If you are planning a hunting trip to kill hogs in the Mark Twain National Forest you had better be doing it sooner rather than later. The MDC is considering implementing a ban on shooting feral hogs on all public lands under their control. They will take comments from the public until May 1, 2016 before making the final decision and the law would take affect on September 30th.
The Springfield News Leader reports; Missouri hunters once were encouraged to shoot feral hogs on sight, to help wipe out the non-native, destructive creatures, but just over a week ago the Conservation Commission proposed a major shift that would bar hunters from shooting wild hogs on any land under control of the Missouri Department of Conservation. That includes the 1,000 conservation areas that are public lands popular with deer, turkey and, yes, feral-hog hunters. If the proposal ultimately goes into effect on Sept. 30, potential penalties for illegal hog hunting could include fines and the loss of hunting privileges.
The problem with hunters shooting feral hogs is that they never kill the entire herd, according to James Dixon, conservation wildlife damage biologist who traps hogs in the 17-county southwest Missouri region. Of the 3,649 feral hogs trapped by game officials last year, Dixon said about 500 were corralled in southwest Missouri. “I know the local boys want to hunt them, but shooting them tends to scatter them,” Dixon said. “They might get one or two, but the rest of the hogs will run and we lose that chance to get the whole group.”
The Missouri Department of Conservation has a very informative and interesting page on their website, Feral Hogs in Missouri for anyone in learning more about the pest.
An alternative approach to eradicating the problem is for the State to implement a bounty on the hogs and let the Missouri hunters take care of it themselves. It could be scheduled and regulated in a fashion not to interfere with other seasons or the trapping efforts of the MDC and the participation would be phenomenal. They could even pay the bounty in beer if they prefer, Beer and Bar-B-Q, what could be better than that after an exhilarating day chasing pigs through the Missouri Ozarks.
Deer hunting is over for the season and the icy winds of late winter have swept bare the timber, leaving only the skeleton like bare limbs silhouetted against the cold sky. Long past are the days of sitting comfortably in your stand, listening to the white oak acorns rain down on the forest floor to lie among the brilliantly colored Autumn vegetation. Instead of sitting back passively while your primal need for the challenge of the hunt gnaws at your gut, put down the television remote and go do your reconnaissance on that new spot you’ve been wanting to hunt.
Pictured above is my mentor Johnnie Taylor. He has caused the demise of more whitetail bucks than chronic wasting disease and deer still tremble at the sound of his name. Years ago he taught me bow hunting and instilled in me a philosophy that still holds true today, “Luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity.”
During the wet Winter months while the ground is either muddy or snow covered, much of the initial scouting can be done from the climate controlled comfort of your truck seat. With a hunting buddy for a spotter, obvious road crossings like these can be spotted at thirty miles per hour. I like to find places where the deer habitually cross the roadways to give me a general idea of the herd movement, especially when my crew and I are in unfamiliar territory.
When I don’t know the area, I find that modern technology really shines and google maps has found a place in my arsenal of hunting tools. My son turned me on to this app last firearms season when we ventured out to find new hunting ground.
He and I made a bow hunting excursion a week prior to the gun hunt to get an idea of the terrain and road access points in relation to the Eleven Point River bottom. A friend had given us directions and a Forestry Service road number to an area of the Mark Twain National Forest which he assured me, “not many people hunt.” Not many, being a relative term I suppose, but that’s another story. After a quick impromptu hunt we began driving the rocky dirt roads searching for potential hunting spots, guided by motor vehicle use maps provided by the Forest Service and Google Maps. The app proved to be invaluable by showing terrain features such as the main ridges, draws, hollows, and other features that saved quite a bit of time and effort.
Google Earth is an even better tool according to CS Outdoors Prostaffer, Mike McIntyre. In a podcast interview hosted by Whitetail Rendezvous’s Bruce Hutcheon, McIntyre said, ““I think we have so many modern conveniences at our disposal right now, in this day and age, that it really takes so much of the physical effort out of scouting a new piece of property. One of the things that we’ve really evolved, started doing is using Google Earth. It’s a great resource. It’s a free resource. Whenever we start looking at a new piece of property, either be it for a consultation or if it’s a piece of property we picked up to start a lease on, that’s one of the very first things we do is get on Google earth and really start scouting the property from the satellite image.
It’s such a great tool to use. You can actually see some of the terrain features. You can actually zoom in and out and tilt it to an angle where you can actually see hills that are rolling. You can kind of see where some draws are, where in a two-dimensional world, before you could never really do that just by looking at a map on a piece of paper. So Google Earth has really just turned it into an invaluable resource for us.
Finding the road crossings should give you the general area you wish to hunt initially and satellite technology gives a hunter a head start on deciding where the funnels are. Modern conveniences are wonderful, but there comes a time when a hunter has to put on his walking boots and put in the leg work necessary to make educated guesses in the field. An advantage to scouting in late winter is the clarity in which trails stand out since the weather is typically wet and the leaves have begun to decompose. These factors coupled with steady deer traffic result in a well worn path. We all know that whitetails meander about, browsing here and there, and picking up acorns at random. I’m not saying they step in the same tracks every time, I’m referring to travel routes, river crossings, funnels, and where they skirt the head of a draw.
