Management

To some listeners, a drumming ruffed grouse sounds like a distant locomotive picking up steam, then speeding out of control.

Although not terribly loud, the sound of a grouse’s drumming can travel on a clear day nearly a quarter-mile through the forest understory.

The sound is rare in Missouri today. Historically, ruffed grouse were found throughout much of Missouri. But due to habitat loss, their numbers dwindled.

But grouse supporters — including the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Missouri Grouse Chapter of the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation (QUWF), and private landowners — hope to turn that around with a restoration plan that focuses on creating better habitat.

”Grouse prefer young forests. Ones with 5- to 15-year-old trees are perfect,” said Jason Isabelle, a Department resource scientist. “Such habitat provides adequate canopy to shield grouse from avian predators like hawks. But their habitat is declining and has been for quite some time.”

Like much of the Midwest, Missouri’s forests have matured over time and are not being replaced by the creation of young forests.

Timber harvesting can help renew old forests. It makes gaps in the forest canopy and is a great way to create habitat for many native Missouri species, including grouse.

“When we’re harvesting timber, we’re replicating natural disturbances like wildfires that were historically responsible for creating areas of forest regeneration,” Isabelle added. “If done properly, it’s a great way to regenerate oak-hickory forests in Missouri, and it’s one of the best ways to create grouse habitat.”

Since 1959, more than 5,000 grouse have been released in Missouri. Although many releases seemed successful initially, most populations have not shown the ability to persist, Isabelle said, and grouse are once again in decline.

Research conducted in 2011 by the Department and the U.S. Forest Service indicated sufficient grouse habitat didn’t exist in the River Hills region of east-central Missouri, but it also showed a grouse population likely could be sustained if additional habitat were created.

Since this study, the Department has been working to substantially increase the amount of young forest habitat at two Warren County sites, Little Lost Creek and Daniel Boone conservation areas.

“Our staff took a hard look at their conservation area management plans and reworked them to emphasize young forest habitat,” Isabelle said.

To complement the effort, the Department and members of the Missouri Grouse Chapter of QUWF have been working to develop a private landowner cooperative in portions of Warren, Montgomery, and Callaway counties.

Spanning a 90,000-acre swath of hilly bluff-top property bounded by the Missouri River and I-70, the cooperative will bring landowners together to learn how to create the habitat ruffed grouse so desperately need, Isabelle said.

“Once enough habitat is available, grouse restoration could start in the next few years,” Isabelle noted. “A lot of species, in addition to grouse, depend on young forests and many of them are declining as well. The creation of young forests is a great way Missouri landowners can improve habitat for wildlife.”

Website Redesign Revealed

The Missouri Department of Conservation rolled out the first phase of an extensive website redesign this summer. The Department’s two most popular sections, Hunting/Trapping and Fishing, were the first to go live in mid-July.

“With assistance from public surveys and extensive user testing, these sections have been completely retooled to provide a better user experience,” said Chris Cloyd, digital communications manager.

The new hunting and fishing sections, which can be found at, feature numerous improvements, including:

  • Species A to Z, an in-depth guide to every harvestable species
  • Seasons, a comprehensive listing of fishing, hunting, and trapping seasons
  • Regulations, a one-stop shop for regulation information

Making the Department’s website more mobile-friendly is a key goal, Cloyd added.

The next phases the public can expect are upgrades to the Discover Nature and Your Property sections.

The Department Copes With High Water

Excessive rain and flooding created challenging conditions this summer for Missouri Department of Conservation staff, who worked long hours maintaining hatcheries, helping with rescue efforts, and cleaning up debris.

Despite a July 7 deluge so severe it made national media reports, not a single fish was lost from Roaring River Hatchery, Manager Paul Spurgeon reported. Three days later, anglers were once again reeling in rainbow trout from the site’s waters.

Other hatcheries faced similar conditions earlier in the summer, when flooding hit Meramec Spring Park in Phelps County, Bennett Spring State Park on the Laclede-Dallas County line, and Montauk State Park in Dent County.

At Meramec Spring, 8 inches of rain in a two-day period in June submerged much of the park under 2 feet of water for a brief time. Although Bennett Spring lost a small number of trout, Montauk suffered no losses.

“We were able to keep things running smoothly because of the diligent work that our staff provides, constantly monitoring changing conditions at the hatchery,” said Mike Perry, assistant hatchery manager at Bennett Spring.

