Categorized | Opinion

Cold Front Slows Hunting

By Josh Gowan

Michael Brewer, Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston, Mo., poses with a limit of mallards.

Michael Brewer, Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston, Mo., poses with a limit of mallards.

A winter storm. The kid in me, a naive and excitable young fellow, was thrilled and dug out snow boots and gloves and cold weather gear for the whole family.
Being a hunter lends a sizable advantage in these situations, being that most of said clothes were already spread across the floor in my “hunting room”. My son was beside himself, and was begging to go outside first thing Friday morning, when the blizzard was in full effect. I obliged, and put his small coat, overalls, large coat, extra socks, boots, gloves and toboggan on.
Precisely one hour later, he was ready to come inside and warm up, so I removed all of the afore mentioned clothes. This pattern would continue through Sunday, eight to ten times a day, and the “kid in me” grew a few grey hairs. I suppose I had it easy though, recalling my mother putting on many more layers of clothes on us (I suppose clothes were much thinner in the 80’s) and trash bags secured with duct tape around each foot with our less than Eskimo-approved shoes on the outside.
After the ice storm of 2009, we all have a deeper respect for winter storms and the preparation needed to sustain a family in a house with no electricity for an extended amount of time. I thought this was an excellent opportunity to instruct my son in such preparation. Living in a house completely dependent on electricity in Sikeston, Mo, with all of our family spread out in Memphis, Portageville, and Jackson, Mo, I enacted my emergency weather plan which is as followed – view weather predictions constantly for days leading up to impact, decide which areas were most likely to receive the worst impact, load up family and supplies and evacuate in opposite direction of worst impact!
The numbers are in from the firearm portion of Missouri’s whitetail deer season, and unfortunately I wasn’t the only hunter with a dismal record.
The harvest was down 24% from the average ten year average. The folks at the MDC believe weather wasn’t the most important factor, but I find that hard to believe having hunted in the 30+ mph winds two weekends in a row in areas with high deer populations.
They believe that the 11 day season offered plenty of time to “make up the difference”, possibly unaware that the vast majority of deer hunters have to go back to work during the week, and many only hunt opening weekend.
Last year’s drought was the no doubt a large contributor to the poor numbers. Hemorrhagic disease is not uncommon, but was stronger last year in north Missouri due to the lack of fresh water, causing large amounts of deer to share small, stagnant water riddled with biting flies, which spread the disease. The other problem was from the Missouri Ozarks, where a healthy portion of the state’s harvest generally comes from. This year’s extremely wet conditions led to a bumper acorn crop, which minimizes the distance and frequency a deer has to travel to forage for food. I’m looking forward to muzzleloader and late youth season, hopefully we can bring up the totals.
Tennessee is a few weeks into their long firearm season and will have plenty of opportunities for hunters over the next month. They had a good acorn crop as well, but the bottoms and rolling hills of Tennessee do not hunt like the Ozarks, and those deer rely less on a nut diet.
For most of the outdoors world, it is duck season, and nothing else. There were a lot of ducks in the area and a ton killed right up until about Saturday when most everything froze solid and the ducks holding pushed south. Reelfoot Lake hunters were still killing ducks on Saturday after the fields froze, but by Sunday they’d disappeared as well. The good news is there are a ton still to come, with Grand Pass Conservation area in north central Missouri holding 365,000 ducks, a good indicator of what’s heading down the Mississippi Flyway to both Missouri and Tennessee.
I’m always looking for pictures and stories from the outdoors, just email me at joshmgowan@yahoo.com.
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine, www.joshgowanoutdoors.com

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