Miscellany

Ask the Ombudsman

Q: Do ducks and geese have to be airborne before you can legally take your shot?

A: The regulations have no such requirement. This matter falls into the category of ethics. Ethics, the principles or moral code we each follow, are fairly subjective and personal, but such an issue can generate passionate debate among hunters. I’ve known hunters who wouldn’t shoot at a sitting rabbit as they felt that wasn’t fair chase. Others were just the opposite; they felt only a stationary shot provided the best chance for a clean kill. Perhaps you could apply the same reasoning to waterfowl, migratory birds and upland game birds, but I think the majority of hunters will advocate taking only flying birds.

There are also safety considerations. When bird dogs are involved in the hunt there is very little justification for a ground shot. When large parties are hunting, such as during dove season, even low-level shots can be dangerous. Hunters need to know everyone’s whereabouts and limit firing accordingly.

Hunter education students know that flat or hard surfaces also present a safety concern; however, there are times when waterfowl need to be dispatched on the water. Ducks and geese on the water can be difficult to kill, as much of their vitals are protected by water. When hunters need to make killing shots on crippled birds on the water, this can best be done using shells with smaller shot in order to have a denser shot-pattern, allowing more hits in the head/neck area for a clean finishing shot. As with any shot, hunters need to take notice of what lies beyond their quarry.

Ombudsman Ken Drenon will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Conservation Department programs. Write him at P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at (573) 522-4115, ext. 3848, or e-mail him at Ken.Drenon@mdc.mo.gov.

Agent Notes

Contact the Conservation Department when dealing with nuisance wildlife.

Conservation Agents receive numerous reports of wild animals causing damage.

A wildlife species usually is just a nuisance to people directly affected by their activities. For example, raccoons sometimes become a problem for homeowners or farmers when they steal garbage or pet food or raid gardens or crop fields. However, lots of people, including me, enjoy seeing raccoons. I like having a healthy raccoon population because I am an avid coon hunter.

Most of the nuisance wildlife calls I receive here in northeast Missouri concern raccoons, skunks, opossum or, sometimes, deer or turkey. In southern Missouri, agents also have to deal with complaints about black bears. As black bears have moved into the state from Arkansas, they sometimes cause problems by getting into garbage cans and beehives or destroying gardens.

When dealing with deer, turkey and black bears, you must obtain permission and guidance from your local conservation agent. When dealing with any nuisance wildlife, it’s a good idea to contact your conservation agent or regional Conservation Department office for advice, and to make sure your actions don’t violate Missouri’s Wildlife Code.

Gary Miller is the conservation agent for Scotland County, which is in the Northeast region. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional Conservation office.

Time Capsule

January 1998

In Flashes of Blue, Julie Lunstead writes about the abundance of bluebirds in Missouri. She gives credit for the strong population to Missouri citizens and their efforts to build bluebird nest boxes and place them in rural locations. Bluebirds are unable to excavate their own nesting cavities and so must rely on nest sites abandoned by other bird species. Because they prefer to hunt insects for food, bluebirds are rarely attracted by feeders. Nest boxes help bring these delightful birds into viewing range and provide valuable sites for raising young. Other species that might use bluebird nesting boxes include black-capped and Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, downy woodpeckers, tree swallows, house wrens and house sparrows. The nests of the non-native house sparrow may be removed.
—Contributed by the Circulation staff

Behind the Code

Trapping seasons are set for quality fur.
by Tom Cwynar

Fur is again fashionable, in part because it’s so “green.” Why wear fake fur, when the real thing comes from natural, renewable, non-polluting sources?

Trapping furbearers provides both outdoor recreation and a small source of income for more than 5,000 Missourians. The Conservation Department regulates trapping to maximize the value of the fur harvested, to ensure proper treatment of animals and to control wildlife populations.

Missouri’s trapping season overlaps the period when furs are at their prime. An animal’s fur grows, reaches a point when its value is greatest, then declines in quality with time and wear.

The season opens slightly earlier than when most furs are their absolute best to give trappers more opportunity to capture animals before winter curtails their movements. It closes at about the time that winter fur begins to decline in quality.

The general furbearer trapping season runs from Nov. 15 to Jan. 31. Otter trapping in Zone E closes on Feb. 20. Beaver and nutria trapping closes on March 31. These extended seasons reflect how trapping is used to control some animal populations.

Trapping is useful to wildlife management in other ways. It’s the tool of choice for reducing or eliminating damage by wildlife, and pelt sales data is the primary source of information for Conservation Department biologists monitoring the populations of furbearers in the state.