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Proposed deer hunting changes for 2016-17 will be reviewed

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A white-tailed doe in the Ozarks. The Missouri Department of Conservation anticipates that reducing the length of the antlerless hunting season from 12 days to three days to increase deer numbers. The deer population in most of Missouri is currently at or below desired levels.

A white-tailed doe in the Ozarks. The Missouri Department of Conservation anticipates that reducing the length of the antlerless hunting season from 12 days to three days to increase deer numbers. The deer population in most of Missouri is currently at or below desired levels.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is seeking public input on proposed changes to the state’s deer hunting regulations for the 2016-2017 hunting season. To help explain the proposed changes and gather public feedback, MDC will hold a public meeting on March 3 from 5 to 8 p.m. at its Springfield Conservation Nature Center, 4601 S. Nature Center Way in Springfield.

MDC also welcomes public comments online. To learn more about the proposed regulations, additional public meetings being held, MDC’s deer management plan, past public comments, and to provide comment, visit the Department’s website at mdc.mo.gov/node/28079. Mail comments to: Missouri Department of Conservation, Attn: Policy Coordination, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102.

For the fall firearms deer season, MDC proposes:

  • Maintaining the current timing of the November portion but reducing the length from 11 days to nine days
  • Expanding the late youth firearms weekend from two days to three days and having it begin the Friday after Thanksgiving instead of early January.
  • Reducing the length of the antlerless firearms portion from 12 days to three days and beginning it on the first Friday in December.
  • Eliminating the urban zones portion.

For the fall archery deer and turkey season, MDC proposes:

  • Allowing crossbows as a legal method.
  • Reducing the limit of antlered deer during the archery season from two to one.

MDC also proposes simplifying conservation area regulations and also wants public comment on permit fees for nonresidents regarding a possible increase, decrease, or no change in price.
The proposed regulation changes are a result of public input and MDC deer management research and practices. During the summer of 2014, MDC gathered more than 4,000 public comments on deer management and possible regulation changes through open houses, online comments, letters and emails. MDC also surveyed many deer hunters regarding potential regulation changes. MDC staff will present final regulations recommendations to the Conservation Commission in late 2015.

MDC expanded the November portion of firearms deer season to 11 days in 1995 in response to a rapidly growing deer population in many parts of the state. Deer numbers in most parts of Missouri are now at or below desired levels. According to MDC biologists, reducing the length of the November portion by two days will help increase those numbers.

The Department’s reasoning for changing the timing of the late youth portion from early January to the weekend after Thanksgiving is that it should increase youth-hunter participation and success as a result of better deer activity and weather conditions. Adding the Friday after Thanksgiving will provide an additional hunting day when schools are closed.

MDC anticipates that reducing the length of the antlerless season from 12 days to three days will help increase deer numbers to more desirable levels. The antlerless portion of the firearms deer season was implemented in 1996 to increase the harvest of female deer, or does, in response to a rapidly growing deer population in many parts of the state. The deer population in most of Missouri is currently at or below desired levels.

According to MDC, eliminating the urban zones portion of the firearms season is being considered because firearms hunting in urban zones is significantly limited by city ordinances and safety concerns. As a result, this portion does not significantly lower deer numbers in areas where urban deer conflicts occur.

The department anticipates that allowing crossbows as a legal method during the archery deer and turkey season will help younger hunters enter the sport and also prolong participation for older hunters. MDC research shows that most deer hunters are in favor of allowing crossbows during the archery season and bow hunters are about equally divided on the topic.

Reducing the buck harvest during archery season from two to one per hunter will make hunters more selective and help more bucks reach older age-classes. Regulations allowing bow hunters to harvest two bucks were implemented in 1988 when there were fewer than 100,000 individuals with a permit to hunt deer during the archery season compared to more than 180,000 in 2013. Also, the harvest of bucks by bow hunters has nearly doubled from 11 percent of the total harvest in 2000 to 19 percent in 2013.

The Department anticipates that simplifying deer hunting regulations on conservation areas to archery only, archery and muzzleloader only, or archery and firearms will both increase hunter satisfaction and allow area managers to adjust regulations based on current deer numbers.

MDC permit fees for nonresident hunters are competitive with those of surrounding states and have remained the same since 2009.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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