February 9, 2013
Happy New Year
Regular readers of this column know they can count on me not to shrink from controversial topics.
Today, Iím using this space to advocate that New Yearís Day be celebrated on March 1.
I realize some of you are already thinking Iíve lost my always tenuous grip on reality. As Iím about to demonstrate, both logic and a considerable body of evidence are on my side.
For openers, making December the last of a 12-month year is linguistically incorrect. When a word begins with ďdecĒ (decade and decimal for example) the word describes the 10th part of a whole. Thus, December must have originally been intended to be the 10th month of the year.
If thatís not enough to convince you, consider that January is the first full month of winter. The idea that a month that doesnít usher in anything other than the occasional blizzard should be the first month of the year is absurd.
The time has come to rebel against the tyranny of a centuries-old calendar that never should have seen the light of day in the first place.
But why choose March 1 as the real first day of the new year? In addition to the just demonstrated fact that February is, in reality, the 12th month of the old year, March has a lot going for it in its own right.
The first day of spring arrives in the third full week of the month, but winter is fast losing its grip much earlier. March is the month when new grass ó to say nothing of wild garlic and dandelions ó bring new life to dormant lawns.
Itís also the month when the urge to play in the dirt overwhelms backyard gardeners. As well it should, since lettuce, radishes, spinach, potatoes, peas and several other early vegetables need planting.
But to turn our attention to more important matters, March is the month that fishermen get to enjoy the excitement of opening days.
March 1 is opening day of the catch-and-keep trout season at Missouriís four trout parks. No matter the prevailing weather conditions, thousands of eager anglers will be standing shoulder-to-shoulder the entire length of each parkís spring branch, waiting for the horn blast that signals the time has come to make the first cast of the new year.
If you donít think this is a big deal to trout park fans, consider that opening day attendance is double or even triple that of any other single day.
Donít plan on finding a parking place close to a boat ramp anywhere along the length of the Osage or James rivers on March 15, because thatís opening day of spoonbill snagging season.
A mind-boggling number of people are passionate about this unique sport, much to the delight of the owners of area motels, cafes, tackle shops, gas stations and guide services.
March 15 also marks opening day for a season that permits taking nongame fish by means of snagging, snaring or grabbing throughout the state ó see the Wildlife Code for specific exceptions or restrictions.
Although not as attention-grabbing as either the trout park angling or spoonbill snagging seasons, harvesting nongame fish is locally popular in central and southern Missouri where clear water streams attract spring-sucker-spawning runs.
Like an ever-growing number of Americans, Iím loathe to use the government to prove anything ó unless doing so suits my purpose. In this case it does.
No less an authority than the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) validates March 1 as the real New Yearís Day, by making it the date 2013 fishing and small-game licenses become a prerequisite for all fishermen and hunters who arenít age or otherwise exempt.
To its credit, the MDC doesnít require anyone to purchase a license to purchase additional licenses as is the case in a number of states.
Anglers who want to keep the trout they catch outside of the trout parks will need a $7 trout stamp, whether or not they also need a $12 fishing license.
Small-game hunters who want to hunt migratory birds, including doves, will need a $6 migratory-bird permit, whether or not they also need a $10 hunting license.
Participation in the light goose Conservation Order doesnít require a hunting license, but all hunters must purchase a $5 permit. Combination fishing/small-game permits cost $19.
For reasons Iíve never fully understood, hunters and fishermen have traditionally opposed fee increases or new permits, but at $37 ó plus a federal duck stamp for waterfowl hunters ó licenses are the entertainment bargain of the century. However, there is a way to make hunting and fishing permits less expensive, at least in the long run.
The MDC sells lifetime fishing, hunting or combination permits. While there is an age-based sliding scale, the initial cost of these permits is a little scary for people between 16 and 60. On the other hand, people between 60 and 64 pay only $70 for a combination permit. People 15 and younger can by a lifetime fishing or hunting permit for $275 or the combination permit for $550.
I didnít buy my combination permit until I was 62 and was still ahead of the game by the time I reached 65. Iím now saving $18 a year on special permits and am bulletproof against price increases. Just think how much money your young grandchild could save if he or she had a lifetime permit prior to reaching 16.