News and Almanac

Missouri's Outdoor Women to meet at Windermere

Fresh air, sparkling water and the company of other outdoors-loving women will make the Missouri's Outdoor Women gathering June 11-13 a weekend to remember. The event is a chance for novices to learn outdoor skills from expert women instructors. The event will be held at the Windermere Conference Center, a state-of-the-art facility on 1, 300 acres at Lake of the Ozarks.

Workshop offerings will include basic fishing, canoeing, archery, map and compass skills, primitive skills, fly fishing, shotgun shooting, rifle/handgun shooting, watercraft operation and nature hiking. Register by April 23 for reduced rates. Late registrations will be accepted until May 14. For more information, contact Regina Knauer, (417) 895-6881, ext. 1068, <Regina. Knauer@mdc.mo.gov>, Kathi Moore at (660) 785-2424, ext. 228, <Kathi. Moore@mdc.mo.gov> or Nickie Phillips, (573) 522-4115, ext. 3292, <Nickie. Phillips@mdc.mo.gov>.

BLIND PONY LAKE CLOSES FOR RENOVATIONS

Anglers who enjoy fishing Blind Pony Lake at Blind Pony Lake Conservation Area in Saline County will have to find other places to wet a line for awhile. The good news is that when the lake reopens it will be better than ever.

Besides being a great fishing hole, the 195-acre lake supplies water for the Conservation Department's Blind Pony Fish Hatchery. Techniques for the production of hard-to-rear species like paddlefish, lake sturgeon and Niangua darters were developed at this hatchery. Other species produced here include largemouth bass, walleye, catfish, sunfish and bluegills.

Since it was created 35 years ago, the lake has been filling with silt. Reduced water quality and quantity limit the hatchery's ability to grow sport fish, and to raise endangered pallid sturgeon for restoration efforts on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

This last connection has prompted the federal government to help pay for lake renovation. Work will include dredging to deepen the lake, replacing hatchery water supply lines and inspecting and refurbishing the lake's boat ramp, fishing docks, jetties and other facilities. The lake will reopen in approximately four years.

Only the lake will be closed, the rest of the area, including four small ponds will remain open as usual for the public. For more information, contact Hatchery Manager Gary Heidrich, (660) 335-4531 or Fisheries Management Biologist Phil Pitts, (573) 884-6861, ext. 279.

Turkey watchers needed

The Conservation Department is looking for volunteer observers to help keep an eye on our wild turkeys.

During June, July and August, these "turkey brood survey cooperators" record sightings of turkey hens and poults on a self-addressed, stamped postcard provided by the Department. At the end of the observation period, they can simply drop the card in the mail. These entries help the Department's turkey biologists estimate the strength of the year's turkey hatch. This is important in determining the number of turkeys in the overall population, as well as reproduction trends and cycles.

"The people who serve as turkey brood survey cooperators are our eyes and ears in the field, " said Jeff Beringer, turkey biologist for the Conservation Department. "We need their help to monitor the turkey population each year. Conservation agents and biologists also help, of course, but we still need citizens who are out there on a daily basis. "

To sign up, e-mail Jeff Beringer at <jeff. beringer@mdc.mo.gov>, or call him at (573) 882-9909, ext. 3211.

State Championship Mushroom Hunt & Festival

Get ready for great fun and good eating at the second annual Missouri State Championship Mushroom Hunt and Festival in Pike County.

The event, which includes a competitive morel mushroom hunt, mushroom auction, mushroom foods and mushroom-themed booths, starts with evening activities April 23 in Louisiana, Missouri. The hunt runs from 10 a. m. to noon April 24 on designated land. Trophies are awarded to the contestant who brings in the most mushrooms, and to those who find the largest and smallest mushrooms.

The $25 entry fee is tax deductible. Event proceeds go to the non-profit Dixon Whitney Foundation, which administers a Pike County cultural center. More information is available by phone at (573) 754-7988 or by e-mail at <teres@big-river. net>.

GOOD NEWS FOR TRAPPERS

Early results from Missouri's 2003-2004 fur auctions show average prices are up for bobcats ($82), otters ($122), raccoons ($13. 38), beaver ($10. 66) and gray fox ($20. 15)

Humburg first to receive international honor

Waterfowl biologist Dale Humburg, who now heads the Conservation Department's Resource Science Division, recently became the first recipient of a new international conservation award. Humburg received the Robert Todd Eberhardt Award at the North American Duck Symposium in Sacramento, California, last November.

