Saturday, March 31, 2012

Warm weather could boost turkey hunters’ long-term prospects

Female Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) take...
Female Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) taken near Rideau River, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Improved reproduction last year, plentiful acorns and a mild winter all favor a rebound of turkey numbers.

JEFFERSON CITY–Mild winter and early spring weather shifts the balance a little more in favor of a population rebound for Missouri’s wild-turkey flock, but it won’t have much effect on this year’s spring turkey season, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).

According to the University of Missouri’s Historical Agricultural Weather Database, temperatures between Jan. 1 and March 15 averaged nearly seven degrees warmer than the previous 10 years in central Missouri. The temperature at the University’s Sanborn Field in Boone County remained above freezing on 32 days during the same period, compared to just four above-freezing days in 2011.

“With the good acorn crop we had last fall and the very mild winter, our turkey population is in as good of condition as you could ever hope for at this time of year,” says Resource Scientist Jason Isabelle, who is in charge of wild-turkey management for MDC. “Hens should be in great condition going into the nesting season this year.”

That is good news, but hunters are more likely to be interested in how this year’s unusual weather will affect hunting. The answer, according to Isabelle, is not much.

“The warm weather we've been having really does not affect wild turkeys’ breeding and nesting behavior all that much,” says Isabelle. “The amount of daylight is the primary trigger for the start of turkey breeding activities, so even though spring is certainly ahead of schedule this year, it won't make that much difference.”

What will change, says Isabelle, is the amount of foliage on trees during turkey season. Leaves tend to absorb sound, making it harder for hunters to hear turkeys gobble. That can make hunting a bit more challenging, but Isabelle says more-developed foliage also offers hunters an advantage.

“Foliage can work to the hunter's advantage by allowing the hunter to get set up on a gobbler without being seen. A lot of hunters prefer hunting with more foliage on the trees for that very reason.”

Isabelle said going into the 2012 nesting and brood-rearing season in good condition could help Missouri’s turkey flock build on population gains made last year. Field observations of poults (recently hatched turkeys) last summer showed the best nesting success in nearly a decade.
Even with a good crop of poults, however, Isabelle estimated the size of the statewide turkey flock at approximately 440,000 last fall. That was down approximately 30 percent from 2001. The main cause of the decrease was several years of extremely unfavorable weather during the nesting and brood-rearing period from April through June. Neighboring states’ turkey flocks have suffered similar setbacks.

“We aren’t alone,” said Isabelle. “Above-average rainfall has taken a toll on turkeys across parts of the Midwest over the past few years. Poults are susceptible to hypothermia, so cold, wet weather is very hard on them. We got a break from the weather last year, and the birds responded just as we knew they would.”

The response showed up in a whopping 98-percent increase in the number of turkeys reported in field surveys in northeastern Missouri last year compared to 2010. Turkey observations increased in nearly every region of the state in 2011, but the rebound varied widely among regions.

One of the best measures of nesting success is the poult-to-hen ratio, which provides an idea of the success of the nesting and brood-rearing seasons. Last year’s poult-to-hen ratios were up by 91 and 100 percent in northeastern Missouri and the eastern Ozarks, respectively, compared to 2010. At the other end of the spectrum, the poult-to-hen ratio decreased by 26 percent in the Mississippi lowlands of southeastern Missouri. In Northwestern Missouri, the ratio was 17 percent higher than in 2010. The remaining five regions, encompassing the western Ozarks, the Ozark border, the western prairie region and the tier of counties just north and south of the Missouri River in eastern Missouri, recorded increases ranging from 27 to 92 percent.

To view a map showing regional results of the 2011 Wild Turkey Brood Survey Report, visit

Last year’s strong reproduction will boost the number of year-old male turkeys, commonly called “jakes,” available to hunters this spring. The big boost will come next year, when gobblers born in 2011 are two years old. Two-year-old males generally gobble more than jakes or older toms, and gobbling is what sets turkey hunters’ pulses racing.

