Hunting and Fishing

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Deer and Turkey Lure Hunters.

White-tail deer and the magnificent turkey are the popular quarry for sportsmen who hunt Ozark County.

The hope of bagging one or both of these trophy creatures brings hunters back year after year. The challenge for the hunter is enhanced by the fact that Ozark County enjoys one of the best hunting success ratios in the state – the odds are on the side of the hunter.

Plentiful habitat keep the deer and turkey populations high. Mark Twain National Forest, with 38,807 acres, and the Caney Mountain Conservation Area, with more than 6,500 acres, are important habitat resources that help keep the population strong.

In mid-November, hunters take to the woods during annual firearms season, a nine or ten-day period encompassing two weekends. Archers enjoy a much longer season that begins Oct. 1 and continues into January. Archery season is closed, however, during firearms’ season.

Sportsmen who prefer the challenge of hunting with muzzle-loading firearms also have a designated season each fall.

Caney Mountain Conservation Area hosts a special black powder hunt each October. Hunters for this event are selected by the process of a random drawing. Information is available from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Turkey hunters enjoy two firearm seasons The spring turkey season is open two weeks in late April and early May and the fall season is open in late October. Archery hunters enjoy a fall season that lasts about three months.

Other game species also provide bountiful hunting in Ozark County. Seasons are open for squirrels, rabbits, quail, doves and some waterfowl – even frogs! Specific rules governing these seasons change slightly from year to year. The Wildlife Code Book, published by the Missouri Department of Conservation, is available wherever hunting licenses are sold throughout the country. At these locations, both residents and nonresidents can purchase hunting and fishing permits. Ozark County residents and businesses go out of their way to ensure that hunters enjoy the hunt.

You’ll be able to get a special early morning “hunter’s breakfast” at most restaurants or at one of several fire-department locations around the county, especially on the opening day of the firearms deer season. Some resorts that have already closed for the season reopen just to provide lodging for hunters.

For more information on hunting in Ozark County, call the Ozark Region of the Missouri Department of Conservation with headquarters in West Plains at 417/256-7161.

Fish? We’ve got ’em!

Whether your idea of the perfect fishing trip runs to wrestling a huge striper into the boat or standing hip-deep in an icy stream thick with trout, Ozark County has the answer to your fishing dream.

Bull Shoals Lake, the largest impoundment in the chain of lakes along the White River, offers nearly 1,000 miles of shoreline and is world famous as a black bass lake.

It’s no accident that three national records have been set in Ozark County with fish pulled from the water of Bull Shoals.

But don’t forget Norfork Lake, another chain of White River lakes. Norfork is noted for all of the above, plus brown trout.

The North Fork River, which flows into Norfork, is famous for its trophy trout waters, where the sport goes monster beats on year-round with great success.

Now, don’t misunderstand – these waters challenge the fisherman, but they also offer rich rewards.

Winter and spring are, of course, the top seasons, but big catches are the rule in any month for the skilled fisherman. During the cooler months, the lakes are tremendous jig-and-pig reservoirs. During the warmer months, they continue as fine topwater crankbait waters.

By all accounts the fishing gets crazy when the white bass and walleyes become romantic in the spring months, when they head up creek arms looking for spawning grounds. And during the warm weather months, some enthusiasts use depth finders to locate the fish in the deep channels where they hide out when the upper levels of the lake warm up.

Fishing at night, as attested by many, is a good time to bass fish and the use of floating lights for crappie night fishing is popular in this area. “Jug fishing” is also used by many to catch a variety of fish. So, if you see a milk jug zooming across the lake with a boat in pursuit, you’ll know why.

Of course, to fish the lakes and streams of Ozark County, you need a valid Missouri fishing license. Licenses, along with the rules of the Fish and Game Commission, are available at dozens of businesses in Ozark County, including resorts, marinas, package stores, service stations and other firms.

To angle for rainbow trout without a license and with almost a guarantee of success, two fine trout fishing resorts – Rockbridge Trout Ranch and Spring Valley Trout Ranch – will be happy to help you catch a stringer of beautiful trout.

Everything you need for a successful adventure in fishing is here in Ozark County. Marinas and resorts can provide boats, motors, fuel, bait, tackle and advice, and a vital community of other businesses can provide provisions and supplies. And, of course, the essential ingredient – the fish – is also here, along with a wide assortment of other recreational activities for the fisherman’s family.

So, come alone or come as a family – just be sure you come!