News and Almanac

Turkey hunters bag 55,000 gobblers

Turkey hunters killed 55,302 gobblers during Missouri's spring turkey season. The total was slightly lower than the record mark set in the 2000 season.

Despite of a slow start, the 2001 spring turkey harvest is the second largest on record. The number of turkeys taken by hunters jumped in 1998, when Missouri held its first three-week spring season.

Ten hunting accidents marred the three-week season, but none were fatal.

Macon County came from behind to take the top spot in county harvest totals, with 1,188 birds checked. Texas County, which posted a harvest of 1,080 birds, occupied second-place, where it had been all season. Franklin County, which led harvest totals for the first two weeks of the season, fell to third in the final standings with 1,069 gobblers checked.

Regional totals were: northeast, 10,229; northwest, 8,401; west-central, 7,977; east-central, 6,120; central, 6,074; Ozark, 4,712; southwest, 4,567; southeast, 4,417; Kansas City, 1,422; and St. Louis, 1,383.

Immature male turkeys, also known as "jakes," made up 26 percent of the 2001 harvest. This confirms surveys indicating strong reproduction last year and is a good sign for next year's turkey season.

Media, Citizens Bring Eagle Killers to Justice

A chorus of concerned citizens helped catch eagle killers and their accomplices in southwest Missouri.

One of two cases involving eagles opened the day of Jan. 1 when Barry County Conservation Agent Charles Marrs got a telephone tip that someone had shot a bald eagle. Venturing out in a blinding snow storm, he retrieved the bird’s carcass. Because eagles are protected by federal law, he reported the incident to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and sent the carcass to a federal crime lab for autopsy, which confirmed that the bird had been shot.

On March 2, Marrs got a call saying that another eagle had been killed. Joining in the public’s outrage, southwest Missouri news media hammered away at the story, urging anyone with information about the cases to call law enforcement officials.

"My phone rang like crazy," said Marrs. "I got good, solid information from six different people. We interrogated the suspects and got confessions."

Jesse L. Beck, 19, of Wheaton, pleaded guilty in federal district court in Springfield to killing a bald eagle that Marrs found on New Year’s Day. The federal magistrate sentenced him to one year’s probation and 120 hours of community service. A fine might have seemed more impressive, but Marrs noted that the young man is paying dearly in a type of currency that’s valuable to him.

"He is not allowed to possess firearms during his probation, so he can’t hunt," said Marrs. "He didn’t have thousands of dollars, so a fine would probably have come out of someone else’s pocket. This way, he’s going to spend most of his weekends this summer thinking about what he did while he picks up beer cans at conservation areas."

Bobby Gene Brown, 40, of Rocky Comfort, pleaded guilty to hiding the firearm Beck used to kill the eagle. He received a $1,000 fine and one year of probation.

One other man from Wheaton also has been charged in federal district court as an accessory after the fact for hiding the bird and loading it into Beck’s vehicle. His case had not been adjudicated at press time. Two others have been charged in connection with the March eagle killing. Their cases also were unresolved when this issue of the Conservationist went to press.

The citizen callers who helped break the case have been recommended for cash rewards under the Operation Game Thief (OGT) program sponsored by the Conservation Federation of Missouri. An anonymous donor has promised to match the usual $1,000 maximum reward for a possible payoff of $2,000 in the cases.

OGT rewards also are possible in connection with an eagle shot at Lake Wappapello in Wayne County in March. That bird was alive when authorities found it, but its legs had been mangled by a rifle shot. The bird eventually had to be euthanized. To file an anonymous report about this case or to qualify for a reward, call (800) 392-1111.

Youngsters Gobble Up a Mess of Turkeys

Young hunters killed 2,530 wild turkeys during Missouri’s first-ever youth spring turkey hunting season April 14-15. Between 7,000 and 10,000 youngsters participated in the youth season. That makes the youth hunters’ success rate 25 to 36 percent. This is slightly below the success rate of hunters in the regular spring turkey season, but they only had two days instead of the 21 days available during the regular spring turkey season.

Five-year-old Justin R. Klingsmith of Green Castle bagged his first turkey during Missouri's first-ever youth turkey hunting season April 14 and 15. He used a .410 shotgun to kill the 22-pound gobbler. Justin is the son of Shaun and Carol Klingsmith.

