By LARRY DABLEMONT
I have to begin this week’s column by saying that we have had to cancel the outdoorsman’s swap meet to be held in Bolivar this coming Saturday because of the coronavirus panicdemic. But I do intend to have it sometime later in the year, maybe May or June.
I send this column to lots of newspapers and therefore get quite a few letters from readers. Most of them a few months ago were about the feral hog problem. Now I am getting letters from landowners who are really upset about new requirements the Missouri Department of Conservation has instigated, making necessary to register your land with them before you can get free landowner tags to hunt deer and turkey on your own land. The news media is really avoiding discussing this, and there is much I have learned about it that I cannot write about because most newspapers can’t print it. But sources I have out of the Jefferson City MDC offices, people who provided that page on how the department was using the telecheck system in questionable enforcement packages a couple of years ago, have weighed in on this.
Here is what I was told… first of all; making rural people upset is of little worry to the MDC because city supporters and suburbanites are the people they are most concerned about. That’s where the votes are, in case the 1/8 percent sales tax is ever in question.
Secondly, years ago the MDC wanted to eliminate free landowner permits to anyone owning less than 80 acres. The outcry was tremendous. I spoke at landowner meetings around the state that year helping to organize opposition to it. In Cuba, Houston, Nevada, Bolivar, Buffalo, Salem, Gainesville and other small towns, I spoke to crowds of 60 to 200 people about forming a Common Sense Coalition to try to do something about the way the MDC was beginning to change all the rules to increase revenue. More than 300 people packed an auditorium in Mt. Grove to angrily state they wouldn’t put up with it. In the face of that, the MDC backed down. But not for long. Plans were just delayed.
My source says this…. The powers that be feel they need more deer and turkey tag revenue, so they are going to get to that 80 acres mark they wanted by stages. In a couple of years they will require that landowners own 40 acres or more to get the free tags, then in 2024 or 2025 they will step it up to the 80-acre limit they wanted years ago. He said that there is nothing anyone can do to keep this from happening, and through something he calls ‘political autonomy’ provided to the MDC when the 1/8 cent tax was passed decades ago, the Missouri Legislature cannot change what the MDC is doing.
If I understood him correctly, registering your land with the MDC makes it easier for enforcement personnel to enter your land, and though they cannot come into your home, they can be there to casually look into barns and sheds if your land is registered with them. There is much gray area with what the registration involves that no landowners understand.
Several letters I have received from hunters say that if they cannot get the free landowners permits because they refused to register their land, they will hunt without it, and never buy another permit of any kind. I myself have never willingly broke any law, but I am NOT registering my land, and I WILL hunt wild turkey this spring on my own place as I have always done. I think this is a poorly-thought-out idea they have come up with and I think it will someday be repealed if it does not provide more revenue, and continues to turn landowners and country people against the MDC. Their feral hog policies have already turned a log of rural people against them. Their traps set for hogs kill deer and other wildlife, and photos circulating that show suffering injured deer in those traps do them no good whatsoever. And truthfully, they cannot much change the feral hog problem with what they are doing. It will thin the numbers, but they will come back, and they will never keep landowners from shooting hogs on their land when they can.
I have a new website now where I can talk more about what is going on in the Department of Conservation, and if you would like to see some of those dying deer in hog traps, go to that website, larrydablemont.com I will also print there many of the letters outdoor and country people cannot get printed in state newspapers. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org