News and Almanac

Retiree chooses Missouri River for rite of passage

Darrol Gasawski never wanted to leave Missouri, but he had to move to Omaha, Neb., to keep his job. When it came time to retire, he decided to make the trip home to St. Louis the slow, scenic, historic way. He floated home on the Missouri River. Wherever he stopped, people were captivated by his adventure and were eager to help. Some guarded his canoe and gear while he walked into town for supplies. Others offered him a hot shower and a soft bed for the night. High water and hot weather made the trip more challenging than expected, but he arrived home tan and relaxed in late June, 22 days and more than 600 miles after setting out.

Missouri law protects dogs

Missourians are permitted to protect livestock against marauding dogs, but a recent court case shows that landowners must show good sense in how they protect their property.

The case involved a Webster County landowner who suspected that free-running dogs had killed his cow. He attached a foot-hold trap to the cow’s carcass. When a neighbor’s dog went missing, she found her pet caught in the trap.

Setting a trap in this manner exposed any passing dog to injury, not just the suspected culprits. The judge in the case ordered the cow owner to pay restitution to the owner of the dog for its medical treatment. He also ordered a $1,000 fine but suspended that sentence, contingent on the cow owner’s good behavior during two years’ probation.

Livestock owners are only allowed to shoot dogs that are chasing or killing domestic animals. However, the mere fact that a dog has gone where it should not go is not legal justification for harming the animal. Section 578.012 of the Missouri Revised Statutes make intentionally killing or injuring a dog a class-A misdemeanor. Violators also are subject to civil suits for damages.

Ethical hunters do their best to keep their dogs off property where they are not wanted. Trespassing is illegal, so hunters should obtain permission before retrieving dogs that follow game onto others’ land.

New boat show docks in St. Charles Jan. 20-22

Ten boat dealers have agreed to take part in the new St. Charles Convention Center’s first boat show Jan. 20-22. Cruisers, ski boats, aluminum and fiberglass fishing boats, pontoon boats, deck boats, personal watercraft and high-performance boats will be on display, along with fishing gear and boating-related products. Hours are from noon to 10 p.m., Jan. 20; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Jan. 21; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Jan. 22. Admission is $4. Children under 12 are admitted free. For more information, visit online or call (314) 355-1236.

Spotted gar record falls

Brent Meyer of New Haven entered the Missouri state fishing record book with this 6-pound spotted gar caught on Boeuf Creek in Franklin County on Aug. 27. The 34-inch fish bit on a rooster-tail spinner. Information about Missouri’s state-record fish program is available online or from State Record Fish, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, (573) 751-4115.

RV SHOW HAS NASCAR THEME

“Start Your Engines” is the theme for the 29th St. Louis RV, Camping and Travel Show Jan. 12-15 at the America’s Center in downtown St. Louis. An appearance by the NASCAR #38 M&M Simulator and #88 UPS Show Car will highlight the racing theme. Also on the program are travel documentaries about the southeast and northeast coasts and Alaska. Visitors will get to see the latest in recreational vehicles and accessories and visit with representatives of campgrounds, resorts and travel destinations. Hours are noon to 10 p.m., Jan. 12; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Jan. 13; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Jan. 14; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Jan. 15. Admission is $8 for adults and $3.50 for children ages 6 to 12. Seniors pay only $5 on Jan. 12 and 13. For more information, visit onlineor call (314) 355-1236.

Abuse Missouri streams, lose hunting privileges

Misusing off-road vehicles can be expensive, with fines running into the hundreds of dollars. Now, irresponsible off-roaders can lose hunting and fishing privileges, too.

In August, the Conservation Commission approved a policy aimed at curbing stream damage from all-terrain and four-wheel-drive vehicles. Under the new policy, the Conservation Department recommends hunting and fishing permit suspensions following procedures already in place for other Wildlife Code violations.

One-year suspensions will be the rule, but the period varies with the seriousness of the offense. Those who lose privileges in Missouri also will lose their ability to hunt and fish in 19 other states that belong to the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.

