Herbert John Davis

Mar. 7, 1911 -. Jan. 12, 1974


Herbert John Davis was the son of Jesse B. Davis (1872-1961) and Ara Lummie Henry (1876-1948). He married Dorothy Lee Bell (1921-2002). Herb's elementary education was received at the Pond Hollow School on Hurricane Creek in Shannon County, and he graduated from Winona High School in 1930.


Conservation Accomplishments: Herbert J. Davis was hired by the Missouri Department of Conservation as a Refuge Manager for the Big Springs Refuge in Carter County in 1939, two years after a vote of the people created the Department. The pay was $25 per month and he was provided a badge (number 31), a horse for transportation, and a cabin with no electricity or indoor plumbing to live in. His primary duties were to help increase the deer population by planting food plots and to enforce the new Missouri Game and Fish Laws of Missouri. In early 1944 he was drafted into the U.S. Army.

After returning from his service to the country in Central Europe, the Rhineland, he returned to employment with the Department of Conservation as the Refuge Manager of the isolated Irish Wilderness Refuge in Oregon County and then later transferred to the Carmen Springs Refuge in Howell County near Willow Springs. After World War II, the economy in this country was booming with the demand for housing of the returning troops, however pay with the state woefully lagged behind private sector salaries. In 1952 he decided to go back to farming on the Davis Farm on Hurricane Creek in Shannon County. The timing couldn’t have been worse as these were severe drought years in south central Missouri. In the fall of 1953 he accepted a position with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service at the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge near Havana, Illinois. After three months at Chautauqua, he received a letter and a visit from an employee of the Missouri Department of Conservation. They informed him that they had purchased a section of land in the northwest corner of Carter County and wanted him to oversee the development of the area. This area, at that time, was home to one of the last viable populations of wild turkeys in the state. Game biologists had earlier attempted to release pen reared birds, but those efforts had failed and they realized that only actual wild turkeys could survive. The department needed someone with his outdoor savoy, farming, and refuge experience to oversee the development of game food plots, and ponds on the area. For a brief history of the early wild turkey restoration program mentioning Peck Ranch you can visit the following website:
http://mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/turkey-hunting/history-turkeys-missouri


It speaks highly of his character, because it was very unusual for the department to rehire an individual who had resigned, but it was apparently a unanimous decision among the top brass within the Game Division of the department that Herb Davis was the right person for the mammoth task ahead.


Herb accepted the challenge and on Christmas day in 1954 he packed up his family and returned to his home state of Missouri to begin the planning and construction of a huge project known as the Peck Ranch Wildlife Area. With protection from poaching, ample food, and ponds the plan was a success, wild turkey populations increased rapidly in a relatively short time. In the late 1950's a cannon net used to trap waterfowl at Swan Lake Refuge in Northern Missouri was modified and used very successfully to trap wild turkeys. This allowed for turkeys to be captured and released in other areas of the state. There are no official records, but his daily diaries indicate that out of the approximately 2,000 wild turkeys captured and released, at the time of his death in September of 1974, Herb had trapped over 1,800 of those, in addition to training others. The program was a huge success due to the team effort of land owners and change in attitudes of people in general, and is a program that has placed Missouri as a leader in conservation efforts. In 1960 the first modern day turkey season opened in 14 Southern Missouri Counties. For the past several years all 114 counties are open for spring and fall turkey seasons in part due to the efforts, blood, sweat, and tears of Herbert J. Davis. Peck Ranch in recent years has become a huge outdoor wildlife laboratory, where studies are done on everything from song birds, bobcats to collared lizards and elk. Whenever you have the thrill of seeing a wild turkey, a deer, or just enjoy a walk with nature, you will perhaps remember the efforts of a former Winona High School graduate.

Military Record: In addition to the outstanding contributions that Herb Davis made in conservation he was also a World War II hero. He was inducted through the Selective Service into the U.S. Army in March of 1944. After basic training he was shipped to the Central Europe Theater in November of that year, just as the German Army was making a last offensive move. This action would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. He was assigned to Company E, of the 407th Infantry Regiment of the 102nd Infantry Division. The 102nd Infantry Division was called the Ozark Division, because the early conception was to have this unit composed of hardy young men from the Ozark region of Arkansas and Missouri. The war efforts of the Ozark Division’s march through Germany can be documented at the following website:
http://www.lonesentry.com/102thrugermany/index.html


Herb, like other veterans of war, never talked much about his service. However, his military records show that he was awarded two bronze stars and several other awards as a light mortar crewman (bazooka man).

 


 

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