Meeting set to get public input on deer hunting regulation changes

Monday, January 12, 2004

The Missouri Department of Conservation will hold a public meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 13, in the Marshall High School Little Theater to get opinions of area residents on possible deer hunting regulation changes.

Conservation Agent Thomas Davidson said five management options are under consideration by the state including antler restrictions, which would allow hunters to only take spike bucks or bucks with four or more points on at least one side; earn-a-buck, requiring a hunter to take and check a doe before taking a buck; buck quotas, a limit on the number of permits issued for anterless deer; reduced-length buck season, a limit on the number of days when a buck can be taken; or altered season timing, moving the main portion of the deer season away from the peak of the rut.

Over the last two decades, Davidson explained he has seen significant changes in deer hunting regulations and the number of deer harvested in the county.

In 1983, his first deer season in Saline County, Davidson explained the state "quota" system was still in place for anterless deer, "which was aimed at doe harvest to control the herd population." There were 250 deer checked in the county that year and the statewide harvest was 57,801.

Davidson reported that the deer harvest continued to increase moderately over the next few years with the first big change in hunting regulations in 1987. Prior to that year, only one deer could be taken annually with a firearm. Then in 1987 a "'bonus anterless only permit' was created and hunters could harvest two deer." The number of anterless deer or any-deer permits also increased to the point where the supply exceeded demand.

From 1989 to 1993, the number of deer taken by hunters continued to increase, with the county hitting a record of 1,464 in 1990. In 1994, the state began issuing "second bonus" permits and the county's record climbed to 1,550 deer. A year later, the season was lengthened from nine days to 11 and the county reported another record deer harvest.

The current record for Saline County was 2,032 deer checked during all portions of the 1997 season.

"The easy part of deer management is long gone," said Davidson. "Now the biologist must contend with pressures from many different areas. Deer-related damage to personal property is still too high in many areas. There is also pressure to produce bucks with antlers of 'higher quality.'"

Continuing with present hunting rules, he explained, could negatively affect the average age of bucks because either the total buck harvest may increase or hunters may take an increasing number of older bucks with larger racks. Over time, either scenario would decrease the average buck age in the herd.

Anyone who cannot attend the Marshall meeting, a similar meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 15, in Columbia at the UMC School of Natural Resources auditorium. The auditorium is in the Anheuser-Busch Building on the corner of Rollins and Hitt.

Comments can also be sent to the Missouri Department of Conservation at 1110 S. College Ave., Columbia, MO 65201.

Whichever option is selected will be used in a pilot program for the 2004 deer season in deer management units 4, 5, 12, 13, 28, 29 and 30. Davidson added, "Surveys show that deer hunters in those units strongly favor quality buck management."

Contact Mark Lile at

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