News and Almanac

Reminder: Paddlefish regulations have changed

Paddlefish snagging season opens March 15, and anglers need to remember that:

  • The Osage River between Bagnell Dam and the U.S. Highway 54 bridge is closed to snagging, snaring and grabbing from March 15 through April 30.
  • The minimum length limit is 34 inches on Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake and their tributaries.
  • You must stop snagging, snaring or grabbing for any species of fish after taking a daily limit of two paddlefish on Truman Lake and Lake of the Ozarks and their tributaries and on the Osage River below Highway 54.

Copies of the regulation summary are available free wherever fishing permits are sold.

Late Season Deer Harvest Jumps

Hunters bagged a record 4,092 deer during the December portion of Missouri's deer season and 13,703 during the January Extension of firearms deer season, pushing the season total to 193,720.

The deer kill during the December muzzleloader deer hunt was up 2,545 (165 percent) from the 1998 muzzleloader season. The number of deer checked during the 4-day January Extension was up 5,609 (69 percent) from last year's figure.

Hunters killed 18,745 fewer deer during the November hunt than in 1998, but they cut that deficit almost in half during the December and January hunts, finishing the year just 10,591 (5 percent) shy of the 1998-99 season total. No firearms deer hunting accidents were reported in December or January.

Centennial Forests: The River Drives (1910s)

They floated down the rivers by the millions, logs and railroad ties driven by swift water and the needs of a growing nation. These river drives were common along the Current, Black and Eleven Point rivers between 1880 and 1930.

Tram systems hauled most logs to the sawmills, but loggers took advantage of the river where they could. They skidded logs to yards and slides near the river. Oak logs, being heavier, were hacked into railroad ties and allowed to dry for six months to a year before a drive. Each log or tie was stamped with its owner's brand, since several companies would drive logs at the same time.

Drives started in early summer. Logs were rolled into the river or slid from high bluffs. Traveling only about a mile a day, they floated downstream to log booms at Van Buren, Doniphan and Clearwater. Here they were loaded on flatcars and hauled to mills.

"Drivers" guided the logs downstream. Equipped with lumbermen's levers and pike poles, their job was to keep the logs moving. They broke apart jams, freed snagged logs and nailed "deadheads," as sinking logs were called, to floating ones.

For working 10-hour days and spending months soaked to the skin, the drivers earned $1.50 a day. But they ate well. Commissary boats up to 32 feet long accompanied the drives with food, supplies and bed rolls.

The river drives ended in the late 1920s, when the big mills closed. Now, dancing from bank to bank on floating logs is an all-but-lost art on Missouri's streams.

-- Bruce Palmer

Combs Lake Getting Fishy

Combs Lake in Dunklin County has been stocked with fish and will open to fishing April 1. The 150-acre lake at Little River Lake Conservation Area received an initial stocking of 1,000 16-inch channel catfish to jump-start fishing action. It also got 7,500 black crappie, 75,000 bluegill, 7,500 redear sunfish and 15,000 largemouth bass fingerlings this spring.

The lake has a boat ramp with courtesy dock, parking area, fishing dock and privies. Fish-attracting structures have been installed at various locations throughout the lake.

All largemouth bass less than 15 inches long caught at Combs Lake must be released immediately. Daily limits will be six largemouth bass, four channel catfish, 30 crappie and 20 of all other species combined. The fish populations will take a year or two to develop. Anglers can speed up this process by releasing all small fish to allow them to grow.

Trail Training Helps Hikers Help Themselves

Hikers and backpackers can learn about trail construction, maintenance and ethics at a workshop April 1 at Babler State Park in St. Louis County. The workshop, sponsored by the Ozark Trail Team, is for people interested in volunteering to help maintain the Ozark Trail.

Trail teams adopt short sections of the Ozark Trail and help maintain them by clearing limbs and debris, cleaning drainage ditches, refurbishing trail surfaces and replacing signs. It's a great way to connect with other hiking enthusiasts and spend time on the trail.

0To enroll in the workshop, contact Niki Aberle, 728 W. Main St., Jefferson City, 65101. Phone (800) 575-2322 . E-mail <trailteam@socket.net>.

Deer, RV Shows Offer Outdoor Fun Indoors

Outdoors people overcome by spring fever have two opportunities this month to savor the anticipation of the coming hunting, fishing and camping seasons.

The Missouri Deer Classic will be held March 4 and 5 at the Boone County Fairgrounds on I-70 west of Columbia. Booths sponsored by hunting clubs, displays of the latest hunting equipment and exhibits of taxidermy are among the many attractions for deer hunters. The Classic will be open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. March 4 and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. March 5. Admission is $6. Children under 10 are free. For more information, call (800) 594-7017.

The 23rd annual St. Louis RV Camping and Travel Show will take place March 16 through 19 at the St. Louis Convention Center. The show will include nearly 500 recreational vehicles, displays of camping equipment and booths sponsored by campgrounds and resorts. Other attractions will include live deer and a display of antique recreational vehicles and accessories.

The RV show will be open from noon until 10 p.m. March 16, from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. March 17, from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. March 18 and from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. March 19. Admission is $7 for adults, $2 for children 6 to 12 and free for those under 6. For more information, call (314) 355-1236.

Eagle-eyed Hunter Saves Bird of Prey

Two hunters and a veterinarian saved the life of an eagle that fell victim to a freak accident in December.

Bill Tott was hunting deer near his home in Waldron Dec. 12 when he spied a large bird hanging in the top of a tree. The bird turned out to be a mature bald eagle dangling by its wing, which was caught in a forked limb.

