Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bear Safety

Missourians need to be bear prepared
Black bears seldom bother humans, but attacks do happen.
Follow these tips to help avoid or repel aggressive bears.
JEFFERSON CITY–What would you do if you rounded a bend in a trail and came face to face with a bear? The Missouri Department of Conservation has advice about what to do in that scenario and, even better, how to avoid it.
Missouri is home to a small number of black bears, the only bear species found here. The statewide population is estimated at only 300 to 500 bears. However, the number is growing slowly, thanks to natural reproduction and immigration from Arkansas.
One of the most useful things for avoiding bear confrontations is knowing where you are likely to see a bear. The Conservation Department has confirmed bear sightings in 61 of the state’s 114 counties. However, 90 percent of the state’s bears live south of Interstate Highway 44.
“You could see a bear in the northern two-thirds of the state,” said Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer. “Atchison, Worth and Lewis counties have recorded at least one sighting. But the odds decrease sharply the farther north you go. For the most part, this is still an Ozarks phenomenon.”
Beringer, the Conservation Department’s bear specialist, said Ozark County leads the state, with 102 documented bear sightings since the agency began keeping records in 1987. Adjoining Howell and Douglas counties are second and third with 60 and 51 sightings, respectively. Counties with 40 or more sightings include Carter, Christian, Iron, Reynolds, Shannon, Stone and Taney.
The cluster of bear sightings in and around Reynolds County extends north as far as Crawford, Franklin and Washington counties, each of which has produced more than 30 verified reports since 1987.
Missouri’s top bear counties also happen to contain the Ozark Trail and many of the state’s other popular hiking and camping destinations. While bear sightings remain relatively rare, Beringer said Missourians need to begin making bear awareness part of their outdoor skill set.
“A few years ago, the chances of a backpacker or a mushroom hunter stumbling across a bear were pretty close to zero. That isn’t true today. Anyone who spends time outdoors should know how to avoid run-ins with bears and what to do if they do encounter one.”
Beringer said chance encounters with bears usually are brief, ending when the bear realizes a human is near and retreats. Bears have a natural fear of humans. However, accidental bear meetings can be dangerous if the bear is startled or cornered or if a person gets between a sow and her cubs.
“Black bears are much more powerful for their size than the average person realizes,” he said. “They are unpredictable and extremely dangerous when they feel threatened. They are nothing to mess with.”
Bears are keenly aware of their surroundings, so Beringer said one effective way of avoiding surprise meetings is to make noise. Talking with companions works well. So does whistling, singing or fastening a cowbell to your backpack or clothing.
Bears’ hearing and sense of smell are excellent, but their eyesight is poor. They sometimes do not recognize humans, even at close range, if the wind is blowing the people’s scent away from them. At such times, a bear often rears up on its hind legs. This is not a threat, but an attempt to use its eyes and nose to best advantage.
Beringer said people who see bear that have not seen them yet should leave the area quickly and quietly. If the bear is aware of your presence, Beringer recommends avoiding eye contact, which bears perceive as aggressive behavior. The best thing in this situation is to look down and walk away while speaking in a normal voice.
A bear on a narrow trail may feel cornered. The best strategy here is to step off the trail on the downhill side and leave the area quietly. Do not make sudden movements or run.
When threatened or defending cubs, black bears often make huffing sounds, pop their jaws or beat the ground with their front paws. This is a warning that you are too close. Black bears also make mock charges, rushing at intruders, stopping and then retreating. People who take the hint and withdraw immediately after a mock charge almost always avoid further trouble.
Although attacks by black bears are rare, they do occur. Black bears can run much faster than humans can, and they are excellent climbers. Consequently, fleeing or climbing a tree is pointless. The most effective strategy is to fight back with whatever you have – a knife, a rock, a stick or any other weapon. Black bear attacks have been repelled by people using nothing more than their fists. Striking a bear around the face is most effective. Pepper spray also can stop a bear attack.
Aggressive bears usually are those that have become accustomed to human presence. This most often occurs through intentional feeding. Beringer cautioned against deliberately feeding bears or allowing bears to raid trash, livestock feeders or other human food sources. This puts both people and bears at risk.
If you encounter an aggressive bear, contact conservation office or your local sheriff’s department immediately.  The Conservation Department has specially trained employees to deal with problem or aggressive bears.
For more  information about living with bears, visit mdc.mo.gov/landown/wild/nuisance/bear/info/