Missouri’s youth spring turkey season comes early this year – March 31 and April 1 – to avoid a conflict with the Easter weekend. The regular spring turkey season is April 16 through May 6. Regulations remain the same as last year with a few exceptions, such as changes that apply to certain conservation areas. For details, see the 2012 Spring Turkey Hunting Regulation and Information booklet, which it is available wherever hunting permits are sold or at

-Jim Low-

Friday, March 30, 2012

Feral Hogs in Missouri

It is simply astounding that there are some folks who are willing to jeopardize native plant and animal populations, domestic livestock operations, as well as agricultural endeavors by releasing hogs for hunting.  We know that these releases are not the only source by which feral hogs are coming to Missouri, but it's certainly one of them.  The bottom line is that it needs to stop and outdoor folks in Missouri need to do what we can to help eradicate the ones that are here.

Below are three videos produced courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation.  Whether you are a deer hunter, turkey hunter, fisherman, farmer, rancher, or just nature lover, you'll want to hear and see what these videos have to say.

State archery tourney draws almost 1,200 competitors

Fourth annual Missouri National Archery in the Schools tournament sends dozens to nationals

WARRENSBURG, Mo. – A record fell as archers shot more than 40,000 arrows Saturday, March 24, during the fourth annual Missouri National Archery in the Schools (MoNASP) state tournament. The tourney drew 1,169 competitors from 53 schools across Missouri to the Multi-Purpose Building on the University of Central Missouri campus.

Courtesy MDC
Brandon Whitley of St. Clair Junior High School set a new scoring record for the meet and was top individual male shooter and top shooter for middle school males. Anna Hughes of Logan-Rogersville High School was the top female archer. The highest possible score from shooting 30 arrows at two distances is 300. Whitley set the new meet record for an individual competitor with a 293 score, while Hughes was tops among female archers with 281. They each received trophies and a special edition Genesis bow.

The archery match awarded prizes for top finishes in three different age groups for individual competitors and for the top teams in the elementary, middle school and high school categories. Winning teams and individuals, along with other teams and individuals with qualifying scores, will compete in the National Archery in the Schools (NASP) national tournament May 11-12 in Louisville, Ky. State regional tournaments were held earlier in the year.

George Guffey Elementary School of Fenton, Mo., won the elementary team category for the fourth year in a row.

MoNASP is coordinated through the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the Conservation Federation of Missouri in partnership with schools and supporting organizations throughout the state. MoNASP is an affiliate of NASP and promotes education, self-esteem and physical activity for students in grades 4-12 through participation in the sport of archery.

“Everything went very smooth,” said Eric Edwards, MDC outdoor education supervisor who organized the tourney. “We had fourth-grade students on up through twelfth-graders on the shooting lines, and sometimes the younger kids got as good a score as the high schoolers.”

Archers shoot at Olympic-style targets. After a practice round, they fire 15 arrows from 10 meters and 15 arrows from 15 meters. All competitors use the same type of compound bow designed for target shooting and the same type of arrows. No extra gear such as sights on bows are allowed, so shooting skills alone determine scores and equipment is not a factor.

“It’s all instinctive shooting,” said Chris Capps, MDC outdoor skills specialist. “It’s all about shooting with the correct stance and the correct anchor point. The more consistent they are on the release, the more accurate they will be.”

The tournament attracted more than 3,000 participants, coaches, family members and general spectators.

“I love it,” said Darlene Beshears of Hannibal who was watching a granddaughter compete. “These kids really take this to heart and it is fun to watch them.”

More than 34,000 Missouri students from 208 schools participate in MoNASP. Since NASP's beginnings in 2002, more than 8.8 million students have participated in the program through more than 10,000 schools in 47 states and five countries. 

