News and Almanac

November Deer Harvest Sets Record

Hunters killed a record-breaking 194,670 deer during Missouri's firearms deer season Nov. 14-24. That is 7,973 more than the previous record, which was set in 1995. Unseasonably warm, sunny weather encouraged hunters to stay in the field, contributing to the record harvest.

Deer harvest numbers were down in northern Missouri, where an outbreak of hemorrhagic disease thinned the herd. That drop was offset by an unusually strong harvest in the Ozarks, where sparse acorn production caused deer to concentrate around limited food sources.

Leading the 1998 deer harvest statistics were Macon County with 4,361 deer checked, Howell County with 4,190, Boone County with 3,432 and Oregon County with 3,341. Regionally, northeastern Missouri led with 39,068 deer checked, followed by northwest Missouri with 32,476, west-central Missouri with 27,611, central Missouri with 22,898, the Ozarks with 18,516, east-central Missouri with 17,949, southwestern Missouri with 15,252 and southeastern Missouri with 13,352. Hunters in the St. Louis deer management region checked 3,030 deer, and those in the Kansas City region checked 4,518.

The Conservation Department recorded 15 firearms-related deer hunting accidents, one of which proved fatal. Another deer hunter died in a fall from a tree stand.

Eagle thrills beat the chill

Winter is the best time to see eagles in Missouri, and Eagle Days events are the best places. Events and numbers to call for more information are:

Jan. 9 at School of the Osage Elementary, Lake Ozark ((573) 522-4312);

Jan. 16 at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Jerry Litton Visitor Center and Paradise Point Golf Course Clubhouse on Smithville Lake from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with live eagle programs at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. ((816) 532-0174);

Jan. 16 & 17 at Springfield Conservation Nature Center ((417) 888-4237);

Jan. 30 & 31 at the Apple Shed Theater in Clarksville ((314) 441-4554, ext. 244) and a 10-mile Wintering Eagle Auto Tour at Ted Shanks Conservation Area ((573) 248-2532)

Feb. 6 & 7 at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge and Duck Creek Conservation Area ((573) 222-3589);

Feb. 6 & 7 at Chain of Rocks Bridge, St. Louis from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ((314) 552-1495 or 416-9930)

Unless otherwise noted, Eagle Day events are free of charge and run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Events include live eagle programs every hour on the hour (last program starts at 4 p.m), exhibits and wild eagle viewing through spotting scopes. Some program buildings are not heated, so dress for winter weather.

Congress votes Discovery Center funding

A $500,000 appropriation by Congress has helped Missouri move closer to building the Conservation Discovery Center in the heart of Kansas City.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mexico) and Rep. Karen McCarthy (D-Kansas City) spearheaded efforts to provide funds for the facility near Brush Creek at Troost. The Discovery Center will focus its education programs on helping children growing up in the city to appreciate the bounty and beauty of nature and learn outdoor skills. The center is expected to draw 200,000 visitors per year.

An additional $3 million is needed to build the Discovery Center. As part of funding efforts, the nonprofit Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation is conducting a fundraising campaign to sell bricks and memorial trees for the facility. Missourians can buy a brick for the building or a tree for the grounds for $100 and $500, respectively. Donors' names or messages can be inscribed on the bricks. Each donated tree will have a commemorative plaque honoring a person of the donor's choice.

Donors can send contributions to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation at P.O. Box 366, Jefferson City, 65102 0366. Donations must be directed to the foundation, not to the Conservation Department. All contributions to the foundation are tax deductible.

Savoring a family tradition

One mid-January morning each year, the basement of a limestone farmhouse near Swiss, Mo., is alive with laughter, astir with activity and awash in the aroma of breakfast cooking. It's Sausage Day for the Lackman family.

Every January for the past 22 years, the hunters of the clan have gathered with Tony Lackman to share good company, good food and stories about the recent hunting season while turning the fruits of their outdoor labor into savory smoked summer sausage. All the year's deer kill (except for a few steaks devoured in deer camp) go into the grinders, and the hunters-those who killed several deer and those who killed none-take home an equal share of sausage. They have divided as much as 750 pounds of meat in some years.

The tradition has its roots in a recipe that Tony found in the Outdoor Almanac section of the Conservationist in October 1975. It sounded just like the recipe his family had used to make pork sausage in his youth, so he tried it on the deer he and his brothers killed that year. They were hooked.

Here, with adaptations made by the Lackman family, is the recipe.

