Sunday, January 26, 2014

Missouri deer harvest follows regional trend

Department will host public meetings in 2014
to gather input on deer management plan
JEFFERSON CITY–Hunters checked 50,507 Deer during Missouri’s archery
courtesy MDC
deer season, bringing the state’s overall deer harvest to 250,787. That number is down from the 10-year average of 293,056.
The archery deer harvest was the second-largest in Missouri’s history, reflecting the continued growth in popularity of bowhunting. Top archery deer harvest counties were Jefferson, with 1,205 deer checked, St. Louis with 1,230, and Franklin with 1,018.
Resource Scientist Jason Sumners says the overall decrease is in line with deer-harvest figures from other Midwestern states.
“Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota all reported decreases of 7 to 26 percent in their firearms deer harvests,” says Sumners. “The relative importance of the factors responsible for those decreases differs from state to state, but the history behind them is similar.”
The “history” Sumners mentioned relates to the challenges state agencies have faced in managing deer numbers over the past 10 to 20 years. As deer-restoration programs that began in the 1930s and 1940s finally came to full fruition, agencies faced a different challenge – how to balance deer populations that provide excellent hunting without also causing unacceptable levels of human-deer conflict.
Reversing the decades-long emphasis on protecting female deer from harvest, biologists increasingly urged hunters to shoot does. This was aimed at shifting the sex ratio of deer herds from doe-heavy to a 50:50 mix of bucks and does. The goal was to reduce deer population growth in some areas, hold deer numbers steady in others and reduce deer numbers in areas that already were significantly above deer population targets.
“Over the course of about 15 years, we were able to apply the brakes to deer population growth,” says Sumners. “Then came a perfect storm of conditions we had no way of anticipating.”
Those unanticipated conditions were driven by a severe drought that began in 2012 and carried over into 2013. It caused the worst outbreak of hemorrhagic diseases – blue tongue and epizootic hemorrhagic disease, collectively referred to as HD – in recorded history. Those losses were deepened when the drought caused the smallest acorn crop since the department started keeping records in 1960. The lack of acorns forced deer to move more during the 2012 deer season, making it easier for hunters to find them and contributing to the second-largest deer harvest in Missouri history.
Hunter behavior changes slowly, so they continue to shoot the same number of deer they have in recent years. Consequently, the harvests in the first and second years after a HD die-off remain relatively stable. By the time hunters adjust their harvest behavior, a significant loss has accumulated.
Sumners says the Conservation Department’s Regulations Committee will consider these factors, along with the many comments they have received from hunters, when drafting recommendations to the Conservation Commission regarding 2014-2015 deer-hunting regulations.  The Commission approved deer season dates for the 2014-2015 season to provide hunters adequate notice, but season regulations may still be adjusted by the Conservation Commission. He says the remedy for the current dip in deer numbers is not as simple as it might seem at first glance.
“Missouri’s deer population isn’t evenly spread across the state or a county,” he says. “Blanket, one-size-fits-all answers aren’t necessarily the right solutions. But we want people to know that we are hearing their concerns and are committed to identifying ways to find the right balance.”
Sumners says it is important to view the current situation from a broad historical perspective. It took 50 years of cooperation between the Conservation Departmentlandowners, and hunters to reach the point where Missouri’s annual deer harvest topped 200,000 in 1995. It took another 10 years to achieve the balance of doe and buck harvest needed to stabilize deer numbers in parts of Missouri where deer had grown too numerous. Maintaining that stability in the face of weather extremes, disease outbreaks and annual harvest variations is a balancing act. Sumners also says it is important to keep this years’ harvest in perspective.
“The average deer harvests of approximately 290,000 over the past 10 years have given us a lopsided view of what the annual harvest should be,” he says. “We’ve seen dips and bumps in total harvest before and expect the ebb and flow will continue in the future. We are committed to continuing the science-informed management that has enabled successful management of a deer resource that supports 12,000 Missouri jobs and pumps $1 billion into our economy annually.”
The Department evaluates season information each year and last year reduced unlimited antlerless permits in some counties.  The management of white-tailed deer has always been both a biologically and socially complex issue, but management today is more challenging due to interrelated factors such as land use, ownership, hunter density, and human population levels. Today’s research efforts allow the agency to forecast population changes and evaluate the impact of various regulation options on the deer population.  Research, management, and public input will help the Department make more informed management decisions.
The Conservation Department plans to hold public meetings around the state this summer to gather input from hunters, wildlife watchers and others about the future of deer management in Missouri.  Public input has always been and will continue to be an important part of the future of deer management.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Apply now for managed turkey hunts

Public Domain image from English Wikipedia of ...

