Tuesday, June 21, 2016

One man, three counties, 19 wildlife violations

Farmington man’s catfish wasn’t taken by a legal method.
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) says fifteen seconds of fame garnered from “reeling in” an 83-pound catfish wasn’t earned by the man who made many news outlets last summer with an 83-pound catfish. After a lengthy investigation, a Missouri conservation agent proved the story wasn’t completely true. Anthony Stacy of Farmington pleaded guilty last week in Reynolds County to two counts of illegally shooting flathead catfish with bow fishing equipment. One was the 83-pound catfish spread across the news and the other was a 50-pound catfish. Stacy has 13 additional wildlife violation cases pending in the courts of St. Francois and Jefferson counties, according to MDC.
“Based on research on other fish taken in our state, I would guess that 83-pound catfish was somewhere around 25 years old,” said Dave Knuth, a MDC fisheries management biologist. “Unfortunately, due to the way the fish was taken and that we don’t have access to it, we’ll never know exactly how old it was.”
In June of 2015, news sources across southeast Missouri reported the story of how the 83-pound flathead catfish was caught by limb lining on Clearwater Lake.  However, St. Francois County Conservation Agent Tyler Harding learned Stacy took both catfish by shooting them with a bow. Throughout Harding’s investigation, the other wildlife violations surfaced as well.
Stacy received five citations total in Reynolds County for assisting to take three bass and two flathead catfish during two separate trips to Clearwater Lake.  All five of the fish were taken by bow fishing, which is not a legal method to take game fish.  On May 18, in Reynolds County Court, Stacy entered a guilty plea to a plea bargain of two counts of taking game fish by illegal methods.  Three counts of the same charge were dropped due the plea bargain.  Stacy was fined $500. He has also had three prior conservation violations in Missouri.
Game fish, as defined in the Wildlife Code of Missouri, may not be taken by bow fishing methods. Bow fishing is a legal method in Missouri for the harvest of non-game fish only.
“This man’s actions took away the potential for a fishermen to legally catch a once in a life-time fish,” Harding said. “However, most hunters and anglers are law-abiding citizens who want their catches to be ethical. That’s what makes a good outdoorsman and that’s the kind of legacy we need in order to keep Missouri as a great place to hunt and fish.”
For more information on fishing regulations in Missouri, go online to www.mdc.mo.gov/fish

Monday, June 20, 2016

MDC hosts Hunter Education Skills Session at Perryville Elks Lodge

Register online for the July 29 course.
PERRYVILLE, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will host a Hunter Education Skills Session at the Perryville Elks Lodge, Friday, July 29, from 6 to 10 p.m.
Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1967 is required to have an approved hunter education card. The card is also required when purchasing any firearms hunting permit. Hunter education courses are for students 11 years of age and older.
“Hunter education courses are a great way to introduce prospective hunters or even refresh veteran hunters about shooting and hunting techniques, ethics, firearm safety and more,” said Dee Dee Dockins, a MDC outdoor skills specialist.
Dockins said the hunter education process underwent changes in 2013, making it more convenient for students to attend. The course consists of two parts; a knowledge portion and a skills session.
The knowledge portion focuses on hunting equipment, safety, and ethics, and can be completed in one of three different ways. Students can complete the section online, pick up a student manual at a MDC office, or register and attend for a four-hour instructor led classroom session.
The July 29 skills session is the second step in the process. These four-hour sessions are led by instructors with hands-on exercises designed to put the students’ knowledge into practice. After the skills session, students take a 35-question multiple choice exam.
Those who wish to attend the skills session must complete the first step of the process and register for the course at www.mdc.mo.gov. For more information, contact MDC’s Southeast Regional Office at (573)290-5730.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Camping on Missouri Conservation Areas

Family Camping amongst the shortleaf pines at Peck Ranch Conservation Area
There are some fairly incredible and underutilized camping opportunities across Missouri on Missouri Conservation Areas.  The really cool thing about this is that almost without exception, every county in Missouri has a conservation area where camping is permitted.

Though many conservation areas allow camping, some do not, and it should be noted that pretty much all the camping areas on MDC conservation area land are in the category of "primitive."

Many at least have outhouse type restrooms, but few if any even offer running water, let alone shower facilities like many state parks offer.  If that does not scare you off, then you just expanded your camping choices greatly in the Show-Me State!

Peck Ranch Campground
One of our favorites is Peck Ranch Conservation Area down in Carter and Shannon Counties, east and a little south of Eminence.  The area can be busy during deer seasons and even turkey season, and should probably just be avoided during special managed hunts held several times a year in the wildlife refuge portion.  A schedule for these hunts can be found here.

