As we say goodbye to 2016, let’s push the rewind button and take a look at the year’s highlights – and lowlights, too.
Great quail hunting, weather extremes, a disappointing duck season, a ground-breaking new director for the Missouri Department of Conservation – yes, the year had its share of headlines.
Here’s a look at some of the news that stood out.
- A BAD START: The year started off under water in the Missouri Ozarks.
Headaches created by heavy rains in the last part of 2015 carried over into January of 2016. As the new year started, Lake Taneycomo struggled to weather flooding that affected docks, lakeside homes and some resorts.
Other reservoirs such as Table Rock, Pomme de Terre, Bull Shoals, Norfork, Truman and Lake of the Ozarks also experienced flooding amid the heavy rains.
The only silver lining in those rain clouds: the flooding didn’t take place during the tourist season. Still, lake-area residents grew weary of the problems the high water created.
“I can’t even get to my boat right now,” said Earle Hammond, a guide at Pomme de Terre, at the time. “It’s still parked in a stall (at a marina) and it’s on an island right now. There’s no way to get there from land.”
- A GREAT QUAIL SEASON: Wildlife biologists were right when they predicted that 2016 was going to be a year to remember for Mid-America’s quail hunters.
Surveys in Kansas showed that bobwhite numbers were up significantly because of favorable weather during the spring nesting season. And hunters found that projection to be on the mark.
During the season, which will continue through Jan. 31, many hunters have reported finding the most quail they have seen the in some time. Reports of hunters finding 8 to 10 coveys of birds in a day have not been uncommon.
Even in Missouri, which suffered some of its worst hunting on record not long ago, the hunting has been significantly improved.
- MISSOURI’S NEW CONSERVATION DIRECTOR: Sara Parker Pauley broke new ground when she was named director of the Missouri Department of Conservation in September.
Pauley became the first woman to lead the nationally acclaimed agency and the ninth director since the department was established in the 1930s. She succeeded Bob Ziehmer, who resigned to accept a role with Bass Pro Shops. Parker stepped into the job with good credentials. She was the director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources from 2010 until she accepted her leadership role with the Conservation Department.
- MISSOURI’S NEW STATE PARKS: The Ozarks will have four new state parks to showcasethe beauty of southern Missouri.
The crown jewel of the Missouri state park system, Echo Bluff near Eminence, opened in late July and already has attracted a crowd of visitors. Then in December, state park officials announced plans for three more parks –Eleven Point in Ozark County, Ozark Mountain in Taney County, and Bryant Creek in Douglas County.
- A DISAPPOINTING DUCK SEASON: When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its
fall flight projections in the summer, hunters’ hopes soared.
A near-record number of ducks were supposed to head south, and with plenty of water available in Missouri and Kansas, that promised great things.
But those high hopes deflated in the midst of a season of strange weather. The first half of the season was much too warm, delaying flights. The second half was too cold, freezing many marshes on managed public wetlands.
The weather moderated, but not in time for most hunters. Though there were a few periods when the conditions were just right, allowing hunters to enjoy good hunting, the season was a bust for many.
- SUCCESS AT THE BALLOT BOX: Both Missouri and Kansas scored impressive victories for conservation in the November election.
Missourians voted overwhelmingly to retain the one-tenth of one percent sales tax that funded Missouri state parks and the fight to control soil erosion. And Kansas voters approved a constitutional provision that established a right to hunt and fish in the state.
- A VALUABLE BASS: One cast made Kerry Malone of Mt. Pulaski, Ill., a wealthy man.
Competing in the Big Bass Bash at Lake of the Ozarks in early October, he caught a bass weighing 7.16 pounds in the first five minutes of the tournament. Less than an hour later, Kevin Welch of Jefferson City, Mo., caught a bass that weighed 7.15 pounds.
That slimmest of margins made a big difference. Malone went home with a check for $100,000. Welch earned $20,00 for his second-place finish.
- A TITLE FOR K-STATE…IN FISHING: Kyle Alsop and Taylor Bivins put Kansas State University in the national spotlight when they won the Carhart Bassmaster College Series National Championship in July.
Fishing on Green River Lake in Kentucky, they caught 36 pounds, 4 ounces of bass in three days of fishing to beat the second-place team from Bethel University by less than one pound.
- A NOTEWORTHY DEER SEASON: With Missouri’s deer herd still in the recovery mode after large losses incurred during a disease outbreak several years ago, the Department of Conservation tightened hunting regulations this year.
The Commission approved staff recommendations calling for the shortening of the antlerless season, the elimination of the urban zone and the reduction of the buck limit from three to two for the combined firearms-archery seasons.
Hunters shot plenty of deer in the 11-day November season – 185,062—but it was far from a record season.
Meanwhile, the Department of Conservation continued to work to control the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease among the state’s deer herd. It required hunters in the “hot zone” to bring in deer shot during opening weekend of the rifle season to check stations so that deer could be tested for the disease.
Earlier, the department’s efforts to control CWD were dealt a blow when a court ruled against the agency and its regulations to halt deer farms from importing deer to their operations.
- A SEASON OF HOPE FOR MISSOURI TURKEY HUNTERS: Missouri hunters shot 44,207 turkeys in the regular spring season – the highest harvest total in the last five years.
Wildlife biologists credited several consecutive years of good nesting conditions and favorable weather during the hunting season for the increase.