On a recent sunny late summer morning, Tony McCauslin led a group across his Macon County property. The quail and rabbit habitat improvements that he did last year got the attention of the Missouri Department of Conservation. The state agency invited him to be the inaugural participant in its new program that grants public access for hunting and fishing onto private property.
A native of Marceline, McCauslin was interested in preserving the rural character of the hills and streams near where he grew up. He also thought buying land would be a good investment and might provide him with a chance to hunt that land with his wife and four sons. Of the 600 acres McCauslin owns, he has 164 acres in row crops.
Another 60 acres are part of the USDA's Conservation Reserve Program. Through this program farmers get payments to take marginal producing farmland out of production and in the process make property improvements that encourage wildlife. Edge feathering is one of the improvements McCauslin has made to his property. With this practice, a landowner plants or encourages a range of foliage and brush at varying heights to grow so as to increase habitat appealing to rabbits and quail. "There's a lot of woodlands, forests, creeks. It is a really diverse geography... If you want to see a little bit of everything in north central Missouri, this has it," said McCauslin
When McCauslin was approached to participate in a program from the Missouri Department of Conservation, he was eager to be involved. Through the Missouri Recreational Access Program, the department works with owners of high-quality properties to allow public access onto those lands for hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing.
The manager of the MRAP program is Jeff Esely. The Troy, Missouri-based MDC biologist laid out the rules for the program. "When you use an MRAP property you are only allowed to engage in the activities permitted under the access option," said Esely. Common activities include hunting turkey and rabbits. Properties such as McCauslin's Macon County Brush Creek Farm may only be accessed by foot from one hour before to one hour after sunset. "All those rules, they apply to the public, but they do not apply to the landowner," said Esely.
Preserving and improving productive agricultural and well-managed hunting land is important to landowner Tony McCauslin.
A lot of our environment has been lost from quality habitat. By doing some of those improvements we're allowing that wildlife to become better established. And also the timber stand improvements, at the same time we're managing for wildlife we're also managing the timber to improve the quality of the timber. It's probably nothing I am going to see in my life, but the quality of that timber is going to be much improved.
This program originally aired on Tuesday, August 30, 2016.
Listen for new episodes of Thinking Out Loud Tuesday evenings at 6:30 on KBIA 91.3FM.