The main part of the campground is nestled into one of the most pristine stands of shortleaf pine trees that you will find anywhere in a campground setting.  Recreation opportunities in the surrounding areas abound.  The wildlife refuge now has an elk population.  A short drive away is one of Missouri's best swimming holes - Rocky Falls.  Within a 20 minute drive is some of
Missouri's best smallmouth bass fishing on the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers.  A section of the
View from firetower Stegall Mountain
famed Ozark Trail makes its way across Peck Ranch.  Finally, no visit to Peck is complete without a drive to the top of Stegall Mountain and climb as far as permitted up the steps of the resident firetower.  The views are amazing.

Just to bookend things, in the northern part of the state and a little west of Kirksville is Union Ridge Conservation Area.  It is one of the larger conservation areas in the northern part of Missouri at around 8000 acres.  There is fishing, hiking, hunting, and of course camping opportunities across this beautiful area.

Before you go, do a bit of research.  As mentioned before, some of these areas are open to camping and others are not. Also, quite a few have shooting ranges, which are fine, but may not fit into the tranquility you desire on a camping trip into nature.  To start research, visit the conservation atlas.

Rolling hills of Union Ridge Conservation Area
So, we encourage you to check out the camping opportunities available on these great areas.

Next, our series will begin to shift gears as we hone in on some unique areas, some of which we have mentioned already. The next in the series will come out June 21st, 2016.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

MDC offers a wetland management field day on June 28

Free Chariton County event will address wetland maintenance and restoration

Brookfield, Mo. – Wetlands are valuable ecosystems that store water, reduce flooding, provide habitat for wildlife and offer autumn waterfowl hunting opportunities. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will offer a free Wetland Management Field Day 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 28, at the Quinn Hunting Lodge near Rothville, Mo.
   MDC wetland managers will lead a field trip to wetlands and provide advice about habitat management, maintenance, controlling problem animals or plants, and other topics. Participants will learn about the benefits and challenges of wetland restoration.
   Participants are asked to register by calling the MDC office at Chillicothe, 660-646-6122. Soft drinks and snacks will be provided. Attendees with specific questions about wetlands are welcome to provide those when registering. MDC staff will then address the topic at one of the field trip stops.
   The Quinn Hunting Lodge is reached off Missouri 11 about six miles south of Brookfield, then east on Viaduct Road (County Road 204) about 1.5 miles. The turn off into the lodge is just east of West Yellow Creek.
   For more information on how MDC can help private land owners with conservation practices, visit https://mdc.mo.gov/property.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Hunting the Conservation Areas of Missouri

Danville Conservation Area
This is a topic we have covered quite a bit on this blog, as well as on our website, family-outdoors.com, but it fits nicely here with the Missouri Conservation Areas series on which we are now on installment 2.  The hunter in Missouri has such a blessing in the respect that most midwestern states have not made the level of commitment that Missouri has with regard to state land on which you can hunt.

If you doubt this, take a look at Kansas or Illinois as an example. These two states differ from the Missouri model in that first, oversight of conservation is politicized, and second, there has never been an effort to devote land to hunting and fishing and other outdoor pursuits.

Getting on with the topic at hand - if you want to hunt any species in Missouri, and are willing to do Missouri Public Hunting Resource. It has a database, which is sourced from MDC, but arranged frankly in a manner that was and is convenient for us when looking for a hunting area by geographic region and by species we which to hunt.  In addition to MDC conservation areas for hunting, there is also extensive coverage of hunting on Mark Twain National Forest. Being summer, and there being a few months until the most popular hunting seasons kick in, you may want to bookmark the page we mentioned above for future use.
Screenshot from Family-Outdoors Missouri Public Land Resource
the research to find the right conservation area, you should find what you are after.  One resource we have put together is out

MDC manages conservation areas with many competing interests, and hunting is certainly featured prominently in those considerations.  Many properties have food plots to enhance the density of wildlife that can be sustained in the area.  As a side note, MDC has in some cases reduced the planting of some food plots with the spread of CWD in the deer population.

Some conservation areas are sort of devoted primarily to giving hunters opportunity to harvest a particular species.  For example, there are conservation areas where waterfowl hunters will find fantastic facilities and populations of ducks and geese.  There are conservation areas devoted to dove hunting.  Pheasant hunters and upland game hunters will also find plenty of opportunities.