At Roaring River, a series of floodgates regulate the spring’s flow into the hatchery’s pools. The flow into these pools must remain constant to ensure trout survival. Keeping oxygen levels constant and preventing silt from washing into raceways are also concerns.

“In an event of this magnitude, our staff is here until things stabilize,” Spurgeon said.

While hatchery staff tended to the trout, the Department’s heavy-equipment operators pulled debris out of the stream and cleared it away from banks and bridges, filling washouts along the stream and repairing roads.

During the week of the Roaring River event, crews moved 1,400 tons of rock and gravel and hauled away 20 loads of debris.

In nearby Cassville that same week, conservation agents were involved with flash flood-related emergency response duties, including the rescue of an elderly woman trapped in her home.

“The water was pretty treacherous,” said Conservation Agent Andrew Barnes, who assisted with the rescue at the request of local law enforcement agencies.

All agents receive swift-water training while enrolled in the Department’s academy, but 28 agents statewide are certified in advanced swift-water rescue training.

In Christian County, an unstaffed shooting range at Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Area closed temporarily when high water detached a footbridge.

The Department Accepts Permit Images Through Mobile Devices

Missouri hunters, anglers, and trappers now can use electronic images of permits on mobile devices as legal, valid permits beginning July 30.

Prior to this, hunters, anglers, and trappers had to have paper copies of permits on them when pursuing these activities.

For fishing permits and most hunting permits, an electronic image of the permit, such as a PDF (Portable Document Format), on a mobile device will be sufficient, with the exception of deer and turkey permits.

Deer and turkey hunters must void their permits after harvesting related game animals and report their harvests using the Telecheck harvest reporting system.

MO Hunting, the Department’s free mobile app, lets deer and turkey hunters electronically void their permits and Telecheck their harvests directly from the app. It enables Missouri hunters, anglers, and trappers to purchase, view, show, and store current hunting, fishing, and trapping permits and associated details. It also shows permits purchased during the previous year. MO Hunting even uploads Telecheck confirmation numbers back to the mobile device and enables hunters to view details on all deer and turkey they have previously checked.

MO Hunting is available in the Google Play and iTunes stores. Get MO Hunting and learn more about the app at

Deer and turkey hunters must still tag their harvested game if they leave the immediate presence of the animal. Hunters using paper permits may simply attach the voided permit to the animal’s leg. The Department suggests sealing the paper permit in a zip-top bag and attaching the bag with string, wire, or tape. Hunters using the MO Hunting app must attach a label with their full name, address, permit number, and date of harvest to the deer or turkey’s leg if they leave the animal unattended.

After being Telechecked, properly tagged deer and turkeys may be possessed, transported, and stored for processing.

What is it?

Long-Pincered Crayfish | Orconectes longidigitus

The largest crayfish in Missouri, this colorful crayfish is characterized by long, slender, blue-green pincers that are studded with prominent yellowish knobs. The favored habitat is moderately deep pools along bluffs where rock slabs and large rubble provide crevices for hiding during the daylight hours. At dusk, it emerges to forage over the stream bottom. This species is omnivorous and does not hesitate to capture and consume other crayfish if the opportunity arises. The long-pincered crayfish occurs only in the White River basin of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Substantial populations of this species also occur in Table Rock Lake.

—photograph by Chris Lukhaup

Hunting and Fishing Day Events

Missourians from across the Show-Me State will join Americans nationwide in celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Day Sept. 26.

In 1972, President Richard Nixon proclaimed the first National Hunting and Fishing Day and urged citizens to join outdoor sportsmen and women in their support of the wise use of natural resources.

Today, the event is a chance for people to come together to celebrate everything they love about hunting, fishing, and the great outdoors. In the spirit of cooperation, the Missouri Department of Conservation has partnered with other organizations to host the following events:

In St. Louis, the Department is sponsoring “A Day at the Confluence” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 26 at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area. Activities include archery, boat rides, and tree identification hikes. For more information about this event, visit

Kansas City-area residents can attend Family Outdoors Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 26 at James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area in Lee’s Summit. At this cooperative event, which focuses on waterfowl-related sporting activities and wetlands education, Ducks Unlimited will offer free memberships in their Greenwing program. Elsewhere in the region, the Lake City Shooting Range in Buckner is offering free shooting opportunities from noon to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 26.

