Bored at home? A solution is just outside your door

Friday, May 24, 2002

If you have school-age children, then you already know that the school year is coming to a close. That means summer vacation is here.

It may not be long until you hear, "I'm bored. There's nothing to do."

Starting Saturday the Missouri Department of Conservation just might have a cure.

Saturday is opening day for Missouri's squirrel season. It is also the first day, since February 28, that anglers on streams in most of Southern Missouri can catch black bass and keep them.

Squirrel season lasts from Saturday through January 15.

There is a daily limit of six squirrels and a possession limit of 12. A small game hunting permit is required unless you are a resident of Missouri age 65 or older; are 15 years of age or younger; or you meet the definition of landowner or lessee as defined in the Wildlife Code of Missouri.

Legal methods include archery, rifle, handgun, shotgun, muzzleloader and cage-type traps. Shotguns are limited to a maximum of three shells in the magazine and chamber combined.

Consult the Wildlife Code of Missouri for complete details.

We have both fox squirrels and gray squirrels in this area but they tend to exhibit slightly different habitat preferences. If you prefer one species over the other, there are some things that can help you to locate your particular choice of squirrel.

Fox squirrels get their name from their fox-like rusty red color. They are the largest of the two species, often weighing up to three pounds. They eat their own weight in food each week. They are most often found along wooded creek bottoms that adjoin crop fields. Fox squirrels tend to favor mature hedgerows, woodlots and wooded pastures.

The gray squirrel (gray with white underparts) weighs less than two pounds at maturity. Individual gray squirrels may consume up to 100 pounds of food a year. They prefer extensive, heavily wooded areas with good ground cover.

If you are fortunate enough to find a flowing stream located near good squirrel habitat, you have the opportunity to maximize your leisure time. By including a cooler full of ice with your other gear, you can go squirrel hunting in the early morning hours and have an easy method of keeping your squirrels fresh. As the day warms up, swap your firearm for a fishing pole and head for the stream.

The daily limit on black bass is six smallmouth, largemouth or spotted bass in the aggregate. All black bass less than 12 inches in total length must be returned to the water unharmed immediately after being caught from the unimpounded portion of any stream.

Experienced stream fishermen use permanent markers or tape to place marks (12 inches apart) directly on their fishing poles for a convenient method of measuring the bass that they catch.

They can hold the fish up with the nose next to the upper mark, and if the fish's tail extends beyond the lower mark then they know that the fish is of legal length.

The start of the squirrel and black bass seasons come on the heels of a big season for turkey hunting, which ended May 12.

The statewide harvest total of 55,302 birds was 1,370 less than last year. However, the 16 counties that comprise MDC's Southeast Region saw an increase in the number of turkey checked. The total of 5,041 was an increase of 624 over last spring.

This year, Perry county led southeast counties with 649 birds checked (an increase of 126). Ste. Genevieve county checked 634 (up 40) and St. Francois county checked 619 (down 49). Other county totals were: Bollinger 606 (up 91), Cape Girardeau 502 (up 71), Wayne 377 (up 105), Butler 321 (up 85), Madison 318 (up 35), Iron 316 (down 10), Stoddard 301 (up 117), Reynolds 217 (up 28), Scott 103 (up 18), Mississippi 44 (up nine), New Madrid 26 (down 15) and Dunklin 8 (up one).

Gene Myers is a Cape Girardeau County agent with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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