Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hunting Mark Twain National Forest

Mark Twain National ForestImage via Wikipedia

General Information

Mark Twain National Forest is divided into nine main areas spread across southern Missouri. These areas make up a total of approximately 1.5 million acres. Approximately 100,000 of these acres are roadless and/or Wilderness/National Scenic Riverways acreage. Hunting is regulated on these lands by the Missouri Department of Conservation, although wildlife habitat is mostly managed by the USFS. Because regulations change, and areas can be redesignated, it is vital to make certain that you know the regulation in the areas you will hunt. For example, some areas allow horseback and/or ATV travel and a few do not.

  • Cedar Creek
This area is approximately 15,000 acres and is the northernmost section of Mark Twain. It is also situated relatively closely to a sizable population center in Columbia and Jefferson City. Having said this, there are some good opportunities here. There are plenty of areas where a hunter can go here where they will not be overrun by others, but it does require some advanced scouting.

There are three accesses with facilities managed by the Forest Service in this section, but there are some other adjoining land public accesses with hunting opportunities. The three USFS accesses are Carrington Pits, Dry Fork, and Pine Ridge. Also in the area is a conservation area including and surrounding Little Dixie Lake and Earthquake Hollow Conservation Area.

The Carrington Pits area is open year round. For more information and maps, call 573-592-1400 (Fulton Office).

Another resource for great hunting opportunities in the area is the Cedar Creek Trail, a trail of total of 36 miles in length. Directions from Fulton, Missouri are: take Hwy. 54 south to Route H; west to Rt. J, south to Rt. Y, west to Pine Ridge Recreation Area. Horse users, travel to Dry Fork Campground, located 4 miles northeast on County Road 361. Or from Columbia MO, take Hwy 63 south to County Road AB (Barnes Chapel Road), left to Ginn Lane, right to Ginn Road Trail Head. A TRAIL MAP is available from the USFS.

Campgrounds include Pine Ridge Recreation Area (includes Cedar Creek Trailhead) and Dry Fork Recreation Area (alternative Cedar Creek Trailhead).
This section is comprised of approximately 190,000 acres. There are also multiple opportunities here. This is really getting into Ozark Country and is made up of hardwood forests spread across rolling hills. There are lots of deer, but they are spread out and scouting, as always, is critical. This area has some pressure, but there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path areas. A hunter willing to work a bit can really have a wilderness hunting experience here.

Included in this area is the Paddy Creek Wilderness Area (approx. 7019 acres) and the Big Piney Trail. Big Piney Trail is in Paddy Creek Wilderness. The total of the two sections of this trail are seventeen miles and provide many launching off points for a truly secluded hunting experience. There is a campground at Paddy Creek Recreation Area with 23 total sites. The Recreation area closes December 1. Also, keep in mind that the wilderness area is a Leave No Trace area. Please follow the tenets of this directive to keep others positive about the hunting community. Maps in various formats and in a variety of downloadable files can be found by following the link Paddy Creek Wilderness Maps. This is through Directions to the area are from Rolla, take Hwy 63 south about 35 miles to Hwy 32 and turn west. Drive 3.7 miles to Hwy N, which branches to the right. Drive 2.1 miles to Hwy AF, turn left. Hwy AF turns into Slabtown Road and passes close to a farmhouse, almost making the road look like a driveway. Continue driving for 7.5 miles until you see the sign for Big Piney Trail Camp, turn left. The trail is often used by horses/trailriders, so be cautious.

The main office for this district can be reached at 417-967-4194.

  • Potosi, Salem and Fredrictown Sections
These are actually managed as two sections of Mark Twain National Forest. They are in roughly the same area and I will look at opportunities in both areas. In the Potosi/Fredricktown section there are two designated wilderness areas. One is the Bell Mountain Wilderness and the other is the Rockpile Mountain Wilderness. The Bell Mountain Wilderness is approximately 9000 acres in size and is in the St. Francois Mountains, and contains some of the higher elevations in Missouri. A very nice brocuhre of Bell Mountain Wilderness area is available HERE (PDF Form). Camping is allowed in the area following the designated rules and the Leave No Trace ethic. There are two trailheads accessing the wilderness. Directions to each are from Potosi. To the FT 12 Trailhead, take Hwy 21 South 18 miles to Hwy 32. Take Hwy 32 West 8 miles to Hwy A. Take Hwy A South approx 1/4 mile to first Forest Road SE Go approx 1/4 mile SE to site. To the Hwy A Trailhead, take Hwy 8 one mile East to Hwy 21. Go South on Hwy 21 for 11 miles. Or take Hwy 21 South for 17 miles to Hwy 32. Take Hwy 32 West for 8 miles to Hwy A. Take Hwy A approx 5 miles South to site.