Temperatures Drop, Eagle Numbers Soar

Travel agents don’t promote Missouri as a winter getaway, but every year thousands of bald eagles flock to the Show-Me State to escape frigid conditions in the upper Midwest.

Eagles need open water where they can hunt their favorite winter foods, fish and waterfowl. The colder the weather north of Missouri, the greater the number of eagles that fly south to hunt along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and Missouri’s large reservoirs. Last winter was especially cold, so it’s not surprising that Missouri’s 2001 eagle survey Jan. 2 through Jan. 5 turned up a record 2,880 eagles. That is significantly more than the 2000 count of 1,970 and the previous record of 2,621, set in 1997.

All but 14 eagles counted in Missouri this year were bald eagles. Three were golden eagles, and 11 were unidentified. Immature bald eagles can be difficult to distinguish from golden eagles.

Frigid weather also affects where eagles settle within the state. Because all the smaller lakes, ponds and streams froze this winter, eagles concentrated around big rivers and lakes. The largest concentration of eagles, 414, was reported in Pike County, along the Mississippi River. Lincoln County, which also fronts the Mississippi River, posted a count of 214 eagles. Counters tallied 250 eagles in Barry County, in the upper part of Table Rock Lake.

Private Landowners Get Public Praise

Workers in the Conservation Department’s Private Land Services Division get to rub elbows with the most conservation-minded landowners in the state. So when they single out someone for special recognition, you know that person has done something special for Missouri wildlife.

Dr. Wayne "Doc" Morton received the Private Land Services Division’s Landowner Conservationist Award for his tireless work on behalf of prairie chickens and prairie conservation. His carefully managed wheat field hosts one of the largest greater prairie chicken booming grounds in the state.

Quail Unlimited (QU) received the division’s Partnership Award for "putting its money where its mouth is" in support of quail management. QU has pledged $203,600 for quail habitat over a two-year period. The "Bring Back Bob" habitat initiative provides funding for practices that benefit quail and other wildlife that need grassland edge habitat. QU also has a program that lets its chapters buy warm-season grass seed at a discount for landowners who are establishing native grass stands.

QU’s partnership goes beyond funding. QU representatives, primarily Regional Director Jeff Hodges, have developed and staffed the Missouri Quail Academy. The intensive, week-long workshop teaches future land managers and community leaders about quail biology and management. It also prepares them to put that knowledge to work through grassroots activism.

The Private Land Services Division’s Team Award went to the Headwaters EQIP Working Group. The group consists of landowners and workers with resource management agencies in the eastern Ozark region. It has succeeded in getting 740,000 acres of forest land accepted in the federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). It is one of the first EQIP priority areas in the nation to recognize the significance of forest management issues to agriculture.

Learn to Fish June 9-10 in Branson

Branson area residents and vacationers can get fishing lessons from experts at Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery’s Family Fishing Fair June 9-10.

The event will run from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. both days at the fish hatchery in Branson. Participants can learn about where to fish, what to use, fishing regulations, safety and fish anatomy. They also will get to practice casting and view demonstrations of fly tying and fish cleaning. Entertainment will be provided by the comedy act "Fishin’ Magicians."

For directions to the site and more information, call (417) 334-4865.

Private Land Services Division's Landowner Conservationist Award

Dr. Wayne "Doc" Morton received the Private Land Services Division’s Landowner Conservationist Award for his work in conserving prairie chickens and prairie habitat. Presenting the award were Division Administrator George Seek and Private Land Services West-central Region Supervisor Max Alleger.

Conservation Monitor Asks "What do you think?"

The Conservation Department periodically asks Missourians what they think about conservation issues through the Conservation Monitor attitude survey. The 2000 survey, conducted by the Gallup Organization, showed that:

  • 80 percent of Missourians are satisfied with the way the state cares for its fish and wildlife.
  • 77 percent approve of the state’s forest management
  • 47 percent approve of cutting down trees for lumber, furniture and other wood products.
  • 85 percent think the Conservation Department should restore animals that once lived here.
  • 82 percent believe that land should be acquired for fish, forest and wildlife conservation.
  • 88 percent approve of hunting for food.
  • 68 percent agree that trapping is OK as long as it is regulated.

Asked what they considered the most important problem facing Missouri, respondents most often said highways and roads, followed by education, lack of school funding and the environment.