This year’s hunts have something for everyone,
including youths, archers, and hunters with disabilities.
JEFFERSON CITY–Turkey hunters have until Feb. 28 to apply for managed hunts during the 2014 spring turkey season.
This year’s offerings include managed hunts for archers, youths, and people with disabilities. Managed turkey hunts and application procedures are outlined in the 2014 Spring Turkey Hunting Regulations and Informationbooklet, which is available at www.mdc.mo.gov/7498. A print version will be available from hunting permit vendors statewide in mid-February.
Missouri has some of the nation’s best turkey hunting, thanks to the cooperation of MDC, citizens, and landowners in a 25-year restoration program. To learn more about wild turkeys in Missouri, visitmdc.mo.gov/node/4105.

-Jim Low-

Friday, January 24, 2014

Osage Beach student goes “with the flow,” wins Earth Day 2014 slogan contest

An Osage Beach student’s suggestion to “go with the flow” won top honors in the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Earth Day 2014 Slogan Contest.
Mallory Bartels, a fifth-grader at Camdenton R-3 –Capstone Gifted Center, submitted the slogan, “Watersheds: Go with the flow, clean H20,” based on the 2014 Earth Day theme, “Watersheds”.
Bartels will be honored on stage at Earth Day 2014, which will be held April 25 on the South Lawn of the Capitol in Jefferson City. She will also receive a $50 gift card donated by Central Bank of Jefferson City. The department received nearly 250 entries in the contest.
Earth Day 2014 is the 20th annual Earth Day event sponsored by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Between 1,000 and 2,000 students are expected to attend the event, which will include educational activities, contests and stage shows. For more information on Earth Day 2014 visit www.dnr.mo.gov/earthday/.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Neosho National Fish Hatchery Wins DOI Environmental Achievement Award


Assistant Secretary Rhea Suh has announced that the Midwest Region's Neosho National Fish Hatchery in Missouri is a recipient of the 2013 Department of Interior Environmental Achievement Award. A model of sustainability, the Visitor Center was nominated in the “Building the Future” award category.
Awards recognize departmental employees and partners who have attained exceptional achievements under Executive Order 13514 “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance” and for cleaning up contaminated land.  The Award categories are:  Sustainability Hero; Green Innovation; Lean, Clean and Green; Good Neighbor; Green Dream Team; Building the Future; and Environmental Remediation. 
An interdisciplinary panel of reviewers from the Department’s bureaus and offices evaluated nominations to recommend Award recipients and honorable mentions.  The panel is chaired by the Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance.
Neosho National Fish Hatchery was established in 1888 and is the oldest operating federal fish hatchery. The hatchery encompasses approximately 18 acres in the heart of the town of Neosho, Missouri, due to availability of excellent-quality spring water. It raises endangered pallid sturgeon for recovery efforts in the lower Missouri River and rainbow trout for stocking in Lake Taneycomo. It supports conservation of the endangered Ozark cavefish and restoration of native mussels. Now more than 20 years after the hatchery’s centennial, this new high-performance 9,839 square-foot Visitor Center, which is the first Service building to earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating officially from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), opened in December 2010. Energy efficiency strategies used throughout the building include a cool roof, day lighting, low-e glazed windows, energy-efficient lighting and a 31.13 ton geothermal heat pump. The Visitor Center is architecturally designed to mimic the original headquarters from 1888, which featured similar onion dome and witches hat roof styles.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hunters check 11,967 deer in alternative-methods hunt

The decrease in alternative-methods harvest is similar to those
of the November and antlerless portions of firearms deer season.

