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Notes From Hunter Creek – 6.16.2016

Preserving Habitat

Hey, how was your turkey season? Mine was successful if you consider successful a self-defense shot at a charging 11-pound jake.  So dumb sometimes, but very tasty.

And for the third time in my life, I had a coyote mother approach my self-made blind of fallen tree limbs and branches near a fence-line on the edge of a field. She stopped about 20 feet from me and stared at my hiding place. My heart beat rose rapidly. Placing her nose into the air, as soon as she smelled “human” she turned around and boogied fast-time in a zig-zag motion. In seconds she disappeared into the timber.

The older I get, the more respect I have developed for the coyote. They are truly smart and adaptable. And in Hunter Creek Valley, they are plentiful. At night, I can always hear at least one, sometimes two broods of “yipping and yapping”.  One of the problems is that they have no natural predator other than man, and “man” is not trapping and hunting coyotes like they used to. A lot of the old diehard coyote hunters have died or faded away.

Another bonus of sneaking around the woods in camouflage was the sighting of a good looking little red fox with a healthy coat free of mange.  And down by the creek were dozens of raccoon tracks and one nice set of bobcat tracks, surrounded by signs of river otters.

The only drawback to my brief turkey hunts was my acquisition of several wood ticks.  And once again, my spring morel hunting was dismal –– one good-sized morel and a few older dried up ones!

Now, a few points about habitat preservation.  After all, the main reason for loss of wildlife is generally attributed to the loss of wildlife habitat.  If fishing, consider keeping one or two for the frying pan and returning all others to the stream. Of course in order to effectively do this, you must forego natural bait and stick to artificial lures with one hook, no treble hooks.

Later in the year, if you are frogging, consider only taking the large bullfrogs, and don’t clean out the area.

If hunting fowl, consider using steel shot. Of course, duck and goose hunting require the use of steel shot and forbid the use of lead shot. Also, consider replacing all shot shells older than five years, since gunpowder ages and gradually becomes less effective.

When deer hunting, consider letting the master of the woods, the wise old 10-pointer survive and breed for another year. Same thing for the larger older does. If you really want to enjoy venison try limiting yourself to a yearling, or maybe a small forked-horn buck. Always cheek your tag and all of the regulations each year as they change from year to year.

If you own or rent rural land, there are several things you can do to improve the habitat.

First, try not to log or brush hog within 25 yards of a stream. Leaving a buffer is very important for a successful habitat for wildlife.

Second, if you have a brushy, thorny, tangle of small bushes, consider leaving them alone. I have an area like this not too far from my home. While several people have suggested that this spot should be mowed down, I have always pointed out that this will not happen as this brushy area comprises my wildlife refuge for birds, squirrels and rabbits.

Third, try not to mow the fencerows clean from line to line. Consider leaving boundary areas of brush for wildlife.

Fourth, consider planting small food plots in open areas in the wood. These plots usually consist of milo, millet and wheat.  And, I believe, they are  available from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Finally, I am not a big advocate of feeding birds and other wildlife. Ozark winters are not severe enough usually to require such feedings. However, in late winter or early spring, if there is a heavy snow or even worse, a thickened ice which is slow to melt, consider throwing out chops, shelled corn or ear corn. Such feedings can save deer and turkey in these stressful times, as protein-rich acorns are mostly gone or covered during this part of the season.

I believe the Conservation Department has specialists in habitat conservation and forestry and they offer advice in these areas free of charge.

Note:   Highs and Lows

Of course, most people who know geography in the Ozarks know that Taum Sauk Mountain in the St. Francis Range, in eastern part of the state, is the highest point in Missouri with an elevation of 1772-feet.

The lowest point in Missouri is located at Hornerville Swamp on the Arkansas state line, in the Bootheel. The highest point in Arkansas is the Ouachita Range at Magazine Mtn. (elevation 2753-feet), south of the Arkansas River, near Paris, Ark. There is even a road that winds up to the summit.

These are true, old, worn down mountains, which actually have small summits.

But what a lot of people do not know is how many of our western Ozark Mountains are actually worn down high ridges and plateaus, most with no discernable summits.

The second highest point in Missouri is located in southwestern Wright County, at Lead Hill (elev. 1744’). Lead Hill is only 28 feet lower than Taum Sauk. You can view it as you proceed east on US 60 from Cedar Gap. It is the high ridge line located a mile south of the highway, and located about two miles north of the Douglas County line.

By the way, for rail lovers, Cedar Gap on the Burlington-Northern and Santa Fe line (BNSF), is the steepest grade on the rail line between the Appalachian Mountains in the east and Rocky Mountains in the west.

Taum Sauk Mountain spurs several rivers –– St. Francis River, Black River, Big Creek, Mineral Creek and a few others.

But the Lead Hill plateau, and surrounding high ridges lead to triple that number –– Bryant Creek, Beaver Creek, Swan Creek, Gasconade River (the longest free-flowing river in the Ozarks, over 250 river miles before joining the Missouri River just upstream of Hermann), Osage Fork of the Gasconade, Woods Fork of the Gasconade, James River, Finley River, Niangua River, among many other small feeder streams.

In Douglas County, the highest point in the county is located about 5 miles west of Ava. It is known as Pilot Knob (elev. 1548’), although local teenage boys have another name for this mountain. The second highest point in Douglas County lies in the northeastern corner of the county close to Wright, Texas and Howell Counties. It is known as Twin Knobs, with an elevation of over 1400.

The highest point in Ozark County is located south of Brixey in Caney Mountain Conservation Area, High Rock Mountain (elev. 1424).

And, as this general part of the Ozarks lies in the “Rain Belt,” it receives almost 44 inches of rain and snow water every year, almost five inches more rain than Seattle, Washington, receives on an annual basis. The only problem is that Seattle has a constant drip, drip, drip, from November thru April, and is followed by cool moist summers. Whereas in the Ozarks, most of our moisture comes in big gulps, in winter through spring, followed by several hot and humid dry summer months with almost no rain.

And that’s why newcomers to this area wonder at the number of “wet-weather” only streams, and cactus growing in pastures during summer months.

Now, get up and go enjoy our beautiful Ozark Outdoors!