News and Almanac

Trout park opener falls on Thursday

Thousands of Missourians look forward to March 1 with eager anticipation, because that is the day the state’s four trout parks open for the catch-and-keep fishing season. The event’s allure is partly due to the release it offers from cabin fever, partly because of its festive, sociable flavor and partly because the Department of Conservation stocks tens of thousands of keeper-sized rainbow trout in four trout streams in anticipation of the anglers' arrival.

Opening morning finds anglers lining the banks of Bennett Spring State Park (SP) near Lebanon, Roaring River SP near Cassville, Montauk SP near Salem, and Maramec Spring Park near St. James. They also line up at park stores to buy fishing permits, trout tags, bait and other fishing essentials. To beat the rush, it is a good idea to buy permits ahead of time.

Fishing permits are available from vendors statewide, or you can order by phone at (800) 392-4115 or online. You will pay an additional $2 for the convenience of buying online. Permits bought electronically are delivered by mail, and you must have a fishing permit in hand to buy your daily trout tag at trout parks. To ensure that you have your fishing permit in time, place orders at least 10 days before March 1.

For trout park information, visit online.

KC QU chapter has scholarships

College students still have time to apply for $1,000 scholarships from the Quail Unlimited Kansas City Chapter. The group awards several scholarships annually to college students majoring in wildlife management or related fields. For details, contact Dave White, 12012 West 150th Circle, Olathe, Kansas 66062-9410, phone (913) 897-3822, e-mail kcquailunltd@aol.com. Applications are due by May 1.

Habitat Hints

Food plot success

Food plots can be an important element in a wildlife management plan. However, landowners need to look at the big picture when installing food plots to ensure maximum benefits.

Patches of corn, wheat, sorghum and other crops can help wildlife through the winter by providing high-energy food. The value of such plots diminishes dramatically, however, if quail and other wildlife do not have shrubby cover or open stands of native, warm-season grasses nearby. Quail seldom venture more than 70 yards from shrubby cover. Furthermore, brushy fencerows and other shrubby cover harbor an abundance of plants that produce high-nutrition foods, such as beggar-lice, ragweed and partridge pea seeds.

You also can increase the quality of shrubby or grassy cover by disking or burning fescue and brome grasses in fence lines and woody draws. Burning is also a valuable tool for keeping brushy cover open and productive for wildlife.

The Covey Headquarters, a quarterly newsletter designed to help landowners encourage quail and other wildlife on their land, is available online.

Wild Bird Club brightens lives

Feeding birds is the most popular wildlife-based activity in the United States, so Community Living, Inc., (CLI) of St. Peters decided to build a program around the activity, forming the Wild Bird Club. The club gets developmentally disabled adults involved in conservation and helps build conservation awareness in their communities.

The program began last November with bird feeders offered by the St. Charles location of Wild Birds Unlimited, a retail bird-feeding store. During a promotional event last September, the store gave customers a 20 percent discount on new bird feeders when they donated used feeders. Some of the used feeders went to the Wild Bird Club, whose members refurbish them and fill them with seed. Club members will give reports on their bird-feeding experiences at a meeting in May.

For more information about the Wild Bird Club and volunteer opportunities with CLI's Recreation Services program, contact CLI Recreation Services Manager Carolyn Weber, cweber@cliservices.org, (636) 970-2800, ext. 3035.

FARM BILL IN ACTION: CSP provides security in several ways

As Congress debates the next federal farm bill, 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.

When Bill Holmes enrolled almost all of his 1,800-acre farm in the Conservation Security Program (CSP), he became part of an effort to conserve national treasures. CSP is a volunteer program that provides financial and technical assistance to promote the conservation and improvement of soil, water, air, energy, plant and animal life, and other conservation purposes on private working lands.

In Holmes’ case, CSP helped pay for planting strips of native, warm-season grasses around some of his crop fields. These buffers catch soil that otherwise would be lost to erosion. In doing so, they also protect water quality and the plants, fish and other animals in streams. The strips also benefit wildlife, such as quail and rabbits, which find food and shelter in the grass.

In addition, Holmes through CSP, planted shrubs, to improve soil and water quality. The shrub plantings also provide wildlife conservation benefits.

Finally, CSP provides payments to Holmes for leaving some of his crops standing in fields throughout the winter. This high-energy food supplement helps wildlife survive cold spells.

The low, flood-prone nature of Holmes’ farm makes it particularly well-suited for waterfowl conservation. A modest levee and water-control structures allow him to capture rainwater in the fall and winter, creating marshy habitat that ducks and geese adore. During dry spells, he pumps water onto the land. He does a little duck hunting himself, and he barters duck hunting privileges with friends and neighbors in exchange for things he needs, such as tractor driving.

