BUTLER COUNTY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has decided not to flood timber units at Coon Island Conservation Area (CA) during waterfowl hunting seasons this year to protect the significant new growth of red oak seedlings. However, the area manager, Kevin Brunke, reports the area’s marsh habitat has the best conditions he’s seen on the area in the last four years.
“After consulting with our foresters, we decided not to flood the two timber units this year because they’re seeing what they’ve described as one of the best new red oak seedling layers they’ve seen established,” Brunke said. “We’re also doing some timber harvest over this next year, which will allow more light to reach the seedlings. With these conditions, we want to give the new generation of red oaks the best opportunity to thrive by not flooding them this year.”
If the timber was flooded this year, it would likely kill the oak seedlings, Brunke explained, adding that an occasional dry year is necessary to help preserve the oak trees for future years.
“Marsh units three through seven will be flooded and open for waterfowl hunters,” Brunke said, adding that the wetland habitat and crops this year are “excellent.”
“Based on the solid habitat we have in the marsh units, I don’t expect the two dry timber units to impact hunting opportunity very much,” he said. “There’s still going to be great duck hunting opportunity at Coon Island.”
The 3,222.8-acre Coon Island CA was purchased in 1979 to protect existing wetlands, recreate seasonally flooded bottomland hardwoods and restore the hydrology of the area to simulate natural water processes. A system of levees, spillways, water control structures, and submersible pumps maintain wetland habitat. However, the area continues to be subject to frequent Black River flooding, which affects annual management practices.
“Flood waters from the Black River kept the timber unit, 8 and 9, filled with water for much of last summer, which played into the decision not to flood these units this fall,” Brunke said.
Coon Island CA lies in a major waterfowl flyway and provides important habitat for waterfowl. Management of this wetland is designed to increase waterfowl use. The area provides acorns, wild millets, smartweeds, pigweed, sedges, tubers and invertebrates for waterfowl. Corn and other row crops are grown to provide high energy foods when water levels allow.
MDC practices various forest improvement practices at Coon Island CA designed to improve tree growth, quality, and species composition and to maintain wildlife habitat. Any physical disturbance is only temporary, and the area soon returns to its normal and natural condition. Sound management practices ensure long range productivity of the diverse habitats present on the area.
Coon Island CA is located south of Poplar Bluff. From Highway 53 south, take Route HH south 8 miles, then County Road 244 east 1 mile. For more information about Coon Island CA, go online to www.mdc.mo.gov. Other conservation areas with waterfowl hunting opportunities in southeast Missouri include Duck Creek CA, Otter Slough CA, Ten Mile Pond CA, Black Island CA, and Little River CA. Find more information on these areas, including waterfowl hunting regulations at www.mdc.mo.gov.