Kyle Carroll's Outdoor Journal
The Outdoor Journal
A Missouri Bear Hunt
It was just light enough to see the muzzle of my riffle. Coyotes howled from first one ridge, then another, echoing down through wooded hollows for a mile. I poured 70 grains of powder down the barrel of my gun and fished the loading block out of my shooting bag. I placed a patched round ball over the muzzle and shoved it down with my thumb. The patched ball was greased with bear oil and seated slightly. Not a breath of wind was moving. Between the occasional yip of a coyote, the woods were completely quiet. I pushed the ball to the bottom of the barrel with my ramrod, felt the ball seat on the powder charge then quietly slid the rod back into place through the thimbles on the stock. I looked at my watch. In two minutes it would be one half hour before sunrise and Missouri's first bear hunt in modern times would officially be underway. I flipped open the frizzen on my flintlock, poured a little powder into the pan and tapped it level. Closing the pan quietly, I stepped off into the damp forest floor and headed north to the next ridge. I was bear hunting.
It still sounds unusual to say, “Missouri Bear Season,” but we have one now. Last summer I put my information in the drawing for the 400 tags that would be issued for the first legal bear hunt since Daniel Boone's time our state. I figured the application would be a good memento some day. I was pleasantly surprised later to actual get drawn for a tag in zone one. That's how I ended up in the Mark Twain National Forrest last Monday, hunting bears. I crawled out of my tent to a clear morning. A million stars must have bean visible while I heated some water for oatmeal and a little hot tea. I hunted two days, saw no bears, but I was there. Hunting bears. In Missouri.
Later that day in Taney county, Missouri's fist bear was taken. As of this writing, 9 bears total have been killed. Rain is in the forecast for south Missouri this weekend and it does not appear that the quota of 40 will be reached before the season ends on the 26h. The conservative approach to the first season looks like it has worked. Biologists had estimated that a harvest of 40 bears would trim the 12% a year growth rate of the bear population to about 8%. We'll see how the final numbers shake out.