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From Missouri Conservationist: September 2016

By Joe Jerek

Gigging Season Opens Sept. 15

From Sept. 15 through Jan. 31, 2017, nongame fish may be taken by gig from sunrise to midnight in Missouri streams and impounded waters, like ponds, lakes, and reservoirs. Game fish may not be harvested by gigging. Any nongame fish that is taken by gig must be kept and is included in the daily limit.

Gigging consists of spearing fish using a pole with a large, fork-like metal “gig” on the end. It is primarily a nighttime activity and is most effective in shallow, clear water. Gigging generally requires a boat, lighting, a gig, and a knowledgeable friend to drive the boat. The nongame fish harvested by gigging are known generally as “suckers.” They are harvested in this manner because traditional pole-and-line or other mouth-hook methods of angling are not effective for catching them.

Learn more about gigging online at Buy fishing permits online at

Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Starts This Month

Fall archery season for deer and turkey opens Sept. 15. For the latest on regulations, permits, limits, Telecheck instructions, conservation areas for deer and turkey hunting, and more, look for the Department’s 2016 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, available where hunting permits are sold and online at Buy deer and turkey permits online at

Migratory Bird Hunting Starts in September

Dove, snipe, and rail hunting starts Sept. 1, while teal hunting opens Sept. 10, and woodcock hunting begins Oct. 15. Find out the latest regulations, seasons, species, permits, limits, and more from the Department’s Migratory Bird Hunting Digest 2016, available where hunting permits are sold and online at Buy hunting permits online at

Waterfowl Reservations Open Sept. 1

Waterfowl hunters have from Sept. 1 until Sept. 18 to apply online with the Missouri Department of Conservation to hunt on 12 wetland areas intensively managed for waterfowl. The reservation system allocates half of the available hunting opportunities on the areas for Missouri residents chosen through a random drawing and half for walk-in hunters, also known as the “poor line,” who draw on-site each morning for the remaining spots. For more information and to apply, go to Buy hunting permits online at

Fire Departments Receive Grants

The Department awarded $338,490 in matching grants to 156 rural fire departments around the state as part of the annual Volunteer Fire Assistance Matching Grant Program. The grants help small-town, mostly volunteer fire departments buy personal protective gear and firefighting equipment.

The grants also reimburse fire departments for equipment costs specifically related to wildfire suppression. Grant funds are used on items such as communication equipment, chainsaws hoses, and hand tools. Fire departments must match every dollar they’re granted.

Over the past three decades, the Department has distributed more than $8 million to rural fire departments to help them increase the safety of their firefighters and provide them with better firefighting equipment. Funding for the program is provided by the Department and the U.S. Forest Service Volunteer Fire Assistance Program.

For more information on how the Department helps fire departments around the state, visit

4-H Money for Monarchs

The Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri 4-H, and Grow Native! retailers are partnering to provide mini grants to participants of the 4-H Monarch Habitat Project. This cooperative effort provides $50 vouchers to 4-H groups willing to plant at least 100 square feet of monarch habitat.

The grants are being funded by the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation. The $50 vouchers are good at Grow Native! plant retailers to cover up to half the cost of the plants for monarch habitat plantings in highly visible locations such at city parks, county courthouses, and school grounds. Get details, voucher applications, and educational resources at

Wild Mammals of Missouri Revised

The Missouri Department of Conservation is offering for sale a newly revised, third-edition of the popular The Wild Mammals of Missouri reference book by Charles and Elizabeth Schwartz. The new edition covers 72 species of native mammals and includes updated species distribution information and range maps, trapping records, revised common and scientific names, county-level distribution information, new resident species such as elk and the Seminole bat, range expansion of Missouri black bears and nine-banded armadillos, and confirmed mountain lion sightings.

Since its initial publication in 1959, The Wild Mammals of Missouri has become the definitive guide to identification of native mammals and continues to be a source of abundant information. Charles Schwartz’s meticulously rendered drawings capture the spirit of his original 68 subjects while remaining technically accurate. The drawings range from full portraits to illustrations of skulls, tracks, and other identifying characteristics. The new edition adds illustrations of elk and other species by Department Artist Mark Raithel.

The Wild Mammals of Missouri reference book is available for $49.95 at Department nature centers and online at

New Website for Birders

Discover nature through the new Missouri birding website — eBird Missouri — at This state-specific part of the larger eBird website offers a searchable database of bird checklists, bird sightings, and a source of bird observations by county, state, nation, and 60 countries worldwide. eBird Missouri has a printable bird checklist for each state park and conservation area along with other public lands that birders have visited. Birders can contribute to the database of species by uploading their birding lists, observations, and photos.

Meet a Migrator: American Avocet

The long and lean American avocet (Recurvirostra americana) can be spotted in Missouri’s wetlands this month picking its way through shallow water, looking for aquatic insects. The avocet is a shorebird that is easy to identify by its long legs, striking black-and-white plumage, and thin, long, upturned bill. The male’s bill slowly curves up as it reaches the tip. The female’s bill is slightly curved for most of the bill and abruptly curves up at a noticeable angle in the last inch near the tip. They use this unusual bill to pick tasty aquatic invertebrates off the water’s surface or capture them by sweeping their bill sideways through the water, catching them as they float up in a cloud of muddy water. Often a flock of 20–30 avocets can be seen flying in a tight “V” (a duck-like formation) over marshes or lakes. They will even land on the water and float just like ducks.