Winning teams and individuals include:

High School Division
1st: Crane High School, Crane
2nd: Willard High School, Willard
3rd: Galena High School, Galena

Middle School Division
1st: Ridgewood Middle School, Arnold
2nd: Holy Rosary, Clinton
3rd: Crane Middle School, Crane

Elementary School Division
1st: George Guffey Elementary, Fenton
2nd: St. Joseph Cathedral School, Jefferson City
3rd: Simpson Elementary School, Arnold

Individual High School Males
1st: Tryston Bax, Helias High School, Jefferson City
2nd: Brandon Vermillion, Crane High School, Crane
3rd: Tanner May, Galena High School, Galena
4th: Jeremy Seelye, Crane High School, Crane
5th: Steven Hellmer, Willard High School, Willard

Individual High School Females
1st:  Anna Hughes, Logan-Rogersville High School, Rogersville
2nd: Kylie Vaught, Crane High School, Crane
3rd: Tessa Suedmeyer, Seckman High School, Imperial
4th: Ally Hultgren, Willard High School, Willard
5th: Emma Glossip, Crane High School, Crane

Individual Middle School Males
1st:  Brandon Whitley, St. Clair Junior High School, St. Clair
2nd: Weston Humble, Logan-Rogersville Middle School, Rogersville
3rd: Skylar Price, Maries County R-2, Belle
4th: Ryan Myers, Willard Middle School, Willard
5th: J.R. Schrader, Cole Camp Middle School, Cole Camp

Individual Middle School Females
1st:  Lexie Vaught, Crane Middle School, Crane
2nd: Sarah Rains, St. Clair Junior High School, St. Clair
3rd: Olivia Moore, Logan-Rogersville Middle School, Rogersville
4th: Rebecca Martin, Crane Middle School, Crane
5th: Michaela Theiss, Hillsboro Junior High School, Hillsboro

Individual Elementary School Males
1st: Caden Manthey, Dent-Phelps R-3 School, Salem
2nd: Jordan Guilfoy, George Guffey Elementary, Fenton
3rd: Josh Ruggles, Pepperdine Alternative, Springfield
4th: Alex McKay, George Guffey Elementary, Fenton
5th: Josh Hoffman, George Guffey Elementary, Fenton

Individual Elementary School Females
1st: Phoebe Harris, George Guffey Elementary, Fenton
2nd: Rachel Schulte, St. Joseph Cathedral School, Jefferson City
3rd: A.J. Macay, George Guffey Elementary, Fenton
4th: Abby Street, Simpson Elementary, Arnold
5th: Grace Patterson, George Guffey Elementary, Fenton

The following teams also had qualifying scores for the national tournament:
Willard Middle School
Logan-Rogersville Middle School      
St. Clair Junior High School
Maries County R-2 Middle School
St. Joseph Cathedral Middle School   
Cole Camp High School          
Hillsboro Junior High School  
Cole Camp Middle School      
Phelps County R-3 School District     
St. Stanislaus Middle School  
Meramec Heights Elementary School
Maries County R-2 Elementary School          
Longview Farm Elementary School    

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bat program scheduled April 5 at Columbia Public Library

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Learn about the awesome abilities of the world’s only flying mammal at a special presentation on bats at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 5 at the Columbia Public Library in Columbia. Presented by staff from Rock Bridge Memorial State Park near Columbia, the free photo-filled presentation will be held at the library’s Friends Room and is open to the public.

Rock Bridge Memorial State Park in Missouri
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park in Missouri (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sponsored by Missouri State Parks and the U.S. Forest Service, the program will include information on the different species of bats that use the park’s Devil’s Icebox cave and details about white-nose syndrome, a disease that affects bats. The program provides the opportunity to see captive live bats and for children to decorate a cardboard bat to take home. The program is recommended for ages 8 years and older.