Applications Open July 1 for Managed Deer Hunts

Hunters can apply for one of Missouri’s managed deer hunts starting July 1. Applications can be filed by calling (800) 829-2956 between 4 a.m. and midnight seven days a week or by visiting the Conservation Department’s Web page, <www.mdc.mo.gov>.

You will need a "2001 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Information" booklet, available wherever hunting permits are sold. It contains application instructions and a complete list of managed deer hunts. You must use a touch-tone telephone to apply by phone.

Most applicants will be notified by Sept. 10 of whether they have been drawn for a hunt. After that date, applicants can check the status of their applications on the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system or the Conservation Department Web page, using their conservation identification number.

Only Resident Managed Deer Hunt Permits ($15) and Nonresident Managed Deer Hunt Permits ($125) are valid for managed hunts. The number of deer that may be taken with a single permit depends on the hunt for which they are issued. In some hunts, up to three may be taken.

Applications received before July 1 will not be accepted.

Chances of being drawn are much better for some hunts than for others. For instance, every hunter who applied for managed hunts at the following areas last year were successful:

  • The archery hunt at Weldon Spring Conservation Area (CA) Dec. 1-20.
  • The archery hunt at Weldon Spring CA Dec. 26 through Jan. 15.
  • The archery hunt at Whetstone Creek CA Nov. 22 through Jan. 15.
  • The muzzleloader hunt at August A. Busch Memorial CA Nov. 13-15.
  • The historic weapons hunt at Fort Leonard Wood Dec. 22-23.

Hunts with high acceptance rates last season included the following:

  • The archery hunt at August A. Busch Memorial CA Oct. 14-22 (93 percent).
  • The archery hunt at Peck Ranch CA (76 percent).
  • The youth-only firearms hunt at Smithville Lake Jan. 6-7 (60 percent).

Drawing odds for managed deer hunts offered in 2000-2001 are listed online at www.mdc.mo.gov/hunt/deer/mgndeer/.

You can’t apply for a youth-only deer hunt via the Internet or the IVR system. See the "2001 Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Information" booklet for application procedures. If the booklet is not yet available in your area, you can find the information online  under keywords, "managed deer."

Conservation E-Commerce Site Up and Running

Missourians who want to browse through goods offered by The Nature Shop can now do so from home. The Conservation Department’s e-commerce site is up and running.

Nature Shop goods ranging from video games to plush toys - all with a natural theme - are available online. For instance, you can buy Habitactics, an interactive CD-ROM game that allows players to manage various types of Missouri habitat. All the Conservation Department’s field guides to plants and animals, hunting areas, fishing spots and hiking trails are available online. You’ll also find hand-painted hummingbird jewelry, conservation-theme clothing, audiotapes of bird and frog songs, video introductions to fishing and birdwatching and more.

Conservation Heritage Card holders can get the same 15-percent discount they receive when buying in person at nature centers and regional Conservation Department offices. And don’t miss the "Special Offers" section, where you can find sale items, such as American bison plush toys, at clearance prices.

Take a Hike! ...At a Conservation Area

Conservation areas offer hiking opportunities 365 days a year. The Conservation Department just completed an inventory that identified 226 designated trails stretching 637.9 miles through forests, prairies and glades at 122 conservation areas. These include 11 miles of disabled-accessible trails at 19 conservation areas and 20 miles of self-guided interpretive trails on 15 conservation areas. There’s also 373 miles of trails open to bicycling at 43 conservation areas and more than 350 miles of trails open to horseback riding on 34 conservation areas.

Detailed information about 86 of these trails is condensed in the 91-page book "Conservation Trails: A guide to Missouri Department of Conservation Hiking Trails." The book has a map of each trail and a description of trail type, surface, signage, corridor dimensions and difficulty. To discover conservation trails near you, get out your hiking shoes and order a copy of the trails guide for $4, plus tax and shipping, from the Conservation Department E-commerce site:<www.mdcnature shop.com/>.

Build Yourself a Butterfly Berm

Nothing makes a garden look more alive than a flurry of colorful butterflies. You can attract them to your garden by building a "butterfly berm" stocked with native plants.

Butterflies prefer flowers with flat, open tops that provide places to rest, sip nectar and warm their wings in the sun. Butterfly weed and other plants in the milkweed family are especially attractive to monarch butterflies. Other plants with "landing pad" flowers include Joe-Pye weed, phlox, asters, wild bergamot and coneflowers.