For more information on camping, visit Family-Outdoors Camping

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

State-Record Black Bullhead

Harrisonville man lands second state record in two years
The hefty black bullhead came from a farm pond in Cass County.
HARRISONVILLE–Missouri has a new state-record black bullhead, and Nicholas J. Wray has his second fishing record in less than two years.
Wray, 23, caught the 2-pound, 4-ounce fish on a jug line April 9 at a farm pond in Cass County. The bullhead nudged aside the previous record by 4 ounces.
In 2008, Wray caught Missouri’s first state-record river carpsucker, a 2-pound, 3-ounce fish that came from Cass County’s South Grand River near Amarugia Highlands Conservation Area. He did it by design, having noticed that no one had bothered to apply for a record for the species previously.
Wray’s latest record fish measured 15 1/8 inches from nose to tail. Black bullheads seldom grow longer than 16 inches and 2 pounds. Missouri’s pole-and-line record for black bullhead is 4 pounds, 11 ounces.
Two other species – brown and yellow bullheads – tend to be smaller than the black bullhead. Yet, Missouri’s pole-and-line record yellow bullhead outweighed its black counterpart by more than 2 pounds. The Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisc., recognizes an 8-pound, 15-ounce behemoth from Michigan as the world record black bullhead. That is nearly four times the weight of Wray’s fish.
These might indicate that heftier black bullheads haunt Missouri waters, waiting to be caught and registered as records.
The pole-and-line category is for fish taken on hand-held lines. Alternative methods include trotlines, throw lines, limb lines, bank lines, tree lines, jug lines, spearfishing, snagging, gigging, grabbing (with the use of a hook) and archery.
Entry forms and rules are available at mdc4.mdc.mo.gov/Documents/72.pdf. A list of Missouri fishing records is available at http://mdc4.mdc.mo.gov/Documents/69.pdf. The Conservation Department also has a Master Angler Program to recognize notable catches that fall short of records. For qualifying lengths and weights, visit http://mdc4.mdc.mo.gov/Documents/71.pdf.
-Jim Low-










Missouri Fishing Info

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Turkey Harvest and Weather

 



Predictions on this year's turkey harvest had been pretty dire.  Of course the season is not over and this weekend's weather won't help, but the season did start off okay.

According to a news release from Jim Low of MDC, the opening day this year saw a harvest of 6759 turkeys.  This is only about 2/3 of what the opening say saw in 2005 when they started the telecheck system, but it is up about 750 from last year's opening day.  Now, as all who turkey hunt know, harvest numbers are dependent on much more than the number of turkeys out there, but on weather and other things.  Now the weather seems to be turning a little less favorable this weekend and for the upcoming week.

The press release I quoted earlier also provides some information from MDC Biologist Tom Dailey that seems pretty hopeful for the future.  A combination of slightly higher jake harvest percentages as well as favorable Spring weather seems to point to a better reproduction rate for this year.  Let's hope.

Turkey Hunting Information  
Missouri Public Lands Resources
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Monday, April 19, 2010

Missouri Trout Fishing

This resource for Missouri trout fishing has information on just about any river, stream, lake and trout park you can think of. Additionally, it has stream reports, fly and tackle information, hatch charts, and more.
Missouri Trout Fishing

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Missouri-Fly-Fishing-Guide

Current River
Family Outdoors has just out up this page as an aid to those wishing to get information on Missouri fly fishing. Full of good information!
Missouri-Fly-Fishing-Guide
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Turkey Hunting Safety...Missouri Department of Conservation Press Release