The Columbia Public Library is located at 100 W. Broadway in Columbia. For more information about the program, contact Rock Bridge Memorial State Park at 573-449-7400. For more information about Missouri state parks and historic sites, visit Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring nature hike planned April 7 at Morris State Park

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Experience the first wildflowers of the new season on a spring nature hike April 7 at Morris State Park near Campbell. Sponsored by Missouri State Parks, the free nature hike will begin at 9 a.m. and is open to the public.
Map of Missouri highlighting Dunklin County
Map of Missouri highlighting Dunklin County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 The nature walk along the Beech Tree Trail will showcase the early spring wildflowers and flowering trees of Crowley’s Ridge. During the walk, hikers will see numerous mushrooms, birds and other wildlife, and learn about the processes that created this interesting landform. The 1.5-mile nature hike will begin at the parking lot and will take approximately one hour. Bring your binoculars, cameras and a sense of adventure for this fun-filled morning on Crowley’s Ridge.
 Morris State Park is located five miles north of Campbell on Route WW in Dunklin County. For more information, contact Big Oak Tree State Park at 573-649-3149 or Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site at 573-748-5340. For more information on Missouri state parks and historic sites, visit Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Grant applications available for outdoor recreation projects

Mississippi River Scenic Byway in Missouri
Mississippi River Scenic Byway in Missouri (Photo credit: Doug Wallick)
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri State Parks has released applications for the federally-funded Land and Water Conservation Fund to assist in financing outdoor recreation projects.

All local governments and public school districts are eligible for the federal funds, which are made available through the Department of the Interior's National Park Service. Projects can be for the development or renovation of outdoor recreational facilities, or for acquisition of park land. A 55 percent match is required.

Applications must be postmarked by June 11, 2012. An estimated $600,000 is expected to be awarded in the fiscal year 2012 cycle.

To assist potential project sponsors with the application process, Department of Natural Resources staff is holding grant application workshops during the month of April throughout the state. Pre-registration for the workshops is required. A complete schedule of dates and locations as well as the application form is available at Applications can also be requested in writing to Missouri State Parks, Grants Management Section, P.O. Box 176, Jefferson City, MO 65102.

Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Three more cases of CWD found in free-ranging deer in Macon County

Cwd map 2006
Cwd map 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
MDC testing of free-ranging deer results in five total cases of CWD with all found in same area.

JEFFERSON CITY Mo – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) received final test results today from 656 tissue samples taken from free-ranging deer harvested earlier this year. Results included three CWD-positives with two from adult does and one from an adult buck. The testing was conducted by MDC staff and area landowners in a 163-square mile area in northeast Linn and northwest Macon counties specifically for CWD sampling.

Missouri’s first two cases of CWD in free-ranging deer were detected in two adult bucks harvested in northwest Macon County during the 2011 fall firearms deer season. The three most recent CWD positives were harvested within two miles of the two original cases of CWD.

MDC conducted its 2011 fall tissue-sampling effort in response to two cases of CWD found in captive white-tailed deer at two private, captive-hunting preserves in Macon and Linn counties. Since October 2011, three more captive deer at the Macon County preserve have tested positive for CWD. Depopulation, quarantine and other management activities at the private preserve are being coordinated by the Missouri Department of Agriculture. The five cases of CWD in free-ranging deer have been found within two miles of the Macon County preserve.

While MDC identified the first case of CWD in free-ranging deer in Missouri in January, the Department has been testing for it for years. With the help of hunters, MDC has tested more than 34,000 free-ranging deer for CWD from all parts of the state since 2002.

MDC staff are further analyzing recent test results, continuing to evaluate efforts and lessons learned from other states with CWD, and consulting with various other wildlife experts around the country. The Department’s main objectives are to limit the prevalence and restrict the spread of CWD in Missouri.

