Places to Go

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From Missouri Conservationist: July 2017

Southwest Region Bushwhacker Lake Conservation Area

Prairie and woodlands combine to offer diverse outdoor opportunities.

By Larry Archer

 “It’s a really good time to walk out in the prairies on the western side of the area. June and July are the two showy times for the prairie plants. So you’re going to see tons of native grassland species.”
—Bushwhacker Lake Conservation Area Manager Nick Burrell

The peacefulness of a morning on the prairie of Bushwhacker Lake Conservation Area belies the violence of the struggle that spawned the area’s namesakes.

Named for the Civil War-era Confederate sympathizers who frequently battled both Union troops and pro- Union Jayhawkers from Kansas, this 4,790-acre conservation area’s diverse landscape in Vernon County offers visitors an equally diverse selection of outdoor opportunities.

“It’s kind of managed two ways,” said area manager Nick Burrell. “It’s managed for all the native prairies we have, and it’s also managed as an Ozark woodland. It’s got glades (dry, desertlike areas). It has shelter caves. It has bottomland along Little Dry Wood Creek. It’s got a little bit of everything.” For birders, the area’s 1,400 acres of prairie offer an array of grassland species, including prairie-chickens. The Audubon Society of Missouri lists as many as 43 species identified at the site.

A popular hunting spot, deer hunting is allowed by managed hunt only. Hunters can apply online this month to be included in the drawing. For more information, see the Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, available where permits are sold or online at ZZf. Additionally, the 157-acre Bushwhacker Lake offers good bass and crappie fishing.

What to look for when you visit

  • Greater prairie-chicken
  • Bobwhite quail
  • Wild turkey
  • White-tailed deer

What to do when you visit

Bird Watching

Good diversity of grassland birds, including dickcissels, grasshopper sparrows, Henslow’s sparrows, and short-eared owls. Greater prairie-chickens have booming grounds on the west side of the area.


Individual campsites (primitive with a privy available). No other amenities provided.


Bass, catfish, crappie, sunfish


Allowed on the entire area. Many mowed access trails provide quality hiking opportunities.

Horseback Riding

A 6.6-mile horse/hiking trail is located southeast of the lake. The trail is closed to horseback riding during all deer and turkey hunting seasons.


  • Deer Good; refer to the Fall Deer and Turkey booklet for current regulations.
  • Dove Fair; no fields actively managed for dove hunting, but dove hunting opportunities exist on many fields currently cropped by permittee farmers. Statewide regulations apply.
  • Bobwhite quail Good; management activities include prescribed burning, edge feathering, patch-burn grazing, tree removal, grass/forb planting, and grain crops throughout the area.
  • Rabbit Good
  • Squirrel Good
  • Turkey Good; refer to the Spring Turkey or Fall Deer and Turkey booklets for current regulations.


No managed wetlands; several ponds and larger lakes provide waterfowl habitat and hunting opportunities. Nature Viewing Many portions of native prairie have a good plant diversity.

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen

Staff Writer - Larry Archer
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Creative Director - Stephanie Thurber

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler