State may lengthen deer hunting season

Friday, January 4, 2008

State officials will host 16 meetings statewide to get input from hunters on possible changes.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A booming whitetail deer population in Missouri could mean longer hunting seasons to give hunters more opportunities to take deer.

State officials will be in Springfield on Tuesday for the first of 16 meetings statewide to get input from hunters on possible changes that could boost the number of deer killed. Current estimates put the state's deer population around 1 million.

Proposed changes to the hunting calendar would include moving the antlerless deer hunt into October and pushing the November hunt forward to open on the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Firearms hunters would continue to have a separate antlerless hunt, and archery hunters would have an additional week of hunting.

The Missouri Department of Conservation will also gather opinions through online surveys.

"The intent is to get some input from folks in the field," wildlife biologist Jeff Beringer said about the public meetings.

Department staff are recommending change in two areas of regulations.

One is to continue or expand the four-point buck regulation. In effect in 29 counties, the rule adopted in 2004 requires a buck to have at least four points on at least one side of its antlers to be legal. The rule is intended to balance the harvest of bucks to does.

The recommendation to change season dates could have a bigger effect, Beringer said

Those changes would allow hunting in the rut when bucks compete with each other for does but also would provide more hunting time over Thanksgiving, according to the department.

Expanding hunting opportunities also would encourage more people to get involved in deer hunting, department officials said.

The changes could go into effect during the 2009 hunting season. Any changes would have to be approved by the Conservation Commission.

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