“I have seen a big increase in the number of deer we are holding,” said Holmes. “The additional flooded acres have brought an increased number of wintering waterfowl in the area. We had thousands of ducks and geese using the property last year.”

CSP is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. For more information about CSP, visit www.mo.nrcs.usda.gov and click on“Programs” or call the nearest USDA Service Center.

11th Annual Vulture Venture

Since 1996, the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery in Branson has hosted Missouri’s most unusual wildlife viewing opportunity. This year’s Vulture Venture will run from noon to 6 p.m. Feb. 24.

Vulture Venture focuses on the often misunderstood and highly beneficial scavengers. Indoor attractions include a live vulture from the Wonders of Wildlife Museum in Springfield, a video about vultures and vulture games, stickers and crafts. Naturalists will greet visitors outdoors with spotting scopes for viewing one of Missouri's largest vulture wintering roosts.

The event is a rare opportunity to see both black and turkey vultures in same location. Late in the afternoon, participants can watch vultures "kettling" as the big birds swoop in to roost for the night. The program is free and requires no reservations. For more information or directions, call (417) 334-4865, ext 0.

Proper pruning critical

It is not too late to prune trees before they break their winter dormancy. For Missourians whose trees were damaged by storms in the past year, doing the job right can help ensure the survival and vigor of landscape trees.

Ideally, pruning should be done a little at a time throughout trees’ lives, creating desirable shapes and maintaining strong trunks and branches to prolong life. Drastic pruning can be detrimental to trees. Never remove more than one-third of the branches at one time. Dead or broken branches should be removed first. This must be done carefully to avoid causing more injury.

The most common kind of damage that occurs during pruning is torn bark. This happens when a branch is cut on its upper surface and breaks before the saw cuts all the way through. As the limb falls it pulls downward on the remaining bark, tearing into the limb or trunk below.

To avoid this, make three cuts, the first a few inches into the damaged branch’s bottom surface a foot or two from its junction with the main branch. This stops bark tearing. Make the second cut a few inches above the first one, severing most of the limb and thereby taking its weight off the remaining stump. The final cut is just above the raised ridge of bark known as the collar. This cut should leave the bark collar intact. This collar eventually will produce bark to cover the wound.

For illustrations and more information about tree pruning, go online. To find a forester or arborist for advice, contact the nearest Conservation office (see page 1 for a list of regional office phone numbers).

Missouri Woodland Owners Conference

Anyone who owns forest land, this conference Feb. 23–24 is for you! The conference begins on Friday with an optional field day at the MU Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center in New Franklin. There will be coffee and donuts from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Round-robin sessions will begin at 10 a.m. Participants will learn about basic tree identification, forest soils and timber stand improvement.

The Friday evening "Ask the Experts" at the Stoney Creek Inn in Columbia will provide you the opportunity to ask our panel of forestry professionals any questions on your mind and connect with other forestland owners.

The conference continues on Saturday at Stoney Creek with presentations on green certification, conservation easements, maps and technology, incentive and cost-share programs, and designing trails for recreation and property access.

Registration for the Friday field day and Saturday conference sessions is $60; for the Saturday conference only it is $50. A late fee of $10 will be added to any registration received after Feb. 16. To register by phone, call Glenda Fry at the Missouri Forest Products Association, (573) 634-3252.

Agent Notebook

One of the most common questions I encounter when talking about conservation rules and regulations is “Why?”

Most of the rules and regulations contained within the Wildlife Code fall into three basic categories. They protect wildlife, protect people or provide equal harvest opportunity.

Many regulations are designed to maintain healthy wildlife populations and to directly prevent wildlife from being exploited. These regulations protect wildlife during times of the year when they may be reproducing or caring for young. They limit the number that may be harvested and prohibit unfair harvest methods. Regulations relating to seasons, methods and limits are common examples of this category of regulations.

Other regulations protect lives and property. These regulations are designed with everyone’s safety in mind. Some examples of this type of regulation include hunter-orange regulations, laws that prohibit the taking of wildlife from or across a public roadway, and shot-size limitations for turkey hunting.

In addition, we have laws to ensure that wildlife populations are maintained at levels where everyone will have an opportunity to enjoy them. Placing restrictions on the harvest and possession of wildlife helps to maintain high-quality hunting, fishing and trapping opportunities for everyone. Daily and possession limits for individual wildlife species are the most common examples of this category of regulations.

The next time you wonder “Why?” take a close look at the regulation. It is likely you will be able to place it into one or more of these categories. —Travis McLain, Barry County