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Wildlife refuge photo contest

Missourians who photograph nature at the Show-Me State’s nine national wildlife refuges can enter digital images in the Refuge Photo Contest sponsored by the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA). Winners will receive prizes worth hundreds of dollars.

The NWRA sponsors the contest to increase awareness of the national wildlife refuge system and give amateur photographers a chance to share their favorite images. Entries must be digital images, but the content can be plants, animals, insects, people, rocks or landscapes—anything found on a national wildlife refuge. Contest information and details about national wildlife refuges are available online. Entries must be submitted by Jan. 31.

Missouri’s nine national wildlife refuges are: Big Muddy along the Missouri River in central Missouri; Clarence Cannon and Great River in Pike County; Middle Mississippi, 60 miles south of St. Louis; Mingo near Puxico; Ozark Cavefish in Lawrence County; Pilot Knob in Iron County; Squaw Creek in Holt County; and Swan Lake in Chariton County.

GO FISH! (Fish, Interpret and Share our Heritage)

The Conservation Department is fishing for a few good volunteers to help with its new GO FISH! angler education program. If you’d like to share your enthusiasm for fishing with kids ages 8 through 15 and introduce them to the wonderful world of sport fishing, we want to hear from you.

GO FISH! will be a multifaceted program that teaches children fishing skills from basic to advanced. We need volunteer fishing instructors and coaches to help kids fish at Bellefontaine Conservation Area in north St. Louis County, Forest Park in St. Louis City and Suson Park in south St. Louis County. The Conservation Department will hold instructor training workshops at Powder Valley Nature Center in Kirkwood on March 24. Volunteers must complete and return applications by Feb. 24.

For applications and more information, contact Denise Otto, phone (636) 300-1953, ext. 243, or e-mail Denise.Otto@mdc.mo.gov.

November firearms deer harvest a record

Hunters set a new harvest record during Missouri’s regular firearms deer season Nov. 11 through 21. The season total was 235,054, up 29,594 from last year and 12,725 from the previous record, which was set in 2004.

Experts attribute the record harvest to good hunting weather and abundant deer left over from last year’s hunting season, when the number of does taken by hunters was down by 11 percent.

Top deer-harvest counties were Callaway, with 4,473 deer checked, Benton, with 4,411, and Pike, with 4,216.

Max C. Hamilton

Max C. Hamilton, renowned for his achievements in conservation and beloved for his outdoors-related writing, died at his home town of Chillicothe Nov. 12 following a brief illness. He was 89.

A lifelong nature lover, Hamilton was instrumental in the restoration of white-tailed deer and wild turkeys to Missouri. His turkey conservation work included terms as president, chairman of the board and trustee of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). He helped found the NWTF’s first chapter in Missouri. He also was president of the Missouri State Outdoor Writers’ Association and a recipient of the Conservation Federation of Missouri’s Wildlife Conservationist of the Year Award.

He was outdoor editor for the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune for nearly 50 years and continued writing weekly columns as the newspaper’s outdoor editor emeritus for years following his retirement in 1995.

His boundless enthusiasm for conservation extended to his beloved farm northwest of Chillicothe, where he practiced what he preached. His greatest pleasure was wandering the property above the Grand River, basking in the natural beauty.

Farmer says CRP improves his bottom line

As Congress debates the next federal farm bill during the next few months, you are likely to hear about crop price supports and food and nutrition programs. What you may not hear is how the farm bill affects soil, water, wildlife, fish and forests. Missouri landowners receive approximately $150 million annually through farm bill programs for implementing conservation measures on their land. This series will explore how the federal farm bill’s conservation provisions benefit Missouri.

What difference does the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) make? Karl Noellsch says it makes the difference between losing money and making money on some parts of his farm in Holt County.

CRP is a 20-year fixture in the federal farm bill that gives farmers cash incentives to take erosion-prone land out of crop production and manage it in ways that help wildlife. Since 1985, tens of millions of acres nationwide have been enrolled in CRP. Besides annual payments for each enrolled acre, landowners can get federal and state matching money to improve their land for wildlife through approved conservation practices—or “CPs.”

Like thousands of other farmers, Noellsch discovered that CRP does much more than protect soil and promote wildlife. He enrolled 65 acres in CP21, which is for “filter strips.” His grass strips, measuring up to 120 feet wide, slow rainwater runoff, halting erosion. Besides preventing soil loss, careful placement of filter strips allowed Noellsch to straighten field edges, making planting, cultivating and harvesting more efficient.

Noellsch also enrolled 10 acres as CP33 field borders. These 30- to 120-foot strips of native, warm-season grasses provide food and cover for quail, rabbits and other wildlife around field edges.

“What looked good to me was not having to farm these highly erodible acres,” he said. “It’s usually poorer soil, and you’ve got trees hanging out over it. We don’t make much money off those places.”

