This weeks nature question for all you master naturalists… True or False. Some fawns in the Ozarks are born as early as January. Answer at end of column.

Not long ago I received this email from a reader…”I just read your article in the local paper in November. I have never heard of Conservation officers taking deer horns from a hunter. Can you please tell me more??”

Shortly afterward I received this email from another reader…

“My husband is challenging a Conservation Agent in North Central Missouri who is trying to bully him into relinquishing a very large rack from a deer he killed this past season. He tagged the deer with a landowner/lessee tag and was told that he cannot use this tag because he does not reside on the 628 acres we have leased. We do however pay utilities on this property and have for years. This agent got a search warrant and searched our home when no one was present and took an 8- point rack killed years ago that was not even related to the issue. We are taking this to court and suing the MDC for harassment due to the fact this agent is verbally threatening to take every rack we have and write every ticket possible since my husband would not give him the rack in question.

Thank you…Amy L Barto

My answer to her… —Amy, the law states that landowners or lessees may hunt with a landowner permit. What that agent is doing is done often. He wants the antlers because they are so valuable, sometimes they get thousands and thousands of dollars for one deer head. Taking the 8-pointer from your home is theft, pure and simple, and you should contact the sheriff in your county to report it. A search warrant cannot be used to enter when no one is home. It is to be served to you before entry. Another violation of the law. You should try to contact the director of the MDC. She is new, a woman who should listen to you. It will do you no good whatsoever to contact the Enforcement Department of the MDC. This agent is ignoring your constitutional rights and he is guilty of theft.—

This stuff makes me sick. Why are conservation agents allowed to bully and harass and make charges against hunters just because they want their valuable deer heads? Why have such a high percentage of younger agents decided they can break the law without any consequence and why is there no one in higher power in our state willing to look into this and do something about it. Maybe if we go to the newly elected governor and attorney general we can have some of this looked at. But it hasn’t worked before. Over the past few years this has happened hundreds of times, and it has worked so often because any legal action must go before judges who are indebted to the MDC, like the west Missouri judge named Kelso, who received $235,000 from them, and whose property taxes are paid annually by the Missouri Department of Conservation for perpetuity. When high ranking MDC officials hunted on his hunting preserve with him, how can anyone they charge be heard in his court fairly?

This is coming now to an almost mafia-like corruption, with no attempts made to control it.

A few years back, I was threatened over the phone with physical violence by an ex-director just for writing about what he had done and what was happening. He told me that he and friends would come to my home, because he knew right where I lived, and he hinted if I didn’t stop writing about the MDC someone would find me floating in the river I live near. That man had been an MDC director for many years. They named a place after him..

Indeed, an agent in southern Missouri has a shed filled with confiscated antlers he calls his “retirement fund”. Other agents laugh about it, but if they thought you had that shed full of unmarked, unaccounted for deer antlers, worth thousands and thousands of dollars, you could be arrested and required to pay massive fines, and perhaps serve jail time.

One thing more, from an employee in the department who ask me never to use his name, confiscated antlers that are said to be destroyed according to law, are never, ever cut up and discarded. He says it doesn’t happen, and that is why the Enforcement Chief, Larry Yamnitz, will not allow anyone to see the bogus destruction. No member of the press can view such a destruction because it doesn’t ever happen, and it has not happened for many, many years. Those deer heads are often worth from 10 to 50 thousand dollars on a black market.

In this state, if you kill a deer with big antlers, keep it quiet. When you check a deer by phone and they ask if it has a beam above 2 and a half inches at the skull and how many points it has, DO NOT COMPLY. If you report what they want to hear, you may get your deer head confiscated on some made-up charge and stand before a judge who is in the MDC’s hip pocket.

I will have much more about this in my spring magazine if you want to hear more. Some of the stories about hunters who did everything legal and still lost their deer are hard to believe… but it happens, and often. If this has happened to you, contact me and we will get your side of it told. I intend to publish a true account of much of what is going on with our state Conservation Department in that spring magazine, and eventually a book that they dread very much. In most larger newspapers in this state, none of this can be published, and that tells you a little about the power of the MDC. When they lost one million dollars in a lawsuit a few years back which was the result of three agents breaking the law, no news media mentioned a word of it. They paid the million dollars out of money you and I give them in that 1/8 cent tax, and none of the agents were even disciplined. Unbelievable isn’t it. Is there any hope that they might ever be held accountable for breaking laws and violating constitutional rights? Not much.

I will catch hell again for writing this. There will be threats over the phone and some papers will not publish it, but I want the truth to be known. I would love to gather with a dozen of the MDC’s top officials in a public place where hunters and fishermen could gather to discuss these things and others, so everyone could hear, and they could ask questions. Wouldn’t you think they could really discredit me if I was there alone to debate the things I have seen in my last 20 years as an outdoor writer. That is a challenge I have made before. I’d do it anytime, anywhere. You would think they would love to make it happen. As for me, I would bring up what they have hidden for years and years. But the upcoming book will do just that, and I hope to distribute thousands of them to Ozarkians free of charge.

It will be a rare thing… the truth about the MDC, being shown to the people of Missouri, most of whom haven’t got the slightest idea what is happening.

As for the nature question… yes, some fawns are born in January. I saw one on Feb 1 and I have photographed its tiny tracks. You can see them on my website… Email me at or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, MO 65613.