Though the range map shows avocets breeding and migrating mostly across the western half of the continent down into Central America, these birds have been recorded passing through the center of the country (including Missouri) more often in the past few years. Avocets have been recorded in Missouri every month of the year except February. The peak of their spring migration is mid-April to mid-May. The fall migration is more drawn out from mid-August through mid-November.

To see where avocets have been sighted in Missouri in the past 10 years, visit at To find a Conservation Department wetland near you, visit

Celebrating Migratory Birds

This year marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty signed in 1916 by the United States and Great Britain (for Canada). This and three other similar treaties with Mexico, Russia, and Japan form the cornerstones of migratory bird conservation across international borders.

After 100 years of market hunting and unregulated use of migratory birds for their meat, feathers, and eggs, many bird populations had plummeted by the early 20th century. The federal government took action to stop further losses by signing the Migratory Bird Treaty. It prohibits hunting, killing, capturing, possessing, selling, transporting, and exporting birds, eggs, feathers, and nests. Hunting seasons for specific species were added later to help maintain healthy bird populations.

The treaty not only protects migratory birds, it also enhances our lives by ensuring that populations of diverse, beautiful birds remain for generations to come. For more on the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial, visit

Did you know? The Department manages various types of habitats around the state, such as wetlands, grasslands, and forests, for a wide variety of migratory birds as they fly along their annual migration routes. Find Places to Go online at for birdwatching, nature viewing, and other outdoor activities.

Mandatory CWD Sampling

To help the Department find cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD), hunters who harvest deer in one of the 29 CWD-Management-Zone counties in northern, central, and east-central Missouri during the opening weekend of the fall firearms deer season (Nov. 12 and 13) must present their deer (or just the head with at least 6 inches of the neck intact) for CWD testing on the day of harvest at one of 75 Department sampling locations. Hunters can get free test results after samples are processed.

CWD sampling locations are listed in the 2016 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet available where hunting permits are sold and online at

Attention MO Hunting App Users

Missouri deer and turkey hunters who use the Department’s free MO Hunting mobile app will need to perform an update to be able to Telecheck their harvests this fall. The update will provide the most current regulations and data information. MO Hunting users should  check their mobile devices for messages that an update is required.

Both Apple and Android users will need to install the update. Apple will require users to have at least the iOS 9.0 version to use the updated MO Hunting app. Android will require users to have at least Android 4.1. For more information on MO Hunting, visit

Telecheck Includes New Deer Measurements

The Department’s Telecheck system for reporting deer harvests will ask deer hunters a few new questions this fall and winter when checking a deer.

For hunters who harvest does, Telecheck will ask if the distance from the edge of the eyeball to the edge of the nostril is greater than 4.5 inches. For hunters who harvest antlered bucks, Telecheck will ask if the circumference of an antler 1 inch above the base is greater than 2.5 inches. The measurement request will not apply to hunters who harvest button bucks.

These measurements will help Department staff determine age classes of harvested deer to better manage deer populations. Please bring a tape measure or other measuring device with you while afield.

To help assess the effects of crossbows on archery deer harvest, Telecheck will ask all archery hunters if they used a crossbow to harvest their deer. Telecheck will also ask whether a deer or turkey was harvested on public or private land.

What Is It?

Blue Jay | Cyanocitta cristata

A blue jay is a relatively large songbird, measuring 11 inches from the tip of its bill to the tip of its tail. A blue crest on its head can be raised or lowered, depending on its mood. Its back is nearly lavender, and its wings and tail are sky blue with black bars and white highlights. Its strong bill and feet are black, while its face is white and nearly surrounded by a black collar. The blue jay’s voice varies from soft murmurs to loud screams to clear, chime-like whistles. Blue jays are common statewide in forests, woodlands, parks, and suburbs — wherever there are trees in our state. Although they are present year-round, they do migrate. Often found at bird feeders, a blue jay’s diet consists mainly of seeds, acorns, and fruits. It will also feed on insects, eggs, young birds, and carrion. Blue jays usually form lifelong monogamous pairs and breed in spring to the middle of summer. Typically, four to five eggs are laid in a cup-shaped nest. Eggs hatch in about 16–18 days, and the young fledge about three weeks later. Family groups travel and forage together for the rest of the season, with the young dispersing in wintertime. —photograph by Noppadol Paothong

Did You Know?

Conservation makes Missouri a safe place to hunt.

Hunter Education Required for Most Hunters

  • You must be hunter-education certified if you plan to hunt alone with a firearm, you were born on or after Jan. 1, 1967, or you are 16 years of age or older. You must take and pass a hunter education course or purchase an Apprentice Hunter Authorization before you can buy a permit. You must be at least 11 years old to take the hunter education class.
  • Choose from three options for completing the hunter education certification. Take the knowledge portion of the course online, study at home with the manual, or take a classroom session. All three options also require completion of a 4-hour skills session.
  • Topics covered in the hunter education course include hunter responsibility and ethics; how firearms work and firearm safety; wildlife identification, game care, survival and first aid skills; firearm handling skills and hunting techniques; awareness about wildlife conservation and management; and rules and information unique to Missouri.
  • Missouri’s Apprentice Hunter Program is available for experienced hunters who want to share the joy of hunting with a friend or relative, and it’s for the curious who want to try hunting before making the commitment to become hunter-education certified. Learn more at
  • Nine hundred and thirty-seven hunter education classes were offered, and more than 20,000 students were certified last year.
  • Hunter education and bowhunter education are taught in more than 160 schools as part of the curriculum.
  • Classes are taught by Department staff and more than 1,000 well-trained volunteers.

For more information about hunter education, including where to enroll, visit

This Issue's Staff

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