At first, the bird appeared dead, but then the eagle-eyed Tott saw its eye blink. He phoned Senior Conservation Agent Steve Nichols and asked permission to rescue the bird. Using a deer rifle, Tott shot off the limb that held the eagle.

On the ground, the eagle seemed okay, but unable to fly. Nichols and Tott wrapped the female eagle in a hunting vest and took it to Smithville Animal Hospital, where Dr. Tom Del Pico took over. He repaired the injured wing, but then he faced the dilemma of feeding a wild eagle during its convalescence.

Knowing that eagles feed on waterfowl during the winter, Del Pico turned to a friend who hunts ducks. Duck breasts from the man's freezer sustained the eagle until it regained its strength.

The eagle took wing Dec. 21 at Smithville Lake, apparently none the worse for wear and deeply indebted to two hunters and a vet.

Seedlings Still Available for Spring Planting

George O. White State Forest Nursery has tree and shrub seedlings ready for immediate shipping. Items on hand include black walnut, pecan, sycamore, Osage orange, tulip poplar, bald cypress, cherrybark oak, persimmon, pin oak, flowering dogwood, redbud, deciduous holly, wild plum, aromatic sumac, red mulberry and several pine species.

At press time, the nursery still had Forest Legacy Bundles containing tree species that commonly live more than a century. Each Forest Legacy Bundle contains 20 seedlings, with two each of shortleaf pine, white oak, bald cypress, flowering dogwood, American hornbeam, Ohio buckeye, black cherry, sugar maple, black gum and yellow wood seedlings. The price is $15.

To learn what items still are available, call toll-free (800) 392-3111 or check the Conservation Department's Internet home page. Order forms are available at Conservation Department and University of Missouri Extension Service offices or by calling (573) 674-3229.

HABITAT HINTS

Ground-floor Dining Suits Some Birds

If your feeders don't attract the variety of birds you'd like to see, consider birds' varied feeding habits. White-throated sparrows and juncos, (also known as snow birds) are exclusively ground feeders. Other species, such as mourning doves and the sought- after northern cardinal, may go to feeder perches in a pinch but share the junco's preference for dining at ground level.

To keep ground-feeding birds where you can see them, buy or make a ground feeder. Essentially, a ground feeder is just window screen stretched over a wooden frame and raised a few inches off the ground on legs. Rain or water from a hose will wash away bird droppings, keeping the platform sanitary.

Ground feeders can be made more attractive to birds by placing them near brushy cover and water sources. Chipmunks, voles and white-footed mice may visit, too.

Plants are the ultimate wildlife feeders. They add beauty to your yard while providing natural food and shelter for birds. Deciduous holly, sumac, American bittersweet, buttonbush, spice bush, viburnums, dogwoods, hawthorns and cedars provide versatile landscaping options.

To learn more about making your yard a haven for wildlife, contact the Conservation Federation of Missouri's "Bring Nature Home" program, 728 W. Main St., Jefferson City, MO 65101, phone (800) 575-2322.

Snow Goose Reduction Effort Enters Second Year

Missouri hunters have until April 30 to hunt snow geese and help end an ongoing ecological disaster.

For the second year in a row, Congress has enacted a conservation order aimed at reducing the number of snow, blue and Ross geese, collectively known as light geese. The birds numbers have ballooned in recent years, topping 5 million. Their habit of grubbing up plants, roots and all, has turned hundreds of thousands of acres of tundra into wasteland. They can fly elsewhere to nest and feed, but other wildlife isn't so lucky.

The snow goose population boom has been fueled by a practically limitless supply of food from agricultural crops. Government agencies and private conservation groups agree it would be irresponsible to wait to see how much habitat will be destroyed--perhaps permanently--before disease or starvation ends the cycle.

Hunters can help. To encourage a substantial harvest of light geese, hunters will be allowed to use methods during the conservation order that are not permitted during the hunting season. Until April 30, they can use electronic calling devices and unplugged shotguns capable of holding more than three shells. Shooting hours are from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, and there is no daily or possession limit. A valid Missouri Migratory Bird Hunting Permit is the only license requirement.

Russian Economic Woes Idle Missouri Trappers

You might think that the Russian economy and raccoons rummaging in your trash are unrelated topics, but there may be a connection.

The Russian Federation is the world's largest consumer of furs. Because the Russian economy has been in a slump for several years, Russians are buying fewer furs. As pelts stack up in warehouses, fur prices drop, and when fur prices drop, trappers hang up their gear.

Sales of 1999-2000 Missouri trapping permits were the lowest since the 1950s. Missouri trappers took about 60,000 raccoons last season. Compare this with the 210,000 raccoons harvested by Missouri trappers last year and the high-water mark of 289,000 taken in 1981.

Harvest numbers for other furbearers showed similar drops. Less trapping means that raccoon, skunk, beaver and other furbearer populations will continue to increase. Consequently, Missourians can expect increased wildlife nuisance problems and more outbreaks of wildlife diseases like distemper and rabies.

Whitewater Events Approaching Rapidly

The Missouri Whitewater Canoeing and Kayaking Championships and regional qualifying competitions for the 2000 Olympic Team Trials are scheduled for March 18 and 19 at Millstream Gardens Conservation Area near Fredericktown. The events will take place March 25 and 26 if water levels prevent them from being held on the primary dates.

For more information, contact Dave Kovar, 5245 Lindenwood Ave., St. Louis, MO 63109. Phone (314) 752-4028. E-mail: <wahookovar@aol.com>.