Less than a mile north of town three turkeys crossed the highway ahead of us. With snow melting on a free Sunday afternoon, getting outside seemed like a good idea and the turkey running down into the ditch seemed like a good sign we had made the right decision.
Emmett and Leah Seat Memorial Conservation Area is a good place to explore, especially on a warm winter day with snow melting all around. The youngest had hoped to find a new hill to sled down but I warned her we weren’t likely to find such a spot. Sledding was short but creating a mermaid out of snow on a frozen lake was worthwhile.
We found several spots where ice fishermen had recently been, as well as a well used deer crossing on the lake. We also visited the archery range and Walker Cemetery while there. Seat Memorial Conservation Area covers more than 3,400 acres with more than a dozen ponds and is managed for bobwhite quail. It’s also home to trophy sized whitetails, a healthy wild turkey population, and plenty of rabbits and doves. And the fishing’s not bad either, winter, spring, summer or fall.
“The concept of conservation is a far truer sign of civilization than that spoilation of a continent which we once confused with progress.” — Peter Matthiessen
Peter Matthiessen’s “Wildlife in America” should be required reading for anyone who appreciates wildlife. Matthiessen writes not just about the wildlife North America has lost but also about the greed and reckless destruction of animals and their habitat.
While “Wildlife in America” talks about the extinction (or perhaps more accurately extermination) of some species there are also stories of success in the works of early conservation organizations.
Most hunters and anglers today show greater concern when it comes to wildlife preservation. In this part of the country there have been no greater success stories than that of the whitetail and wild turkey.
While hunting regulations have played a large role in the rebound of deer and turkey populations since the early 1900s in Missouri, habitat continues to be a concern, especially with upland game such as the northern bobwhite and ring-necked pheasant. Many of us can remember when it wasn’t uncommon to find a half dozen coveys of quail when hunting in this part of the state but that is no longer so.
Hunters, anglers and anyone who enjoys wildlife should read Matthiessen’s book. The losses written about in “Wildlife in America” concerning the slaughter and disregard for wildlife and its habitat are mirrored in many levels today in what corporations and individuals hail as progress.
What better way to begin a new year than with a hike? A relatively warm day was the perfect time to explore Elam Bend Conservation Area south of where we live. Identify animal tracks in the snow, look for whitetail sheds, walk across a pond or two if the ice is thick enough and, if you’re lucky, startle a turkey or deer.
Elam Bend covers more than 1,400 acres along the Grand River. There are no designated hiking trails but there are plenty of Missouri Department of Conservation roads to explore. There’s fishing along the river, deer and turkey are plentiful, and I’ve seen quail and pheasant a time or two. There’s also a shooting range and primitive camping. Old Havana Trail runs through the east side of Elam Bend where you can find the Newby Cemetery from the late 1800s and a boat ramp that provides a great place to end a Grand River float trip after putting in at Gentryville.