Places To Go

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From Missouri Conservationist: January 2020

Northwest Region: Bilby Ranch Lake Conservation Area

Pheasant hunting, ice fishing, and more.

By Larry Archer

At the turn of the 20th century, northwest Missouri’s 5,100-acre Bilby Ranch Lake Conservation Area (CA) was part of one of the nation’s largest livestock operations. When purchased by MDC in 1987, the area was primarily row crops. It now boasts a different distinction.

“It is probably the premiere pheasant hunting destination in Missouri,” said Bilby Ranch Lake CA Manager Craig Crisler. “If you’re an upland bird hunter, it’s a place you’ve got to go at least once.”

Not only is the area a destination for upland bird hunting, its ample grasslands make it an ideal spot for birdwatching as well, Crisler said.

“You’ll see birds there that you don’t typically see a lot of in Missouri, except for the western part of the state around some of the bigger grasslands,” he said.

In addition to the 110-acre lake that gives the area its name, 17 smaller ponds dot the landscape, providing additional year-round fishing opportunities, he said.

“Since they are ponds, they freeze up pretty readily,” Crisler said. “So, it’s not uncommon to go by one of the ponds this time of year and there will probably be a lot of people ice fishing.”

“If you were blindfolded and dropped in there, you’d think you were somewhere in western Kansas, Nebraska, or the Dakotas.”

—Bilby Ranch Lake CA Manager Craig Crisler

What to Look for When You Visit

Bilby Ranch Lake Conservation Area consists of 5,110 acres in Nodaway County.

From Maryville, take Highway 46 west 14 miles to the area. 816-271-3100

What To Do When You Visit

  • Birdwatching The eBird list of birds recorded at Bilby Ranch Lake CA is available at
  • Camping Designated campsites. Campground with gravel pads.
  • Fishing Black bass, catfish, crappie, sunfish, walleye/sauger
  • Hunting, Deer Deer regulations are subject to annual changes. Please refer to the 2019 Fall Deer and Turkey booklet for current regulations. Also dove, pheasant, quail and rabbit
  • Trapping Special use permit required.
  • Waterfowl Hunting Open hunting. Waterfowl regulations are subject to annual change. Please refer to the Migratory Bird and Waterfowl Hunting Digest 2019–2020 for current regulations.

What to Look for When You Visit

  • Mink
  • Northern shoveler
  • Muskrat
  • Beaver

Also In This Issue

Green Roof
We protect and manage Missouri’s fish, forests, and wildlife, so you can enjoy healthy and sustainable resources now and in the future.

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler