Reflections

Cover struck

The front cover on the October issue is fantastic and framable. The magazine contents, of course, are always great, and I'm planning to spend my lunch poring over the entire issue.

Stan Crader, Jackson

For better or worse

The stories by Charlotte Overby and Tom Cwynar in the September issue were delightful. They recalled an experience a friend and I had when our husbands refused to cut bait, remove fish caught or put fish on a stringer. They also put us in the middle of the boat so we wouldn't have easy access to areas jumping with bass and crappie.

We each brought towels to help us handle the fish and bait, while our husbands remained poker-faced. At a party later, we heard them telling one of our friends, "We would have helped them, but they were so independent." Actually, they are good men, except for this dastardly streak about our fishing.

Anna Margaret Stroud, Moberly

Bear Facts

What is the future of black bears in the state? I would love to a see a huntable population.

Kevin Politte, Festus

Editor's note: Black bear hunting is a long way off in Missouri. The state currently has between 50 and 150 bears, and there is no confirmed reproduction among them. Researchers believe that most of the sightings in Missouri are composed of young males that are wandering away from their mothers' home ranges in Arkansas. If you want to bear hunt, you will have to travel to another state.

Unexpected aid

When my 10-year-old son, Patrick, e-mailed the Conservation Department for information on "Blind Cave Catfish" for a school research paper, he received an information package by mail suitable for a high school or college project. Whoever put the package together worked very hard on gathering the data. Needless to say, we were surprised, delighted and proud of our Conservation Department.

Mark, Vick & Patrick Rippeto, Lawson

Don't shoot!

In your October issue, you published a letter from an author getting down on skybusting by waterfowlers, but in the article on snow geese, you show a picture of the authors skybusting snow geese. Keep up the otherwise awesome job with the magazine.

Steve Reilly, Athens, Ohio

Editor's note: The 20mm, wide-angle lens used to show the size of the flock coming in makes the birds appear farther away, just like a car's passenger-side door mirror makes objects seem farther away. Photographer Jim Rathert said when he snapped the picture the flock was "right on us."

Desktop publishing

My grandson picked up a copy of your magazine on a sergeant's desk in Kitzingen, Germany. He said it sure brings home to him.

Carl Cox

Mansfield salute to Saurians

Thanks to Tom Johnson for his fine article on lizards. We now have some interesting information-plus John Wylie's fine photos to aid in identification-that will add to the fun of watching the species that live at the edge of our woods.

Jo Woodward, Marshall

Black or white?

While visiting my folks in Lamar, I saw a blackbird with a white head. Is this very common? On the same day, we saw a blue jay burying a nut in the ground just like a squirrel. Is this odd behavior or what?

Marty McCrary, Joplin

Editor's note: Albinism is as common in birds as it is in other animals. Birds seldom survive full albinism, because they cannot see well enough without pigment in their retinas to compete with other birds and avoid predators. Partial albinism is observed most often in blackbirds, robins, red-tailed hawks and house sparrows. Blue jays will cache food-often acorns. They usually hide the nuts in rock or tree crevices or bury them beneath leaves.

"Squirrelous" method?

The author of the article about squirrel hunting emptied his shotgun twice after spotting nine squirrels in an oak tree and shot six squirrels. I have been hunting squirrels for 50 years and have always used a .22 rifle. Unlike shotgun hunting, hunting with a .22 requires woodsmanship, a deep knowledge of the habits of squirrels and marksmanship.

J. Eugene Fox, Wildwood

Editor's note: Some people prefer to hunt deer with archery equipment, while others prefer rifle hunting. Some anglers only use artificial flies, while others prefer to fish with live bait. Wildlife regulations allow many different methods of harvesting fish and game. Each person is free to choose a legal method he or she finds sporting and enjoyable.

AGENT'S NOTEBOOK

Agents can have no better witness in court than someone who has actually seen someone else breaking the law. However, many of the violations we prosecute take place in the woods or on the water, far from the eyes of potential witnesses.

To prosecute such cases, agents are increasingly relying on forensics, which is the scientific examination of physical evidence and its presentation in court.

We have long relied on some basic forensic tools. Fingerprints accurately identify perpetrators, and ballistics help key in on firearms used in violations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recently built a state-of- the-art wildlife laboratory in Ashland, Ore., that lets us examine forensic evidence directly related to fish and wildlife violations.

We can now, for example, determine the time of death of whitetail deer, identify animals by examining one of their hairs and learn from lead residues whether a deer was shot with a bow or a gun. We also have the ability to identify ducks and pheasants by their breastbones and wild turkeys by their leg bones.

Striations in the flesh of fish tell us what species it is and wildlife meat can be correctly identified by a process known as electrophoresis. We can also determine the age of stored meat.

Agents welcome these new tools that help them successfully prosecute wildlife code violations and preserve our wildlife resources.

Dan Love, Henry County