The award is named for a Minnesota waterfowl biologist who was admired for his broad experience, passion for waterfowl conservation and humility. The award was established to recognize the work of state or provincial biologists who work behind the scenes while making substantial contributions to waterfowl conservation in North America.

DISCOVERY PROGRAM FOCUSES ON YORK

Recently, the Gallery and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) teamed with the Conservation Department's Discovery Center in Kansas City to present a program on York, slave of William Clark, who accompanied Lewis and Clark on the Voyage of Discovery.

Sculptor and poet, Porter Williams, portrayed York in a living history reenactment titled: Whatever Happened to York? Williams explored York's unique place in history and offered insights and questions about this often overlooked American figure.

ASALH Board and Porter Williams (York) at the Discovery Center (left to right): Diane E. Bratton, Emanuel Cooper, Jr. , Brenda Vann, Porter Williams, Evelyn J. Hunt, Dennis Robinson.

Groups trying to beautify Big Muddy

On a field trip last fall to Big Muddy National Wildlife Refuge near Rocheport, (Columbia) Hickman High School students planted trees to help restore the river's once-extensive bottomland hardwood forests.

Starting this month, Missouri River Relief will conduct a continuous, eight week campaign to remove trash from the river between St. Louis and Kansas City. The effort will be just in time to benefit thousands of people following the footsteps of the Corps of Discovery during the Lewis and Clark bicentennial celebration. For more information, contact Missouri River Relief, P.O. Box 463, Columbia, MO 65205, <riverrelief@riverrelief. org> or visit online.

GETTING EDGY WITH BOBWHITES

Living on the edge is good for bobwhite quail. They thrive in broad, brushy edges between open fields and woodlots or wooded fencerows.

Plant grasses and legumes in edge areas for maximum benefit to quail, as well as pheasants, meadowlarks, shrikes, rabbits and many other wild species. Native warm-season grasses, such as bluestems and Indian grass, add food and concealing cover for wildlife around crop fields. Other grasses, like redtop and timothy, are also beneficial for these purposes. Widening existing borders not only protects ground-nesting birds from predators, it also increases space for turning around farm equipment.

To keep brushy edges quail-friendly, keep them open with periodic mowing, burning or light disking. These activities should be delayed until after July 15 to avoid destroying nests. It's also best to disturb no more than half of your field borders each year.

"Bringing back Bob" on conservation land

"Bring Back Bob, " the rallying cry for bobwhite quail restoration efforts, is more than a slogan in Missouri. The Conservation Department is setting an example on its own land with burning, light disking, tree and brush cutting and other measures to increase and improve quail habitat.

On some areas, conservation workers conduct "edge feathering"with chainsaws. This creates 30-foot strips with brush piles and shrubby growth along field edges.

Heavy equipment helps. One person on a bulldozer equipped with an 8-foot "shear blade" can accomplish in minutes what used to take a crew of workers hours or days to do. A "clipper" that grasps trees up to 14 inches in diameter by the trunk, snips them off at ground level and arranges them into brush piles also saves time and labor.

Work is ongoing at dozens of conservation areas statewide. Hunters, take note of cleared areas you encounter around field edges. These are quail factories in the making.

Turkey hunting information online

Lose your Spring Turkey Hunting Information booklet? No problem, the information is available online.

Former Conservation Commissioner dies

Ewart H. Burch, who served as a Missouri conservation commissioner from 1959 to 1965, died Dec. 30 in Prairie Village, Kan. He was 93. In addition to his public service, Burch was a member of the Waterfowler's Hall of Fame in Mound City. The family requests memorial gifts be made to the Waterfowler's Hall of Fame, Box 197, Mound City, MO 64470.

Pianist to tour nature centers

John Nilsen, whose musical talent has won him acclaim in the northeastern United States, will perform at Conservation Department nature centers in May. Nilson is known for his ability to capture the essence of outdoor experiences in music. He will appear:

  • May 6 at 7 p. m. at the Kansas City Discovery Center;
  • May 7 at 7 p. m. at the Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City;
  • May 8 at 7 p. m. at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center;
  • May 9 at 2 p. m. at the Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center, Kirkwood.

The program is recommended for audiences 12 and older.

