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Peck Ranch - Missouri's Best Conservation Area

Maybe it's a bad idea to make comparisons when it comes to the natural world. It all has it's unique qualities and each person experiences a place in their own way. Peck however has meant a great deal to our family personally, and has also played a central role in the conservation of various species of animal and plant life and is set in as beautiful a region as Missouri has to offer. It is very large in size at 20,000 acres plus, and is filled with an abundance of wildlife - some of which either only found in Peck, or at least rarely encountered elsewhere.

Part of the cool aspect of Peck Ranch is the part it has played in reintroducing extirpated species to the

state of Missouri. Currently, elk have been reintroduced to the wildlife portion of Peck, and their numbers are growing. There is even some talk of an eventual hunting season for elk as a means of controlling their population. Turkeys were once so rare in Missouri that they were rarely encountered. Their return to prominence started in Peck and then distributed throughout the state over time to where now Missouri has an abundant population. It is unlikely in reality that the same plan can take place for elk - it may be the case that their population remains only in th

e woods surrounding Peck. However, elk once roamed the entire expanse of the state. Agricultural interests now probably form a barrier for that ever being the case once more - for better or worse.

It is not uncommon for black bear to be spotted in Peck. During a youth managed hunt I had brought my son to perhaps 10 years ago, a father and son took some fine video of a black bear in the conservation area. There is abundant deer and all the species you would expect. Many nights we have ben awakened from our tent camping by packs of coyotes singing their songs.

The terrain in Peck is incredible. Having grown up in the West, the Ozarks do not really qualify in my mind as mountains. But by "Lower 48" standards, the area is true wilderness. It butts up against tracts of Mark Twain National Forest, Ozark National Scenic Riverways, and several other very large conservation areas like Rocky Creek and Current River.

Peck faces challenges. I very much respect the locals in the area, but too many times we have encountered illegal hunting such as deer being driven by dogs. In fact, when we hunt the area in the Fall, more often than not, we encounter hounds running deer through the woods, or at least hear the telltale signs. I know it is an Ozark tradition and would not relish the idea of being a conservation agent trying to enforce the rules. Some nights we have seen evidence of what we thought were spotlighters traveling the many illegal roads that have been established by ATV travel which is itself not supposed to occur in the area. Management considerations are constantly in a delicate balance with selective logging and burns. All-in-all, it seems to me that the MDC does a pretty good job doing the best they can.

More personally, some of the best outdoor experences I have had with my family have occurred in and around Peck. Camping in the short leaf pine forested campground is something special for sure. Nearby Rocky Falls is about the best swimming hole I have ever seen. It is a short distance to the Jacks Fork River and the Current River. A portion of the Ozark Trail cuts through Peck. The vista form Stegall Mountains firetower is amazing.

If you live In Missouri and love the outdoors, plan a trip to Peck. Bring your family and I do believe you too willfind it a magical place.

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