Also in the Potosi/Fredricktown section is the Rockpile Mountain Wilderness. This area is a bit smaller, but still has plenty of room at approximately 4,000 acres. Trails are more limited (only about 2 miles of maintained trail), perhaps of benefit to the hunter attempting to escape the crowds. A brochure for the area is available HERE. The directions to the area are, from Fredericktown via Highway 67 :south to County Road C, then about 10 miles on C to County road 406. Follow 406 to Forest Road 2124.

The Salem area just south of the Potosi section, is a vast area of multiple hunting opportunities. There are numerous developed campgrounds as well as areas where the hunter can find solitiude. As in most areas of the Ozark Region, the hunter will benefit from a thorough effort at scouting with particular interest paid to water sources.

This section is approximately 150,000 acres in size. Lake Wappappello is on the eastern border of the section of forest and the Black River runs through the area between generally the northwest corner and the southeast corner. As with the other areas of Mark Twain National Forest, there are many private land inholdings within the broad boundaries of the forest. Maps and knowledge/scouting of the area are essential.

There are several forest service camping areas as well as a conservation area or two managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation. One such conservation area is Bradley A. Hammer Memeorial Conservation Area (PDF Format). As of the most recent regulations, it should be noted that regular firearms deer hunting was not permitted. As always, familiarize yourself thoroughly with the state and area regulations for each area you will hunt as they do vary. To access this area, from Williamsville take County Road 417 to County Road 419. Turn right and go .5 mile to County Road 424. Turn right again and go .25 mile to the entrance. It is relatively small in area, but allows primitive camping in designated areas and could be a good base camp area.

  • Eleven Point Section
The Eleven Point Ranger District of Mark Twain National Forest is around 180,000 acres and includes some of the most neautiful and rugged terrain in Missouri. Embedded in this section of forest is the Eleven Point Wild and Scenic River area and the Irish Wilderness. There are numerous methods by which the hunter can approach deer hunting in this area, including via canoe on the Eleven Point River. Should you choose this method, we strongly suggest getting familiar with the sections of the river that are at least mildly challenging. Canoe rentals are widely available in the area.

There are numerous trails and campgrounds in this section of forest. If you will be floating the river, there are several choices. One of our favorites is Greer Crossing. This campground is open year round.

More Hunting information can be found Here.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Winter Trout Fishing

Ok...yesterday did not have the feel of a winter trout fishing day. But, since the rifle deer season starts next week, we decided to hit one of the local non-park trout streams. We had a great time. I thought to inspire those who put the trout gear away when winter rolls around, I'd republish this article my son wrote on Winter Trout Fishing.

David Mann
Many trout fisherman choose to hang up their rods for the winter. That is a shame, because some of the best fishing of the year often occurs in the cool months. You will have to adapt to the conditions however, and that means some of your summertime methods will not w

Fly fishing in a riverImage via Wikipedia

ork very well.

The first thing to remember during in the wintertime is to fish slow. The fish do not need to eat a lot of food when the water is cold, so your lure, bait, or fly needs to appear to be easy to catch. Fast moving spinners, spoons, and streamers are not a good bet now. Generally, spin fisherman will do well with jigs, worms, and other live baits, and fly fisherman will do best with nymphs and wet flies fished deep, near the bottom.

Also, you need to look for different kinds of water. Fish generally vacate fast moving riffles and runs, and spend their days in deep, slow pools. This allows the fish to hold their positions without using too much energy. For this reason, you should focus on slow water, and move past water that has a high gradient. Also, winter fishing tends to be best on rivers and streams where water temperatures are relatively stable. The best waters are spring creeks, and tailwaters. The water temperatures in these areas generally stay comfortable even in the coldest weather, and you will catch more fish.

It is important to fish during the warmest part of the day. Although during the summer you probably spent most of your time fishing in the early mornings and late evenings, you should do the exact opposite now. Generally, the best fishing occurs from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M. This is especially important on free-flowing rivers that get very cold in the winter, but it applies on any trout water during the winter.

Another important factor is to imitate what the fish are eating this time of year. Most of the fish will be feeding on nymphs or crustaceans near the bottom of the river. This means that dry fly fisherman tend to struggle. Beadhead nymphs fished deep are often the ticket. Also, this is spawning season on many trout waters, so flies imitating eggs often are best. Although worms and nightcrawlers do not occur naturally this time of year, you can still use them as bait with great success. Salmon eggs are also a top bait.

Although winter is not one of the most popular times to fish for trout, it may be one of the best. Just keep these tips in mind, and you should be able to catch fish even in the toughest conditions. So do not put away your rod this winter.

If you need some ideas on places to go, visit Ozark Trout Fishing for a fairly comprehensive rundown on opportunities in the area.
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