When your scouting no detail should be to small to give your attention to. Tracks, beds, antler sheds, hooked bushes, and droppings all tell you something of the quarry we seek. For great information and more hunting tips check out the good folks at CS Outdoors and Whitetail Rendezvous. Until next time, “Keep your powder dry and your nose in the wind.”
A gloomy dawn illuminated the hardwood timber lands on opening morning of the Missouri youth season and the peppering rain showed no sign of letting up. A weak storm front had formed overnight providing hunters a soggy proposition, not to mention a wet rear end. Young up and coming hunters all across the State toughed out the weather and made the forest echo with the sound of rifle shots as many of them harvested their first deer.
Ripley County is nestled in the Ozark foothills along the banks of the pristine Current River. There is an abundance of both privately owned and public hunting land, including a vast swath of Mark Twain National Forest. The area has historically produced some very nice trophy whitetail bucks due to good stewardship by landowners and the Missouri Department of Conservation.
There is a close knit sense of community at the County Seat located in Doniphan and the local news paper, the Prospect News fosters that spirit well. For decades the Paper has supported the local student’s sporting events and graciously photographed young hunters with their deer and turkey, promoting self esteem and a sense of belonging.
The Prospect News reported; After ranking tenth in the state last year,according to the Missouri Department of Conservation, the 249 deer taken in Ripley County during the two day hunt was good enough to place fourth out of 114 counties.
Southern Missouri, like most rural areas, is a place where they still believe in working hard and playing harder. Residents here take deer hunting seriously, youth hunters as well as the “Big Kids” anticipate opening day as much as Christmas morning.
It’s gratifying to see the next generation embracing the culture of the hunt, inherited from their fathers and their grandfathers before them. Thanks to these fine young men and women, in Ripley County the tradition will live on.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) announced that young hunters ages 6 through 15 checked 14,095 deer during Missouri’s early youth portion of the 2015 deer hunting season, which ran Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. Top counties for the early youth portion were Franklin with 338, Osage with 337, and Howell with 288 deer checked. Last year’s harvest total for the early youth portion was 18,091.
Get more information on deer hunting in Missouri through MDC’s free 2015 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet available where permits are sold, from MDC regional offices and nature centers, and online at mdc.mo.gov.
Johnnie Taylor is about to embark on what the locals refer to as his World Tour in pursuit of trophy whitetail deer. Every fall he chases the ultimate buck from state to state and usually it’s not, if he will get a trophy, it’s how many. Johnnie is a revered local character, not only because he puts into practice what all hunters dream of, in large part because of his personality, his infectious good humor, and his leadership in the community. Perhaps his Granddaughter captured the sentiment best in a Facebook post to wish a “Happy Birthday to our tobacco spitting, watermelon growing, deer slaying Grandpa.
She certainly got the watermelon part correct, Johnnie is the largest producer of melons in the region and that is certainly responsible for at least part of his notoriety. I recently stopped to visit with the Taylor family on a blistering hot August day while the harvest was in full swing. Johnnie grinned and winked at me, “JD, I probably won’t weigh 275 pounds when this is over,” making a joke at being slightly heavy. As the last trailer truck load of the season left the dock Johnnie was loading his pick up with choice watermelons to bring with him on his “public relations” trip, a yearly visit spanning several states where he brings melons to the landowners who allow him to hunt their property.
The trip begins in Arkansas through Missouri then to Illinois. Kansas and Nebraska are next then back home, all to secure hunting privileges. Beginning in mid October he will travel to whichever state has an open season at that time, modern firearm, muzzle loader, or his old standby bow hunting. He spends the winter like a Nomad, hunting and sightseeing, returning home often but always ready for new horizons. I asked him why he goes to all the trouble of traveling when he could hunt closer to home, he simply said ” I’d rather look at the world through the windshield of my truck than sit on the couch.”
Johnnie Taylor was born in 1949, delivered by a local midwife on the family farm, and attended a small two room school in the community of Palatka, Ar. Growing up in rural northeast Arkansas everyone chopped cotton and money was scarce in every household. For entertainment everyone gathered at a country store up the road where the old men played dominoes while the children played marbles or some other game, it almost sounds like an episode of The Andy Griffith Show, minus Barney Fife.
Johnnie was drafted and sent to Vietnam where he served his tour in 68-69, then returned to the farm with out a scratch. He was later shot while turkey hunting by a poacher with a .22magnum rifle (only shotguns are legal). The bullet entered his abdomen and lodged near his spine but he eventually made a full recovery.
Johnnie Taylor went on to build a successful watermelon business, raise a family, and pursue his passions of bass fishing and hunting trophy whitetails. He continues to dedicate his time, money, and efforts to these passions and to spoiling his three beautiful Grand Daughters.
We turned east off the county gravel and bounced along the field road in my old beat up ford 3/4 ton as the sun cleared the tree tops that towered above the banks of The Little Black River. It was Labor Day weekend and perhaps the last opportunity of the summer for a fishing trip with both of my sons. School had already started for my youngest son Jake, and as for myself rice harvest was to start Monday.