JEFFERSON CITY–Hunters checked 11,967 deer during the alternative-methods portion of Missouri’s firearms deer season Dec. 21 through 31. That figure is 20 percent fewer than in 2012.
Top counties for the alternative-methods portion were Oregon, with 437 deer checked, Howell with 360, and Shannon with 298.
Resource Scientist Emily Flinn with the Missouri Department of Conservation said the decrease was expected.
“The decrease in alternative-methods harvest is close to the declines in this years’ November and antlerless portions,” said Flinn. “The decrease in this year’s total harvest statewide is primarily a result of a reduction in deer numbers that resulted from continued doe harvest, last year’s widespread outbreak of hemorrhagic diseases, and record-low acorn production.”
Flinn said reduced deer numbers will be one factor considered by the Conservation Department’s Regulations Committee when developing recommendations for 2014 deer-hunting regulations.
We continually consider regulation changes, including reducing the availability of antlerless permits and the antlerless portion of firearms deer season in places where regulation changes are necessary to allow the population to recover,” said Flinn.
The alternative methods portion replaced the muzzleloader portion of firearms deer season in 2012. Hunters are allowed to use muzzle-loading firearms, center-fire pistols, air-powered guns, bows, crossbows, or atlatls during the alternative-methods hunt.
The only remaining portion of firearms deer season is the late youth portion Jan. 4 and 5. Archery deer season runs through Jan. 15.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Walter Mitty motivates Alaskan dropped in Missouri

The other day we saw the newest film rendition of the “Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”  I believe I had
read the story many years ago, but had forgotten the details of Thurber’s plot.  Commonsense told me that the current version was not true to the finer points, however.  It did not matter to me, or any of the members of my family who saw it with me. 

The critics were fairly ambivalent about the movie – not a big surprise to me as I imagine them sitting in some brownstone or high-rise office building in Chicago or New York not being able to relate in the least to Walter’s quest for adventure.  I imagine them thinking, “I could not care less about adding adventure to my life and I do not appreciate the implication that my nine to five existence leaves me wanting.  I am comfortable and do not want to be cold, tired, scared, or uncertain about life.”  The critics covered their less than enthusiastic reviews with excuses, in my mind completely off base, such as lack of character development.
 
There really is no part of me that wants anyone to feel lacking if they do not have that desire for adventure.  I have certainly experienced far less of it as my life has settled into a more mundane reality,
but I still relish knowing people whose lives are full of it, and experiencing it vicariously through movies and books.  There is a reminder in each of these vicarious experiences, that at least for me, there is still a need for adventure, albeit at a scaled down level.  It causes me to dream, and occasionally plan adventures that at age 50 I can still experience with a fairly high likelihood of surviving.  These are the things that keep my mind alive, and truthfully are solely responsible for me not lapsing into a physical state of morbid obesity.

Viewers of “Walter Mitty,” at least those who watched it with an open mind, likely reacted to the film in a multitude of ways.  There are those who likely see themselves as Water Mitty’s – never having experienced any kind of adventure…those who have never been anywhere interesting.  I am blessed that I have had at least the experience of adventure and grew up in an interesting place – Alaska.
So, for me, the challenge perceived was that now that I live in Missouri and work in a suburban school district and am at least relatively comfortable, do I just look back and hobble into old age telling stories from many years ago?  Or, do I endeavor to add to the adventures I have been blessed to experience. 
I do not anticipate riding out storms as a deckhand on a fishing boat off Cape Fairweather,
working for a crazy skipper, or working at a remote site for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game building salmon weirs and trying to keep bears away long enough to count the salmon trying to migrate upstream to spawn.  My adventures must fit into some realities of family responsibilities and physical limitations. 

I am lucky to have a family that enjoys seeking out some of these adventures at least on a limited scale.  We have camped for the better part of a summer in the West – even staying in a firetower for a week atop one of the higher peaks in the Cabinet Mountains of Northwest Montana.   We have canoed and kayaked whitewater streams all over the country.  Even Laura, my wife who was not naturally endowed with the inclination to live on the edge, has experienced many of these adventures with my two sons and I (as well as various dogs), and is likely better off for having done so.  I know our family
is better off for us having done these things together.

So for me, looking back is a treasure, but also a reminder to look forward to seek further but appropriate adventures.  Implied in adventure is challenge, and for me the challenge is to push myself physically to be in condition to go on these future adventures. This is not a roundabout way of bringing up a New Year’s Resolution – I do not do them.  But I am going to be in better shape this year through
diet and exercise. 

I hope that you see the movie, and enjoy it.  I hope that it inspires some sense of adventure in you, if even to enjoy the adventures of others.  It is sort of cliché to suggest that one not live life such that they will regret adventures missed.  But clichés are so for a reason.