Branson residents and other visitors are invited to join the Department and Bass Pro Shops at Table Rock Lake for a weekend of outdoor sporting activities from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 12 and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 13. This celebration features a pre-1840s mountain man rendezvous and Native American cultural village. Outdoor recreational activities include archery, air rifling, atlatl throwing, sling shooting, kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, and fishing. Visitors will also learn more about blacksmithing, weaving, and Dutch oven cookery. For more information, visit

The University of Missouri South Farm Showcase, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 26 in Columbia, is poised to draw large crowds once again. This year’s event features a trained hawk demonstration, turtle and snake exhibit, Asian carp preparation and sampling, fishing activities, and information about Missouri’s mammals. For more information, visit

Cast a line or hit a bull’s-eye at the Cape Girardeau Nature Center from 1 to 3 p.m. Sept. 26. No registration is required, but opportunities are on a first-come, first-served basis. Staff and volunteers will provide help and all the equipment needed for fishing and archery.

Family Shoots Free Day is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center in Bois D’Arc. Department staff will assist and provide instruction, but visitors will need to bring their own firearms and ammunition. Range fees are waived for the day.

Twin Pines Conservation Education Center in Winona is planning Family Fishing Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 26. Come wet your line in Mule Camp Pond. Join the fun with a variety of activities, including fishing, fish print T-shirts, pond study, casting games, and more. Prizes and free food will be provided. No registration or fishing licenses required.

In Moberly, the Department is planning an archery tournament, snake exhibits, fishing activities, and more. The event takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sept. 26 at Rothwell Park. Hunting enthusiasts 11 years old or older can polish their skills Sept. 18–20 in Bourbon. A Family Hunting Skills Weekend, featuring courses in archery, shotgun, air rifle, trapping, and basic hunting, has been planned at Camp Mihaska Retreat and Conference Center. For more information, contact or call 573-522-4115, ext. 3295.

Grant Money Helps Rural Fire Departments

Missouri Department of Conservation foresters delivered $367,354 to rural fire departments this summer through a matching grant program. More than 185 fire departments across the state received grants of up to $4,000 to help purchase personal protective gear and firefighting equipment that will be used to fight both wildfires and structure fires.

To earn the grant money, rural fire departments had to match 50 percent of the funds provided by the Department and the U.S. Forest Service.

“For the rural fire departments, it is a lifesaver,” said Lynndel Barnes, chief of the Ellington Volunteer Fire Department. “With the grant, we can purchase equipment we couldn’t afford otherwise.” Over the past 30 years, more than $7.5 million has been distributed to Missouri’s rural fire districts through the Volunteer Fire Assistance Program.

Sign Up Now for Hunter Education

With fall hunting seasons just around the corner, September is a great month to sign up for a Missouri Hunter Education course.

Classes are available all year long, but they fill up quickly in the weeks prior to deer season. Hunters can beat the rush by signing up sooner rather than later.

The course is divided into two sessions: knowledge and skills. Both are mandatory to earn the final hunter education certification.

Participants can acquire the knowledge component in one of three ways:

  • Attend a four-hour classroom session.
  • Complete an interactive, online course for $15, which is paid to the course provider.
  • Read a study guide that is available at all Missouri Department of Conservation offices or online.

To gain entry to the four-hour skills session, participants must present their completed study-guide review questions or a printed copy of the qualifier certificate from the online course.

Skills session instructors teach students gun-safety basics, such as how to handle, load, and unload a firearm; how to cross obstacles; and how to hunt from a tree stand.

To complete the skills session, participants must pass a 35-question exam. To learn more about who should take hunter education and how to enroll, visit

Did You Know?

Conservation makes Missouri a great place to hunt.

Scheduling Youth Hunts

  • One of the Conservation Department’s goals is to provide quality hunting opportunities for Missouri’s youth. The Department strives to minimize conflicts between youth hunt dates and holidays, but conflicts are sometimes inevitable for a number of reasons.
  • Youth hunting portions must be held on weekends so youth can participate without missing school.
  • Several religious and secular holidays occur within the brief time available for fall and winter hunting.
  • There are many opportunities (but a limited number of weekends) for fall and winter youth hunting season portions, including those for deer (early and late), pheasant and quail, and waterfowl (in three different zones).
  • To maximize the chance of successful harvest, youth hunting portions are typically scheduled before the opening of the regular season.
  • Fall 2015 and winter 2016 youth hunting season portions include:
Season/Youth PortionOpensCloses
Deer Early10/31/1511/01/15
Deer Late01/02/1601/03/16
Waterfowl North Zone10/24/1510/25/15
Waterfowl South Zone11/21/1511/22/15

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler