Hunting and fishing close to home.

Often I write about what goes on inside the Missouri State Capitol Building. For at least five months a year, and typically more, I spend a large part of my time in the Missouri State Senate. The majority of our work as legislators happens in offices, committee hearing rooms, and the Senate chamber itself. I look forward to summer because I get a chance to get out and hunt and fish in some of our great local conservation areas. 

I’ve been an avid hunter for as long as I can remember, and I think hunting deer, duck, or turkey — or going fishing — is a great way to get outdoor exercise and help manage our wildlife populations here in Mid-Missouri.

The Marion Bottoms Conservation Area offers a wealth of hunting and fishing opportunities close to home. Marion Bottoms was added to the Missouri Department of Conservation system in 1996 and offers almost 3,000 acres of land for hunting deer, turkey, rabbit, and waterfowl. Located just 20 miles northwest of Jefferson City, the conservation area provides access to the Missouri River and is also a great place to fish for crappie, sunfish, and catfish.

In Osage County, about 30 miles from Jefferson City, is the Ben Branch Lake Conservation Area. Ben Branch Lake was constructed in 1983 and was opened to fishing in 1985. Of the 563 acres at the conservation area, 478 acres are heavily wooded, and it’s an excellent place to hunt deer and turkey as well as several species of waterfowl, and you can fish for black bass. There are also excellent examples of conservation land management techniques meant to preserve and enhance the woodland and savanna areas at Ben Branch.

The Runge Conservation Nature Center is probably not one of the first places that comes to mind when someone mentions hunting. It provides a great place for families to come and learn about our local natural resources and is better known for its hiking trails, educational programs, aquarium, and nature exhibits. However, Runge does provide the opportunity for a managed spring turkey hunt for first-time archers and occasionally offers other managed hunts. These are closely supervised and typically require an orientation before the hunt begins, but it’s a great way for new bow hunters to help keep the turkey population in check —  and it’s right here in Jefferson City.

It’s a great time to be outside.

– Mike Bernskoetter

Although it’s a little farther away from home, one of my favorite places to fish in Missouri is Bennett Spring State Park. Located west of Lebanon, about an hour and 40 minutes from Jefferson City, the park is one of the best trout fishing areas in this state. The spring branch is stocked daily with trout from the on-site hatchery, and there are three zones allowing fishers to catch trout and other species of fish in a beautiful scenic area. It is always worth the drive, and I consider it a necessary place for fly fishers to visit at least once.

If you don’t enjoy hunting or fishing, each of these areas offers other great outdoor activities for individuals and families. Camping, birding, and hiking are all great ways to get outside and enjoy our abundant natural resources. Remember that it’s always important to be mindful of others while using public land, especially in areas where hunting and recreation are both available. It’s a great time to be outside. 

Mike Bernskoetter