The morning air was getting thick as the humidity rose and we began unloading equipment. Jake climbed up in the bed of the truck and handed the 7.5 horse Evinrude outboard motor to his older brother Logan, then they gently slid the 14 foot john boat out of the truck and down the long bank, careful not to end up sliding into the river. A boat trailer would be useless in the remote area where the only river access is a steep bank, slick with mud. We eased the front of the boat into the water and mounted the motor. As soon as the equipment was loaded we struck out upstream.
The morning mist still hung in the air above the water and at that early hour the temperature was pleasant, I remember thinking, “Man I wish I had brought a thermos of coffee.” We motored upstream about three miles with intermittent stops at random spots that looked to promising to pass up. At one of these places, a deep hole with a fallen tree still attached at the root wad, Jake got a strike. As he set the hook and cranked the handle of his old zebco 33 the fight was on. It really wasn’t much of a fight but it yielded the best catch of the day, a small mouth bass just shy of legal limit.
The river level was just high enough to allow us to zig zag and log jump a precarious path all the way to Rattle Snake Rock. The rock is a secluded spot on a river of limited access, it takes quite bit of effort to get there so my theory was it should be a honey hole. A small, sheer bluff meets the water and rock shelves run submerged along the bank providing ideal cover. Just a few hundred yards upstream is a deep fishy looking bend and then a semi permanent drift that is impassable unless the river is at flood stage.
As soon as I cut the outboard, Logan dropped the trolling motor and we began plugging in earnest. We worked every shelf, rock, log, and root wad that caught our eye. I was using a white and blue spinner bait and Jake tied on a Rapala top water minnow. Logan, not one to beat a dead horse, was unleashing his arsenal of various lures. For all of our efforts we didn’t have many strikes after two hours of fishing. I could tell that Jake was getting restless and losing interest quickly. He was lovesick over his latest Jr. High conquest not to mention we were all hungry and thirsty, so I started offering possibilities as to what had happened to the fish population because they obviously had all died. “Otters must have eat em. Or the alligator gar, son of a guns are thick in here,” I said trying to lighten the mood. “Damn things may have drowned.” Just then Logan hung a bass and brought him into the boat. The day had heated up quickly and we had started trolling to the shady spots. Bam, Logan caught another small mouth, this one a pretty decent bass. He had tied on a Rebel Popper, a floating top water lure that he had bought for three dollars at Walmart. The lure was shaped like a football with one end sawed off and a hollow pocket recessed in it forming a cup that slashed and “popped” as he worked the lure slowly with a twitching motion. I guess those back water bass had never seen a critter like that and they could not leave it alone.
Up until then we had caught a half a dozen fish, but as we trolled the shaded areas and fished cover with eye appeal, Logan and his popper reeled in at least ten small mouth bass. I caught a couple of little bass and Jake accounted for another before we fired up the motor and headed to the truck.
After loading up the boat and equipment we were reluctant to leave the shady river bank with its peace and tranquility. As we drove out to the main road we could see combines cutting rice, harvest had begun. Summer was over but my sons and I had made memories and had a good day fishing Rattle Snake Rock
As the evening sun cants further to the south and the days grow shorter my thoughts wander along the glorious trails of past hunts. Lessons learned, glorious triumphs, and humbling defeats handed to me by wise old gobblers and skulking bucks.
Such were the memories brought to the surface today as I rummaged through a box of old pictures. It was a treasure trove of deer, turkey, and fish photos I hadn’t seen for quite sometime and it was almost like running into an old friend. As I thumbed my way through the stack it gave me a good deal of satisfaction to realize that I’d had a pretty successful hunting and fishing career, granted the bucks weren’t monsters but they were numerous and fine dining. My harvest didn’t happen just because of some phenomenal skill or entirely on account of luck, it was the result of many hours spent in the woods and doing the leg work required to make educated guesses.
Scouting is key to positioning a bowhunter for an opportunity to be successful. Knowing what to look for and what the sign means, a strategy of wind directions with alternate approaches to an area, all the stuff we relish as the challenge.
A savvy hunter can take advantage of younger bucks in the early season before they realize they are being hunted and become spooky. When pressured they may and go fully nocturnal or leave the area. True the rut may be at least a month away, but at dusky dark immature bucks will get up and be available for your viewing pleasure, especially in farm country where there are several smaller woodlots and brushy fence lines connecting rowcrop fields such as beans and corn. They form bachelor groups through the late summer, as your trailcams will show, and remain together through the warm days of September.
Five or six young bucks can leave a lot of sign, a particularly telling thing to look for is hooked bushes where they polish antlers and strengthen there necks for the coming mating season. Once you have located them, odds are good they won’t venture far from the area, provided they are in close proximity to crops, water, and aren’t being boogered.
For an evening hunt I like to cut deer off coming from their bedding area, usually brush or woods. I find that deer like to frequent the edge of bean fields of an evening so I get in their way. You stand a much better chance at seeing a buck while they are running together as opposed to being scattered out, the down side is there are more eyes to catch you drawing on them.
Tune up your bow, do your scouting, plan your wind strategy, and take advantage.