Turkey hunters never too old for education
Turkey hunters old enough to be exempt from mandatory hunter
education could benefit from training their younger counterparts receive.
JEFFERSON CITY–As a rule, people develop better judgment as they mature. Education can speed up this process, however. In fact, 2009 turkey-hunting incident statistics provide strong evidence that education has helped young hunters surpass their elders’ judgment.
The low point for turkey-hunting safety in Missouri was 1986, two years before hunter education became mandatory. That year, 31 people suffered gunshot wounds in spring turkey hunting incidents. Two of them died.
From 1985 through 1988, Missouri averaged 23 spring turkey-hunting incidents per year. Since then, however, the number of firearms-related spring turkey hunting incidents has decreased dramatically. In the past five years, the average has been 4.8 incidents per season. Missouri’s safest spring turkey-hunting season was 2007, when only two incidents – neither fatal – marred the spring hunt. The shooter in one of those incidents was 39 years old. The other was 61.
“It isn’t merely coincidence that we have seen a steady decrease in hunting injuries and deaths since the advent of mandatory hunter education,” said Tony Legg, hunter education coordinator for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “The decline in number of injuries is a direct reflection of the increasing number of hunters who have been through formal safety training. You can also see the difference in the number of incidents involving people who have not received hunter education.”
In 2009, the Conservation Department recorded four spring turkey-hunting incidents. Three of those incidents involved hunters who were born before Jan. 1, 1967 and therefore exempt from Missouri’s hunter education requirement.  None of the three had taken hunter education training.
In one of last year’s incidents, a 53-year-old hunter fired when he saw what he mistakenly thought was a turkey 21 to 30 yards away. In fact, the movement was a friend turning to take a shot at a turkey.
Last year a 70-year-old hunter shot his son, who was using a shaker-type gobble call to attract a turkey for his own son. The shooter mistook the motion of the call for a turkey beard blowing in the wind. The incident report said the shooter knew the other two were in the area and was trying to show them up by shooting the turkey out from under them.
“If you need proof that age is no guarantee of good judgment, this is it,” said Legg. “If this grandfather could commit such a potentially disastrous judgment error, anyone can. Everyone might have been spared a lot of emotional and physical pain if the grandpa had been through hunter education.”
The final 2009 spring turkey-hunting incident, and the only fatality, occurred when a 56-year-old hunter tried to pull a loaded shotgun from the seat of his vehicle by the barrel. The trigger caught on something and the gun discharged, striking him in the chest.
“Incidents like that are preventable,” said Legg. “The proof is in the last 20 years’ hunting incident statistics. Most of them are being prevented. The best thing older hunters can do for themselves and their families is to attend a hunter-education course.”
Hunter education classes are available throughout the state between now and the opening of spring turkey season. To find a class near you, visit http://mdc.mo.gov/hunt/huntered/, or call the nearest Conservation Department office.
Another way to gain the benefits of hunter education is to visit www.mdc.mo.gov/17844, and review hunter-education course material there. You can check your mastery of the subject by taking the accompanying chapter reviews and pre-tests. 
Last year’s spring turkey hunting incidents are typical in that most involved victims who were mistaken for game. Legg said confusing an adult human weighing 150 pounds or more with a 20-pound turkey is much easier than it seems. To begin with, turkey hunters go out of their way to look like anything but a human, wearing camouflage to blend in with their surroundings. Beyond that, he said, it helps to understand the turkey hunter’s mindset.
“You are looking for a very elusive, wary animal that can appear any place at any time,” he said. “Trying to see a turkey is like trying to put a puzzle together. Is that a beard or a leaf blowing in the breeze? Is that patch of blue a reflection of the sky or a gobbler’s head? When you see something that could be a piece of the puzzle, there is a natural tendency for your mind to fill in some of the other pieces that you expect to see. You have to keep that gun in your lap until you have seen and positively identified the whole bird,” said Legg. “Anything less is courting disaster.”
Legg said hunters can do several things to avoid becoming victims. The simplest is wearing hunter orange when moving between hunting spots.
“A hunter wearing blaze orange is much harder to mistake for game than one slipping through the woods in full camouflage,” he said. “You still need to be alert, but it decreases your chances of being mistaken for game by a factor of 10 or so.”
Legg said some hunters are shot in spite of not looking or sounding like a gobbler. One of the hunters injured last year saw the shooter and tried to move away but was shot when the other hunter saw his movement. Legg recommends shouting to another hunter the moment you realize you are not alone in an area. However, he admits that most hunters have difficulty forcing themselves to do this.
“No one wants to scare all the turkeys in the neighborhood or bust somebody else’s hunt by yelling,” he said. “The chances of being mistaken for game seem so small, and it is hard to believe it could happen to you. But it does happen every year. It could happen to you as well as anyone.”
Legg cautioned against waving, whispering or whistling to get other hunters’ attention. Only a clear human voice provides immediate, positive identification.
Hunters can protect themselves when sitting and calling by tying a hunter-orange vest to a tree trunk nearby to alert others to their presence. A Missouri company makes a banner designed especially for this purpose (see www.hunterbanner.com).
As a further safety measure, hunters should look for hunting spots that provide an unobstructed view in front and a physical barrier behind. A tree trunk wide enough to shield the hunter’s entire body is ideal.
These and many other safety tips are covered in approved hunter-education classes. Legg says he wishes more older hunters would make use of the safety advantage they provide.
“One day, I would like to record zeros in the ‘injuries’ and ‘fatalities’ columns for the spring turkey season,” he said. “Getting older hunters into hunter education would go a long way toward accomplishing that.”
-Jim Low-
Caption for All Outdoors photo
Turkey hunters can reduce the chance of mishaps by wrapping a hunter-orange cloth or garment around a tree when calling. Sitting against a large tree to shield your back is another important safety measure. Wearing a hunter orange vest and hat when moving through the woods dramatically reduces the chance of being mistaken for a turkey.
 (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)

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