Broomsedge creates excellent quail cover

When is low fertility in a pasture a good thing? When broomsedge is present, and you want to encourage bobwhite quail.

Broomsedge—a native warm-season grass—is familiar to anyone who has driven Missouri’s back roads in winter. Its orange-tan stems catch the warm glow of early-morning and late-evening sunlight, turning pastures into watercolor paintings.

Not only is broomsedge pretty, it also creates excellent cover for quail and other ground-nesting birds. This hardy grass thrives in soils with low fertility, so converting fields where broomsedge already exists into quail habitat is easy.

The first step is to mow, hay, graze or burn the field. Apply a nonselective herbicide after the first killing frost to take out cool-season grasses. To enhance a broomsedge field’s wildlife value, overseed with native wildflowers, legumes or other warm-season grasses, such as little bluestem or side oats gramma. This is best done between November and February.

Maintenance is as simple as burning or lightly disking a third of the field each year. For more quail management tips, visit online.

2006 ARBOR DAY POSTER CONTEST

Missouri fifth-graders should check out the 2006 Arbor Day Poster Contest. The contest theme is “Trees are Terrific...In All Shapes and Sizes!”

The Conservation Department sent contest information packets to public and private schools in October. Home-school teachers and others can request packets from Donna Baldwin, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102, Donna.Baldwin@mdc.mo.gov.

Participating teachers receive free curriculum materials, including in-depth lesson plans, hands-on activities and contest information. Each school’s winning poster advances to statewide competition. The state winner goes to the national contest.

State contest submissions are due Feb. 17. The state winner receives a $50 savings bond and a framed certificate from Forest ReLeaf of Missouri.

The Arbor Day Foundation announces the national winner in April. The winner, parents and teacher of the winning student receive an expense-paid trip to the event. The winner also receives a $1,000 savings bond. The winning teacher gets $200 for classroom materials.

Unionville tree decorates Governor’s yard

A Colorado blue spruce that had grown too big for a mini-park in Unionville fits perfectly on the front lawn of the governor’s mansion in Jefferson City.

Unionville’s City Council donated the 30- to 35-foot-tall tree for use as the Governor’s Christmas Tree. The spruce was planted in the mid 1970s as part of a community betterment project associated with the nation’s bicentennial celebration. As the tree grew, however, its limbs blocked a sidewalk and its roots threatened nearby historical buildings.

The council’s decision puts the well-proportioned tree to good use and saves removal costs. After cutting down the tree, the Conservation Department set it up at the governor’s mansion, where it will remain through Christmas. In return for the donation, the Conservation Department will provide Unionville a tree that won’t outgrow its space in the park.

Missouri mountain lion on display

This 105-pound mountain lion, which was struck and killed by a car on Highway 54 near Fulton in August 2003, is on display at the Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City. The male cat still had faint dark stripes on its fur, marking it as a juvenile.

Agent Notebook

Rabbit hunting with beagles on brisk fall and winter days is full of excitement and happy frustrations. You hear the dogs barking—getting closer— and you know a rabbit will soon be near. In thick cover, you may or may not see a rabbit as it goes by. Sometimes, while you are walking, a rabbit will explode from under your feet. Talk about fun!

When the kids have a day off from school, we include them in the rabbit hunt, placing them where they will have the greatest chance of getting a successful shot. Watching those kids is more fun than our own hunting.

Rabbit hunting also provides a good opportunity to teach kids about hunter safety and sportsmanship. It’s easier to teach kids if they can watch you practicing the lessons you are teaching. That means making sure to shoot only at game you can see, not taking a shot when anyone is in your line of fire and properly caring for the game you shoot.

Although it’s not required, we’ve found it helpful to wear hunter orange while rabbit hunting. Often, when hunting in tall, thick cover, the only part of my hunting partners I could see was their hunter-orange vest or hat.

Rabbit season in Missouri runs through February 15. When you go, remember that a lapse of safety can easily result in tragedy. Let’s enjoy what nature offers us. —Eric Swainston, Miller County