The autumn colors of the leaves, and the chill in the morning air ushers in the start of whitetail deer hunting season at Mark Twain Lake. As hunters take to the fields and forests around the lake, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to encourage all sportsman to approach their pursuits with safety in mind. Take time to plan your hunt, and share your plan with family and friends. We also want to remind hunters of the rules regarding the use of tree stands and ground blinds on federal public lands.
To begin, the rules and regulations that govern the use of public lands at Mark Twain Lake are found in the Code of Federal Regulation, Title 36, Chapter 3, Part 327 – Rules and Regulations Governing Public Use of Water Resource Development Projects Administered by the Chief of Engineers. These rules outline the appropriate uses of public lands, including guidance on camping, operations of motor vehicles, and protection of natural resources. These rules also address permanent hunting stands, portable elevated stands, and portable hunting structures. How these rules affect the planning of a hunt are addressed in the following.
Hunters should be aware of regulations addressing permanent or site-built stands. Part 327.20 of Title 36 states “The construction, placement or existence of any structure (including roads, trails, signs, non-portable hunting stands or blinds, buoys, docks, or landscape features) of any kind under, upon, in or over the project lands or waters is prohibited”. Though not as prevalent as in the past, permanent stands constructed of traditional building materials are still found. Permanent stands damage the trees they are mounted on. When discovered, permanent stands are removed immediately by Corps rangers.
Portable stands, ranging from hanging stands, climbing stands, and ladder stands are permitted on public lands of Mark Twain Lake. They are very popular with hunters, as the elevated position provides a better field of vision, decreases the presence of human scent, and provides a certain amount of concealment. Portable stands though must be removed at the end of each day’s hunt in accordance with Part 327.20 of Title 36, which states that “Personal property of any kinds shall not be abandoned, stored, or left unattended upon project lands or waters.” If portable stands are discovered by Corps rangers, the stands are posted with a 24-hour notice tag. When the Corps ranger returns the next day, and if the notice tag is still affixed to the stand, it is considered abandoned personal property and subject to impoundment in accordance with Part 327.15(a) of Title 36. When the stand is removed by a Corps ranger, a notice is placed on the tree providing instructions to the hunter on how the stand can be returned to him or her.
Growing in popularity, portable ground blinds are also permitted on the public lands of Mark Twain Lake. Pop-up blinds are light-weight, easily transportable, and set up in minutes. They offer excellent concealment, but limited field of view. The rules that govern their use are the same as portable hunting stands. Ground blinds must be removed at the end of the day’s hunt. If discovered, the blinds will be posted with a 24-hour notice tag, and treated in similar fashion as portable stands.
In addition to the Code of Federal Regulations, permanent and portable hunting structures are also in conflict with a basic policy applicable to all federal public lands. They represent a “private-exclusive use of public lands”, as the long-term placement of the stand lays private claim on a parcel of public land, and in essence removes the availability to other outdoor enthusiasts.
The public lands at Mark Twain Lake provide excellent hunting opportunities for outdoor sportsmen. If you have questions about the rules that are in place to protect visitors and the natural resources of the lake, contact the Mark Twain Lake Project Office, 20642 Highway J, Monroe City, Missouri 63456, or by telephone at (573) 735-4097.