Certain shrubs also are butterfly magnets. With its sweet "honey-ball" blossoms, shade-tolerant buttonbush is irresistible. Spicebush is a host plant for spicebush swallowtails. Drought-tolerant New Jersey tea boasts billows of white flower clusters that draw a variety of butterflies.

Butterflies also need water, but birdbaths and ponds are too deep for them.

Create a safe butterfly watering spot with a clay saucer filled with damp sand or an old birdbath filled with rocks and pebbles.

Many butterfly plants are available from nurseries through the Grow Native! program. For a list of participating nurseries and more information about gardening with native plants, visit their web site or send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Grow Native!, P.O. Box 104671, Jefferson City, MO 65110.

Butterfly Berm Plants

Short Plants

  • butterfly weed
  • downy phlox
  • garden phlox
  • river oats
  • rose verbena
  • shining blue star
  • wild bergamot

Medium Plants

  • aromatic aster
  • buttonbush
  • New Jersey tea
  • purple coneflower
  • rough blazing star
  • slender mountain mint
  • yellow coneflower

Tall Plants

  • green hawthorn
  • Joe-Pye weed
  • little bluestem
  • prairie blazing star
  • stiff goldenrod
  • swamp milkweed
  • wild senna

Think Legally, Act Locally to Stop Dumping

Ugly, dangerous and illegal roadside dumps mar some of Missouri’s most scenic landscapes. Once they get started, they are almost impossible to eradicate. But the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a couple of methods to discourage illegal dumpers.

The DNR’s new Local Environmental Enforcement Program sponsors workshops to train officials throughout the state how to combat illegal dumping. Finally, the DNR has a new service that allows citizens to report illegal dumping anonymously online.

For more information about these programs, call (800) 361-4827.

New Bill Puts Fish Back In The Clean Water Act

U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond recently reintroduced The Fishable Waters Act (S.678). The bill and its companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 325, take aim at America’s 4 million surface acres of degraded lakes and streams.

The bills, which have bipartisan support, create voluntary incentives for restoring degraded watersheds and preserving fish habitat on private land. They would encourage the formation of local watershed councils to develop and implement plans to revive fish habitat.

Norville Prosser, vice-president of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), expressed his organization’s gratitude to Bond and other sponsors. "The Fishable Waters Act could be the most significant piece of legislation concerning fisheries we’ve seen in a decade or more," he said. "The Fishable Waters Act will do for fisheries habitat what the Clean Water Act has accomplished for water quality. Thirty years ago, the Clean Water Act promised Americans ‘fishable and swimmable’ waters. While water quality itself has improved significantly as a result of the Clean Water Act, aquatic habitat health has continued to lag far behind."

Bond said the bill would give local communities the opportunity and the means ($325 million) to improve neighborhood waters. "This new generation approach empowers people at the local level who have the greatest understanding and the most at stake in the success of environmental protection," Bond said.

"Fish are the proverbial canaries in a coal mine," said Prosser. "If a body of water can’t support healthy populations of fish - and nearly 40 percent of our nation’s waterways can’t - then there is something seriously wrong with that water body."

If successful, the Fishable Waters Act would return 4 million acres of water to fishable quality. That would support nearly 1.4 million anglers, whose fishing would annually generate $2 billion in economic activity.

Over the past several years, the ASA has worked closely with the anglers, farmers and conservationists who form the Fishable Waters Coalition. These groups have been adversaries on other issues, but they have united to support the Fishable Waters Act.

Check Out Trophy Deer Online

If you’re interested in the biggest whitetail bucks ever taken in Missouri, you might want to visit the Web site of the Missouri Show-Me Big Bucks Club, <www.missourishowmebigbucksclub.org>. Click on "Club Records and Journal," and for $10 you can get a complete listing of Missouri’s top-scoring typical and non-typical bucks. Listings are arranged by numerical ranking, by county, by weapon and by the year they were taken.

The price tag also includes a library of the Show-Me Big Bucks Club Hunting Journal. This contains all the journals published (currently two per year) featuring photos and hunting stories by club members, plus information from outdoor writers and hunting experts about whitetail deer hunting in Missouri. Finally, you will receive a listing of the shed-antler records and the Master Hunter and Missouri Top 50 programs.