He receives CRP payments of up to $115 an acre for enrolled land. In the past, the value of crops raised on those acres barely covered planting costs. “If you don’t grow anything, it pretty much zeros out,” he said. “This really helped my bottom line.”

Noellsch said the benefits to wildlife were significant.

“I’ll give you an example. This 180 acres where I am sitting, four or five years ago you might see one covey of quail. It didn’t seem like we were having much of a survival rate over the winter. This summer on this same 180, I have seen three coveys, and I suspect there are at least four. They were large coveys. That is very encouraging.”

Planning and technical services to landowners who enroll in CRP are provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Conservation Department. For more information about CRP, visit online and click on “Conservation Programs” or call the nearest Farm Service Agency office.

Branch out to learn about trees

Branch out and learn more about trees through a free course at St. Louis Community College at Meramec in Kirkwood.

TreeKeepers is a free, six-session introductory class on the benefits of trees and their care. A program of Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, TreeKeepers is funded in part by the Conservation Department. Classes will be held every Tuesday from 1 to 3 p.m. beginning Feb. 6 and ending March 13. The last session will be held outdoors.

Topics include tree identification, biology, planting and pruning, plus tree diseases and pests. The course is free, but participants are asked to provide 24 hours of volunteer service after graduation. This can be fulfilled through tree-care projects in participants’ communities or through projects arranged by Forest ReLeaf.

Enrollment is limited to 25, and pre-registration is required. For more information, call (314) 984-7777 or (888) 473-5323.

Gobbleteers sought

Does Missouri’s spring turkey hunting season match the second peak of turkey gobbling activity? Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer hopes to answer this question with the help of the Missouri Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and a battalion of volunteer gobble counters.

Volunteer listeners will count the number of gobbles and the number of gobbling birds during a 20-minute period before sunrise twice a week between March 15 and May 15. “Gobbleteers” will choose their own listening locations.

The study will begin this spring and run through 2011. Beringer said it is important for people to volunteer for the study only if they feel confident they will be able to participate for the full five years. To sign up, e-mail Beringer at Jeff.Beringer@mdc.mo.gov. Type “Gobble Study” in the subject line and provide your name, address and county in the body of the e-mail.

Tom turkeys are most vocal just before hens become receptive to mating and just after hens begin incubating their eggs. This results in two peaks in spring gobbling. Volunteer reports will help Beringer determine whether the current timing of spring turkey season meets the goal of putting hunters in the woods during the second peak in gobbling. At present, the season opens on the third Monday in April.

The study also seeks to discover any relationships between gobbling and other factors, such as weather and spring leaf-out. The results will be published on the NWTF Missouri Chapter’s Web site.

Trees, shrubs galore available

From flowering dogwoods to witch hazel and red oaks to blackberries, George O. White State Forest Nursery has millions of seedlings for Missourians. Now is the time to order.

The facility near Licking has seedlings for improving wildlife habitat and forest resources. This year’s catalog includes 13 species of oak, six of pine, black walnut, pecan and more than a dozen shrubs. Other tree seedlings available this year include tulip poplar, sweet gum, bald cypress, silver maple, river birch, black cherry and Kentucky coffee.

For the first time this year, the nursery has extra-large (approximately 3 feet tall) white ash seedlings. Other first-time offerings include nannyberry, a large flowering shrub that does well in shade or sun.

Shrubs available include flowering dogwood, smooth sumac, deciduous holly, redbud, wild plum, ninebark, elderberry, arrowwood, false indigo and buckbrush.

The nursery also sells the following seedling bundles with plant assortments for special purposes:

  • The Wildlife Cover Bundle, with 10 seedlings of each of five species
  • The Conservation Bundle, with 5 seedlings each of six species
  • The Quail Cover Bundle, with 15 seedlings of each of five species.

A full list of trees and shrubs available through the state forest nursery is available at online. Or you can call (573) 674-3229 and request a catalog by mail.

Agent Notebook

Missouri’s many dams serve as obstructions to the natural migration of fish. Usually, large numbers of fish concentrate below these dams year-round, but the concentrations are significantly higher during late winter and early spring, when fish moving upstream to spawn are blocked by the dams.

Most dams have fishing restrictions in effect immediately below them in order to protect the fish from overharvest. Restricted areas below dams vary statewide.

Every year, some anglers resort to fishing illegally in restricted zones in an attempt to harvest fish as they congregate below dams. Conservation agents know that dams attract both fish and fishermen and rigorously patrol the waters below dams. The result is a lot of citations issued for fishing in restricted zones and other violations.

Before fishing below a dam in Missouri, be sure to check the Wildlife Code (Rule 3CSR10-6.415 Restricted Zones). If you have questions regarding regulations below a specific dam, call your local conservation agent or conservation office (see page 1 for regional office phone numbers).

The restricted zones below dams are enforced to protect our fisheries resources from overharvest, and we should all do our part to help protect these areas from exploitation.—Darrell Walden, district supervisor, Camden, Miller and Morgan counties.

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