Miscellany

Ask the Ombudsman

This is my first column as the new ombudsman for the Department. I came on the job in mid-October following the retirement of Ken Drenon, who provided more than 10 years of excellent service as ombudsman. Rather than start with a question and answer, I want to use this first month’s column to introduce myself.

I have worked for the Department since 1986, when I moved here from my home state of Mississippi following graduate school. Most of my career has been spent as a botanist, traveling all over Missouri and learning of its plants, habitats, wildlife, geology, geography and people. It was a great education for me—I even learned which small-town cafes serve the best homemade pies. I live in Jefferson City with my wife, Leah, and children, Anna and Henry. My free time is spent gardening, fishing, upland bird hunting and woodworking.

As a botanist, I handled thousands of public requests on plant-related topics. I always enjoyed that part of my job—providing answers while sharing an appreciation of the outdoor world. In my new position I look forward to giving quality public service on a much wider range of conservation-related topics. I have already learned much in addressing the myriad questions that come to the ombudsman’s desk every day. Assisting me are hundreds of my Department coworkers, who often are the best sources for the specific information that is requested. As ombudsman I will try to be an efficient link between your information needs and the information sources available to me.

I look forward to hearing from you!—Tim Smith

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

Agent Notes

The best outdoor Christmas present for a child is the gift of your time.

I remember opening a Christmas present from my parents 18 years ago. I was excited to find a brand new .22-caliber rifle. It was the first firearm I ever owned, other than my trusty old BB gun.

That winter I hunted with my father on our property and harvested my first rabbit. My father spotted the rabbit in a thicket, and he calmly and patiently showed me where it was hiding. It took him nearly a half hour to teach to me pick out the eye of the rabbit among all the brush.

Receiving the rifle as a gift that Christmas was a special moment, but my memories of the day I spent hunting with my father are much more vivid. I can still feel the cold air on my cheeks, the crack of the rifle and brushing the soft rabbit fur as my father held the animal in his hand.

Adults who want to perk up a youngster’s interest in the outdoors need few tools, but they have to be willing, like my father was, to give them the gift of time. Kids are more likely to get involved in outdoor activities if you provide them with companionship and direction.

Many adults claim that they can’t find time to enjoy the outdoors with their children. Kids are busy, too, with school and after-school activities, plus their X-boxes, computers and TV. The outdoors is a good place to get away from it all. Look for things that might interest both you and your kids. Maybe you could take a walk on a nature trail or sit on the bank of a farm pond and watch bobbers for a few hours. Just enjoy yourselves!

Jason Braunecker is the conservation agent for Dekalb county, which is in the Northwest region. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional Conservation office.

Time Capsule

December 1958

 “To come upon a gigging light on a black night, when the river alone is lit to a leaden color (when giggers like it best), is a sight not soon forgotten,” wrote Jim Keefe in Gigging, his article dedicated to the art and joy of hunting nongame fish species with a long, barbed pole. “No sport for sissies,” gigging requires long hours, high tolerance for cold, wet conditions, and “real talent.” Yet, somehow, the hours are curiously satisfying for its devotees. Giggers stand at the bow of a slow-moving boat, over gigging lights (generally gas-powered at that time), with a gigging iron in their hands, trying to identify and spear fish as they dart by, “a sensation not found in sun-dappled fishing days.”—Contributed by the Circulation staff

Behind the Code

The gift of wildlife comes with regulations attached.

Whether through good luck or great prowess you harvest fish or game, it’s a splendid idea to share it with someone. The Conservation Federation and the Conservation Department have created the Share the Harvest Program to make it easy for successful deer hunters to donate some or all of their deer meat to needy people through participating charitable groups. However, the Wildlife Code also makes provisions for giving away harvested wildlife outside of this formal program.

Beneficiaries of your giving need not have a permit, but they are subject to possession limits of species, such as fish and small game, for which such limits are specified. Possession includes wildlife that is frozen, canned, smoked or refrigerated and any stored fish or game, or parts thereof, that are kept in your home, camp or place of lodging.

No one may possess any wildlife that was taken illegally. All wildlife gifts must be labeled with the species, the date taken, and the taker’s permit number and full name and address. Labels for deer and turkey must also include the Telecheck confirmation number. Wildlife gifts from outside Missouri are subject to the laws and limits of the state where taken and must be properly labeled.

Any wildlife given away counts toward the taker’s daily limit, and may be given away only at the completion of the day’s fishing or hunting. In addition, only the taker may give away wildlife. It cannot be passed on, or re-gifted, by the recipient.