Turkey Federation has helpful tips

Have you ever wondered how people used to make turkey calls out of the turkey wing bones? Have you wanted to make a wall mount with a big gobbler's tail fan? Have you wondered how to locate the best public turkey hunting lands? This information and much more is available at the National Wild Turkey Federation's online Tips and Adventures page.

Conservation Commission acts to protect sturgeon

In December, the Conservation Commission voted to establish areas of the Missouri River where commercial take of shovelnose sturgeon is not allowed. This decision was in response to concerns that commercial harvest might reduce sturgeon numbers in the river. The Commission also created a $500 Missouri River Shovelnose Sturgeon Commercial Harvest Permit and set seasons and limits for the harvest of shovelnose sturgeon. The new regulations go into effect July 1.

Gun deer harvest tops a quarter-million

Missouri's 2003 firearms deer harvest of 254, 367 is a new record. Hunters took 208, 940 deer during the 11-day November portion. Blackpowder hunters shot 11, 131 deer during the 10-day muzzleloader portion, and modern gun hunters took 25, 151 deer during the nine-day, antlerless-only portion. Youths killed 9, 054 deer during their two-day hunt, and hunters during the two-day urban portion of the season bagged 91 deer.

If you figure an average of 40 pounds of venison per deer, the 2003 harvest works out to more than 5, 000 tons of meat taken by hunters.

"Dear Diary: Caught a catfish today"

A survey to learn more about catfish at Truman Lake is in its second year and is seeking volunteers. Anglers who are willing to keep fishing diaries for their time at Truman Lake can win cash prizes ranging from $10 to $100.

From April through October, participating anglers fill out a simple survey form after each catfish fishing trip. They can mail in their diary forms postage free or fill out electronic diary forms. Active volunteers have the chance to win prizes of $10 to $100 at the end of the fishing season. For more information, contact Resource Scientist Kevin Sullivan, (660) 885-8179 x224, <Kevin.Sullivan@mdc.mo.gov&gt;.

IT'S SPRING--WATCH FOR SCALES AND TAILS

Ah, April! Spring peeper frogs are calling from ponds. Box turtles are crossing highways. Garter snakes are coming out of winter dens to bask in the sun. It's good to see nature on the move again.

Unfortunately, spring is a dangerous time for amphibians and reptiles. Biologists aren't sure how much impact highway mortality has on the continuing decline of salamanders, frogs, lizards, turtles and snakes, but it certainly can't help the populations of these species. Where possible, and without endangering human life, try to avoid hitting these creatures as they cross roadways.

Lewis & Clark fans can help stem zebra mussel spread

Conservation agencies have a favor to ask of the thousands of people expected to celebrate the Lewis and Clark bicentennial with Missouri River boating excursions: Please help stop the spread of zebra mussels.

Wherever it goes, the small, seemingly insignificant clam is causing tremendous damage to industrial and boating equipment. It is also devastating native mussel populations and upsetting the ecological balance of lakes and streams.

Prevention is simple. Just follow the advice in the 2004 "Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations"or write for a free brochure to Zebra Mussels: Missouri's Most Unwanted, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.

AGENT NOTEBOOK

Most of us have experienced a moment in our lives that alters our path and sets us off in a new direction. Look back, and I'll bet you can recognize an insight or a chance encounter that you believe is responsible for who you are and how you make your living.

I was 10 years old when the moment occurred that would lead me to become a conservation agent. As my father and I were hunting rabbits one winter morning, a conservation agent approached us. The agent looked at the rabbits we had shot and then checked my dad's hunting permit.

He then stayed around and made small talk. I was intrigued by his uniform and was impressed by his deep, authoritative voice. Before he left, the agent shook my father's hand and my hand. On the way home, I asked my dad who that man was, why was he there, and how he found us.

By the time I entered high school, I pretty much knew that I wanted to become a conservation agent. Throughout college, I learned more about who and what conservation agents are. I found out that they wear many different hats. Certainly, their job is to enforce Missouri's Wildlife Code, but they also have to know a lot about all facets of conservation. Agents are the primary conservation contact for many people and constantly have to answer questions about almost all conservation subjects, from fish biology to habitat management. It's a great job!

Now that I have been a conservation agent for a few years, I sometimes refer back to that crystal clear, winter morning when I was 10, and wonder if I have made the same impression on another youngster. I hope so. -- Mike Abdon