According to MDC Deer Biologist Jason Sumners, there are several main factors associated with the management of free-ranging deer that will influence the future prevalence and distribution of CWD in Missouri: local deer density, deer concentration, the movement of deer and the movement of deer carcasses.
“Yearling and adult male deer have been found to exhibit CWD at a much higher rate than yearling and adult females,” Sumners said. “Of the 10 cases of CWD identified in both captive and free-ranging deer in Missouri, eight have been in adult bucks. Additionally, dispersal of yearling males from the range where they were born is one of the most likely means of expanding the distribution of CWD. The movement of infectious materials in the form of hunter-harvested deer carcasses that contain heads and spinal columns, where the disease concentrates, may also serve as a means of introducing CWD to other regions of the state.”

Sumners added that CWD has been found in only one small pocket of the state. “Our management efforts will focus on minimizing the prevalence and preventing the further spread of the disease from the area. We will keep the public informed as we develop those efforts.”

CWD is a neurological disease that is limited to deer, elk, moose and other members of the deer family, known as “cervids.” CWD can only be confirmed in deer by laboratory testing of the brain stem or lymph tissue. CWD is transmitted through prions, which are abnormalproteins that attack the nervous systems of these species. These prions accumulate in the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, and lymph nodes of infected animals. CWD is spread by animal-to-animal contact or by animal contact with soil that contains prions from urine, feces or the decomposition of an infected animal.

Deer and other cervids with signs of CWD show changes in natural behavior and can exhibit extreme weight loss, excessive salivation, stumbling and tremors. CWD can be present in and transmitted by infected animals for up to several years before symptoms of the disease appear.

“Most deer that test positive for CWD appear to be healthy,” Sumners said. “Although one of the free-ranging does that tested positive for CWD did exhibit clinical signs of the disease.”

The Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) says there is no evidence from existing research that CWD can spread to domestic livestock, such as sheep or cattle. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS) says there is no scientific evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans through contact with or the consumption of deer meat.

The disease was first recognized in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado. CWD has been documented in both captive and free-ranging deer in Missouri, along with neighboring Kansas and Nebraska. It has been documented in free-ranging deer in neighboring Illinois, and in captive elk in neighboring Oklahoma. CWD has also been documented in both captive and free-ranging members of the deer-family in Colorado, Minnesota, New York, South Dakota, Wisconsin and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Maryland, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming also have documented cases of CWD in free-ranging members of the deer family. Michigan and Montana have documented cases of CWD in captive members of the deer family.

Colorful Endangered Beetle to Return to Southwest Missouri

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reintroduce the colorful American burying beetle to a natural area in southwest Missouri as part of a partnership with the St. Louis Zoo to recover this native endangered species. The reintroduction will occur at Wah’kon-tah Prairie, a 3,030-acre site in St. Clair and Cedar counties, Missouri, jointly owned and managed by Missouri Department of Conservation and The Nature Conservancy. 

 The Service will work with the St. Louis Zoo, which maintains a captive population of American burying beetles, to release pairs of beetles in suitable habitat at the prairie. 

As part of the effort, the Service has designated the American burying beetles at Wah-kon-tah Prairie and surrounding counties (Cedar, St. Clair, Bates, Vernon)  as a “nonessential experimental” population.  This gives managers more flexibility in working with the reintroduced species, and also provides assurance to nearby private landowners that the presence of a protected species will not affect their activities.

The American burying beetle was designated a federally endangered species in 1989 - the first insect species to be so recognized.  Under the Endangered Species Act, plants and animals listed as endangered are at risk of becoming extinct in the foreseeable future. 

The beetles are about 1 to 1.5 inches in length, with striking orange and black bodies. They are named for their habit of laying their eggs in carrion they bury underground, which sustains the larvae once they are hatched.
Historically, the American burying beetle was recorded in 35 states, including 13 counties throughout Missouri, and was most likely found throughout the state.  The last documented American burying beetle in Missouri was collected from Newton County (southwest Missouri) in the mid-1970s.  Monitoring for existing American burying beetle populations has been ongoing in Missouri since 1991, but none has been found.  The reasons for the dramatic decline of this species are still unknown.

For more information on the American burying beetle and the Service’s activities to recover endangered species, visit