  • Finely chop a large garlic bulb. Add a pint of hot water and soak overnight. Remove the garlic, squeeze out the water and discard the garlic.
  • Bone and cut into chunks:

50 pounds of venison

50 pounds of Boston butt pork roast

  • Place the meat on racks and allow all liquid to drain off
  • Mix pork and venison with:

8 ounces black pepper

2 pounds canning salt

1 ounce of saltpeter (or commercial curing powder, as directed)

  • Grind once with a medium screen, then grind again with a fine screen.
  • Add to ground meat: garlic water

2 ounces whole mustard seed red pepper or other favorite seasonings

  • Mix in a large tub until your hands come out clean-no meat sticking to them.
  • Stuff tightly into casings, avoiding air pockets, which can mold.
  • Tie off links with string and hang in a cool, dry place for a day. Then hang for three days in a smoke house-no heat, just smoke.
  • After smoking, hang in a cool dry place until the sausage is not soggy in the center. Store in freezer.

In 1996, the Lackman's sausage won grand prize in the Wurst Competition at the Octoberfest in Hermann, Mo.

The secret of the Lackmans' success is organization. Tony, keeper of the until-now secret family recipe, knows in advance how many pounds of venison will be processed. He keeps scrupulous records each year and has each hunter's favorite seasonings ready, along with tags to identify the owner of each batch.

As many as 20 family members spanning three generations, as well as friends, share the day-long work/feast/reunion. The cozy basement fairly hums with activity as Tony directs grinding, seasoning and stuffing. Those not otherwise employed fetch ingredients, cook, carry finished sausage to the smoke house or relieve workers so they can refresh themselves with heaping plates of pork steak, sausage, scrapple, fried squirrel, eggs and coffee. "The only trouble," jokes one family member, "is that we all gain 10 pounds that weekend."

Putting poachers in a new "cell"

Dropping a dime on poachers just got easier. Cellular phone users served by Southwestern Bell now can touch *OGT to get a toll-free connection to Missouri's Operation Game Thief hot line.

The increasing number of people who carry cellular phones in their cars constitutes a huge network of mobile observers. Some hunters even carry cell phones to their deer stands, making it possible to report illegal activities from perches in trees.

Spotlighters, road hunters and other game thieves will be looking over their shoulders more than ever now.

Outdoor fun comes indoors

You can escape the rigors of winter with outdoor fun while staying inside the Hearnes Multi-Purpose Center Jan. 22, 23 and 24 in Columbia.

The annual All Sports Show will bring fishing, boating and other warm-weather recreation indoors. Seminars by professional anglers, exhibits from dozens of outdoor equipment manufacturers and retailers, fishing tackle demonstrations and merchandise give-aways are all part of the fun.

Hours are 3 to 9 p.m. Jan. 22, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Jan. 23 and 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Jan. 24. Admission is $4 for adults, free for children under 12 accompanied by adults.

Habitat Hints

Prune wisely for healthy trees

Judicious pruning can make trees healthier, safer, more valuable and more attractive. But to do the job right, you need proper tools and knowledge.

To start, you need hand shears, lopping shears and a pole mounted pruning tool. Here are some pruning tips.

  • Prune in late fall or early winter, before leaf development begins.
  • Always cut off limbs above the raised bark that marks the "branch collar."
  • Use the three-cut method (see illustration) to prevent torn bark.
  • Leave a healthy main branch intact as the tree's central leader. Prune other limbs to remove damaged or weak wood, improve shape and reduce hazards. Never "top" trees by cutting off all main branches at the same height.
  • Remove no more than one-third of a tree's live branches each year.

Dressing wounds with paint or other material is ok for cosmetic purposes, but it won't help trees heal. Healing takes place when bark from the branch collar grows over the wound.

For more detailed information on pruning, request the free publications, "Tree Pruning" and "Natural Target Pruning," from the Conservation Department or "Pruning Forest Trees" from the University of Missouri-Columbia Extension Division.

Nature centers have talon-ted visitors

Live hawks, owls and eagles will be the main attractions at Conservation Nature Center programs on Friday evenings this month.

Hawks will be the center of attention at Runge, Powder Valley and Burr Oak Woods conservation nature centers (CNCs). Springfield CNC will offer a program featuring several kinds of birds of prey. Times, dates and phone numbers for additional information are:

Runge CNC, Jefferson City, 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 8 ((573) 522-4312);

Powder Valley CNC, Kirkwood, 6:30 to 9 p.m. Jan. 15 ((314) 301-1500);

Burr Oak Woods CNC, Blue Springs, 7 to 10 p.m. Jan. 22 ((816) 228-3766);

Springfield CNC, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Jan. 29 ((417) 888-4237).

"I am glad that I shall never be young without wild country to be wild in. Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?"

-Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Outdoor talents sought

The Conservation Department is seeking entries for an outdoor talent contest and possible TV deal. Auditions Feb. 11, 12 and 13 will determine who gets to appear on the Conservation Department's Missouri Outdoors television show.

Winners will be selected in three age categories. Creativity, enthusiasm and fun are the judging criteria.

If you have always wanted to take an outdoors-related poem, skit, animal imitation or other talent on the road, call (314) 301-1500 by Feb. 6.