In conclusion, as I plan to remind folks in each segment of this series, all of these opportunities are what they are because politicians have been kept from screwing things up.  The non-partisan Missouri Conservation Commission oversees MDC, and much of the funding for CA's and other MDC efforts come from the sales tax on sporting goods that was long ago approved by forward thinking Missourians.  If you do not believe that there is a contingent of folks out there who would dearly love to hand things over to the politicians, read the comments under about any Facebook or other social media post by MDC.  Make sure your views of reason are heard too.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Acoustic musical artist John Nilsen to perform at Runge Conservation Nature Center June 23

MDC invites public to free concert, photo exhibit in Jefferson City.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – There are different paths to discovering nature, and music and photography are two of the most popular.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will welcome popular northwest musical artist John Nilsen to a live performance at its Runge Conservation Nature Center Thursday, June 23 at 6:30 p.m.The concert is free and open to the general public.  Nilsen, a noted pianist and acoustic musician, comes from Portland, Ore. He is one of the largest-selling musical artists in the Northwestern U.S. 
For this multi-media engagement, Nilsen will compliment his music with the spectacular nature, landscape, and wildlife images of MDC Photographer Noppadol Paothong.  Paothong’s photography can be seen regularly in MDC’s Missouri Conservationist Magazine, as well as many other MDC publications.
According to Nilsen, “As a performer, I like exploring beyond the boundaries of my recorded songs. It gives me the chance to offer something special, spontaneous and personal to my audience.  The entire performance hinges on the connection not only between the players, but with the audience as well.”
Nilsen began studying classical piano at age 6. Since then, his music has touched the lives of millions of listeners through his CDs, radio, concerts, and his record label, Magic Wing. Nilsen gains inspiration for some of his music through the beauty of nature.
Based out of Oregon, Nilsen is a sought-after performer throughout the U.S.  He has performed in all 50 states and toured the United Kingdom as well. 
Notable releases by Nilsen during his nearly three-decade career include his first solo piano album, Places I Go, and the folk rock CD, John Nilsen and Swimfish—both on his own Magic Wing label.  His latest release, Local Ocean, will be out this summer.  More details on Nilsen’s work can be found atjohnnilsen.com
“Nature is defined not only through science but through music and the arts,” said Kathy Cavender, manager of Runge Conservation Nature Center. “John Nilsen brings nature to life through his music.  He shares his love of nature through stories and songs that cut to the very essence of our connection to nature.”
Attendance for the concert is free and open to all 12 years and older. No registration is required. For more information, contact the Runge Conservation Nature Center at 573-526-5544.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Fishing Missouri Conservation Areas

Missouri conservation areas offer some of the best fishing in the state as well as access to good fishing.  Many people think of conservation areas as great places to hunt, which is true enough and a subject of our next blogs on CA's, but it is just an incomplete picture.

When I think about the conservation areas near to where we live in Warren County, two of the three offer some pretty darn good fishing, and it seems that this feature is often overlooked.  So, with a very little bit of research, you might find some outstanding opportunities you'd not considered.

A lake in Busch Memorial
Conservation Area
One conservation area that does get a ton of use in the STL region, is Busch Memorial Conservation Area.  I love this area because there is a little something there for anyone.  There is a ton of panfishing that can be fast and furious which is awesome for initiating kids into fishing.  During the winter, some of the lakes are stocked with trout.  There are so many species that can be caught out at Busch you could probably catch a different gamefish species everyday for a whole month. You can even rent fishing equipment and a small boat to go out on one of the dozens of lakes/ponds in the area.

It's pretty likely that if you are an avid Missouri fisherperson, you have looked up fishing on various bodies of water around the state and researched how to fish them.  That is awesome, and I do the same thing.

First results of web search for Hariison County, Missouri Fishing.  
But if you want to find some new places, try searching for fishing options in a geographical area, and almost certainly conservation areas will be featured prominently.  As a case-in-point, I searched for fishing in a county where I have probably done some deer hunting, but for sure had never fished.  The top two results are in the graphic to the left.

So when you get the results, for conservation areas (which are not always labeled as conservation areas...like Harrison Lake), often, there will be a "Fishing Reports" page for one or more of the areas in the county, and there will be pages for each of the conservation areas.  Both are helpful.

List of fish species available in area from MDC site.
Note also the camping and canoeing listing.
The individual conservation area pages list species and activities available in that CA (see right).  You can decide, based on what is there, whether or not you want to fish the area. You can also decide what gear and tackle to bring with you.  Many of these fishing spots - not all - are hidden gems that do not get much attention.  That is a good thing to know for a fisherman looking for a new spot. In most, if not all, Missouri counties, you will be able to locate such gems.

Sometimes, a conservation area is just an access to a body of water, such as river access points.  Often these are places to launch a boat or canoe, but they also can make very good fishing spots.  Rivers like the Missouri and Osage, just to name a couple, are dotted with MDC access.

There certainly are MDC areas that are without fishing opportunities, or where they are limited, so do your research before going. But if you are looking for someplace to fish, or just somewhere new, give MDC conservation areas a try. You will be glad you did!