As director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and an avid hunter, Sara Pauley knows a thing or two about the outdoors. So does her husband, Scott, a professional fisherman and the VisitMO team’s outdoors marketing specialist.
We wanted to know a little more about this couple — both champions for Missouri’s outdoor assets — so we chatted with them about everything from fishing and deer hunting to surviving a zombie apocalypse.
Before we get started, be sure you’re familiar with all of Missouri’s hunting and fishing regulations.
VisitMO: Scott, as a professional fisherman, you’re generally after bass. Where and when are the best places to catch lunkers?
Scott: You can catch a lunker just about anywhere. I have fished against pros who I swear could catch a five pounder out of a mud puddle. For the average fisherman, you will probably catch your biggest bass out of a farm pond. All of our Missouri lakes have lunkers. My three biggest bass have all been eight-and-a-half pounds and each came from Table Rock Lake.
VisitMO: Sara, we know you’d probably rather hunt than fish, but where are your favorite fishing spots?
Sara: I grew up floating the Ozark streams with my family and fishing for smallmouth. I love the Gasconade, Big Piney and Bryant Creek.
VisitMO: When it comes to hunting in Missouri, do you prefer deer or turkey? Why? What public lands or regions of the state do you recommend?
Sara: Yes and Yes! Actually the real answer is turkey. I enjoy the thrill of every hunt. Nothing gets my adrenaline pumping like spring turkey season. There is no other hunting sport like it. I love the interaction of calling to and communicating with a big gobbler. There are many public hunting opportunities on both state and federal lands. I have had amazing turkey hunts throughout the state. Every hunt is different and that is what makes it so exciting.
Scott: I enjoy all types of hunting but my passion is fishing. For deer, I prefer the northern part of the state because they seem to grow them a little bigger up there. Turkeys, anywhere they might not be quite as smart. The first time Sara took me turkey hunting, after several hours of me trying to sit still, Sara asked, “What do you think?” I answered, “I think I could have caught a limit by now.”
VisitMO: Whose trophy buck is more brag-worthy?
Sara: Mine of course, but I’m not competitive. (laughs)
Scott: We both have harvested 10-point deer but Sara’s is bigger. They are mounted on the wall and hers is definitely bigger.
VisitMO: It’s a nice day outside and you want to take a hike. Where are you heading? Why?
Scott: I enjoy trying new places. Recently I have been exploring some of the many Missouri Conservation access areas - places I have passed by so many times and thought, “I need to check that out sometime. I wonder what’s there.” I really enjoy hiking in to view springs, places like Big Spring and Alley Spring.
Sara: There are more than 1,000 miles of trails in our Missouri State Parks. I’m just headed to a state park. I want to hike them all.
VisitMO: Same questions, but you’re on a bicycle.
Scott: We live within a couple of hundred yards of the Katy Trail State Park. So that is where we always head first. I really can’t think of a better place to ride.
Sara: We love the Katy Trail. I think I would head for wine country, somewhere near Hermann.
VisitMO: Canoe trips are popular in the Show-Me State. Where’s your favorite place to canoe and why?
Scott: The Niangua River. Big smallmouth.
Sara: The Eleven Point River. The wildness and beauty of this river is amazing. I also get a little nostalgic, remembering many family trips and cookouts on the gravel bars with my dad.
VisitMO: What’s the coolest thing about getting outdoors in Missouri?
Scott: You just never know what you are going to see. It’s always an adventure. Things you witness where you think, “If somebody painted a picture of this, you would think it is fake.” That really couldn’t happen, but it did and you saw it.
Sara: You get to experience first-hand everything nature has to offer. The sights, sounds, smell; there is nothing like it.
VisitMO: You’re separated and a zombie apocalypse breaks out. Who lasts longer?
Sara: I used to pack a survival pack in my car that had a little something for everyone, but I don’t seem to have that anymore. I think Scott is trying to learn how to live off of the land. So he might last longer.
Scott: Sara will last longer because she will figure out a way to talk me out of all of the supplies I have gathered.
VisitMO: It’s getting cold, your supplies are lost, and all that’s available are some sticks and a bit of brush. Who gets a fire going first?
Sara: Scott will. He is kind of like a Boy Scout.
Scott: I will, but Sara will tell me how to make it better and then send me out for marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate bars.