Reflections

Herons not so great

Great blue herons are one of the worst predators of not only fish, but also frogs and even wood duck ducklings. A recent article said 10 of 48 baby wood ducks fitted with transmitters were eaten by these birds. You would be hard pressed to find a limit of bullfrogs along the Mississippi River in St. Charles County because the herons are eating all the young frogs.

L.M Dyer, St. Charles

Are great blue herons sometimes white? A few years ago, I saw white and blue herons together on the Niangua River. Were these rare albinos or simply a color variation?

Charlie Whitmore, Overland Park, Kan.

Editor's note: Although great blue herons are major predators of frogs, fish and ducklings, they rarely wipe out a prey species. In many areas, wood ducks and bullfrogs are numerous, despite predation by great blue herons. Great egrets, which are always white, frequent the same shallow wetlands that attract great blue herons, and the two species sometimes nest in colonies together.

Skybusters

Being an old waterfowl hunter, now retired, I understand the frustration that Conservation Agent Mic Plunkett feels about skybusting. I agree that an every-man-for-himself mentality leads to this, but I also attribute it to most hunters not being able to gauge distance to birds in flight and, more important, not knowing the range of their shotguns and the pellet spread with distance.

Furthermore, how many waterfowl hunters own a shotgun choked specifically for maximum range? They probably pull out the wide-choked old blunderbuss they use for rabbit hunting. Learning more about shotguns and patterns could be a possible adjunct to hunter training.

Joe Engels, Gravois Mills

Moms and the magazine

I'm convinced that all moms are constantly searching for ways to maintain and strengthen family ties. Over the past 20 years, my mom has used the Missouri Conservationist to ensure that Dad's and my common interest in the outdoors would continue. Each month the magazine reminds me of those cherished hunting and fishing adventures. It's amazing how often I see Dad, my own sons and myself within your stories.

Rocky Andes, Bettendorf, Iowa

Plastered rats

In"The Great Chicken Caper," Gene Kelly reminded me of a problem we had with predators in Jefferson City during the 1930s. We raised chickens and pheasants on East High Street.

When rats were killing our chicks, our neighbor helped by mixing corn meal and plaster of Paris and putting a bowl of water nearby. The chickens could peck the corn meal without too much plaster, but the rats would lick the mixture and load up on plaster. A short time later they would be dead.

The other animals were safe because no poison was involved.

T.R. Elliott, Manchester

Beribboned anglers

Your story, "Study Tracks Anglers," was amusing and brought to mind fond memories of my father, who was an avid trout fisherman (walleye and other river fish, too). He passed away last deer season and had to miss opening day at Montauk in March.

I have decided to place some ribbons at his graveside. Thanks for bringing those memories back to me.

Julie Ellison, Saint Peters

I'd like to report that on Friday last, a covey of ribbon-tagged old anglers was milling around the mall in downtown Shell Knob. They blamed the wind for making fishing too difficult. It is refreshing that the anglers of the northern hemisphere are finally being observed and studied.

Old Vince Jezak, Shell Knob

Hiker attack

I hope the readers of Paul Lamble's article on the beautiful hiking trails in and near Kansas City will heed his advice about hiker's etiquette.

I live near a wonderful, winding, tree-lined road north of the city, and my experience is that people here use wooded areas as a trash dump when no one is looking.

Those of us who love the woods can't pick it up fast enough, before they trash it again. Shame on those in Kansas City who do not appreciate the beauty of nature.

Teresa Cummins, Kansas City

Zoysian invasion

I have watched over the years my neighbor's zoysia grass slowly take over my lawn that used to have tall fescue and bluegrass in it. Should I be concerned? Can I prevent it? Are there forbidden grasses for residential lawns?

Jeff Russell, Oak Grove

Editor's note: There are no forbidden grasses for lawns. Herbicide could handle the invasion problem, but you would then have to reseed. Zoysia will give you a green lawn in the summer, while a fescue/blue grass mix will give a green lawn early and late in the growing season.

Agent's Notebook

After serving as a conservation agent for more than 25 years of deer seasons, I've seen a number of changes in the way deer hunting is managed and regulated.

But one thing hasn't changed in all that time. Despite emphasis during hunter education programs on the necessity of good hunter ethics, we still encounter too much road hunting.

The majority of road hunting takes place on public roads and highways. This violation not only shows a lack of respect for the deer, it also poses a threat to the safety of others. The shooters seem to have no regard for what is beyond their immediate target and frequently shoot toward livestock or buildings occupied by people.

The Conservation Department fights road hunting in several ways, including placing deer decoys along roadsides as targets for wildlife violators. The decoys help us catch many of those who would illegally take deer from the roadsides, but they aren't enough to stop this insidious practice.

What would help us most would be the eyes and ears of the people living near or traveling our state's roadways. If you witness road hunting or know someone who takes deer that way, gather as much information as possible without endangering yourself and report the violation to your local conservation agent or call the Operation Game Thief hotline at (800) 392 1111.

Allen Bodenschatz, Stone/Taney Counties

Ombudsman named

Do you have a question about conservation and aren't sure who to call? Have you tried to get help or find an answer but have been frustrated or confused by a slow and cumbersome process? If so, you may want to contact the Conservation Department's new ombudsman, Shannon Cave.

Ombudsman is a Scandinavian term for a public official who investigates public complaints against the government. The Conservation Department's ombudsman will listen to your conservation question or concern and either answer it or bring it to the attention of those who can. The new position is designed to provide another avenue for the public to get information or action in dealing with conservation issues.

You can reach Ombudsman Shannon Cave at (573) 751-4115, ext. 250.